The Korea Herald


Maverick novelist Lee Oi-soo dead at 75

By Park Ga-young

Published : April 26, 2022 - 14:35

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Bestselling novelist Lee Oi-soo poses for photos during an interview in November 2018. (Yonhap) Bestselling novelist Lee Oi-soo poses for photos during an interview in November 2018. (Yonhap)

Bestselling author Lee Oi-soo died of COVID-19-associated pneumonia on Monday, according to his family. He was 75.

Lee died at around 8 p.m. at a hospital in Chuncheon, Gangwon Province, of complications from COVID-19 after he contracted the viral illness in March. He had been in poor health since a collapse from a cerebral hemorrhage in March 2020. He was treated for stomach cancer in 2014.

Born in 1946 in Hamyang, South Gyeongsang Province, he studied education in college for eight years but never completed his degree. He worked briefly as a teacher at a small provincial school before making his literary debut in 1972 in the regional daily newspaper Kangwon Ilbo.

He subsequently made his name with the prize-winning novella “The Medal.” In 1978, he earned fame and popularity with his first full-length novel, ”The Dreaming Plants,“ for which he was praised for his delicate portrayal of emotions and signature idiosyncratic writing style. His fan base grew along with his novels and essays, including ”Wild Dog“ (1981), ”Longhorned Beetle“ (1981), ”Blade“ (1982) and ”Haak Haak“ (2008).

The novelist was known for his eccentric behavior and unique appearance. For instance, Lee said he once locked himself in a room for four years to write a novel.

Lee’s signature look -- a long ponytail and white hanbok -- belied his interest in ever-changing technology: He was an early adopter of social media and web novel platforms.

In 2017, at the age of 71, he wrote a serial titled “Proxy Revenge Inc” on Kakaopage, mobile giant Kakao’s content platform. When publishing the series in book form, he told reporters that “It has been an era of paper books until now, but now you can access literature on e-books, the web, or mobile.”

Lee actively communicated with his fans and openly expressed his political views on social media, his tweets often took aim at the conservative bloc. He garnered 1.77 million followers on Twitter, where he posted almost 200,000 tweets since joining the platform in June 2009. This gave him the nickname of “President on Twitter.”

Lee is survived by his wife and two sons. He and his wife ”graduated” from their marriage in 2019, a practice in which a couple stays legally married but lead separate lives to achieve their own dreams. The two reunited last year as Lee struggled to recover from the brain hemorrhage.

“My father departed with all of family members at his deathbed. He closed his eyes peacefully as if he were catching up on sleep,” his son wrote on social media.

Lee’s funeral will be held on Friday.