LIFE&STYLE

Controversial novelist found dead

By Yoon Min-sik
  • Published : Sept 5, 2017 - 18:04
  • Updated : Sept 5, 2017 - 18:04
Controversial novelist and literary scholar Ma Kwang-soo was found dead at his home Tuesday, in what appears to be a suicide.

The writer‘s family members found Ma’s body around 12:51 p.m. at his home in Yongsan-gu, Seoul, and reported it to the police. Officials believe it to be a suicide.

It was reported that Ma, 66, had been suffered from depression since retiring as a professor of Korean literature at Yonsei University last August.

Ma Kwang-soo (Yonhap)


Ma’s bumpy career was marked by years of controversy over eroticism in his works.

His 1992 novel “Happy Sara,” about a female college student enjoying casual sex, was deemed pornography by the authorities due to graphic depictions of sexual acts.

Parts of the book depicting a college student’s relationship with a professor, in particular, sparked furious reaction from academia and literary circles. Famed novelist Yi Mun-yol even described his work as “disgusting and insignificant.”

Prosecutors in October 1992 arrested Ma while he was teaching in class on charges of making and distributing pornography. The controversy, ironically, created a frenzy over the book and led to it being sold out.

Ma was sentenced to eight months in prison, suspended for two years in December of that year.

The controversy resulted in Ma being alienated by his colleagues at Yonsei University, where he started his teaching career in 1975. It also hit his academic reputation and pension plans, forcing him into financial difficulty. In later years, he reported having psychological problems.

Ma was an outspoken critic of the authoritarian attitude -- particularly between a teacher and a student -- and was known for his candid and sometime vulgar choice of words. He was famous for openly using profanity in classes, never shying away from lashing out at fellow scholars or writers.

In addition to his writing, Ma is noted for his research on Yun Dong-ju, a Korean poet and independent fighter during Japanese colonial rule.


By Yoon Min-sik
(minsikyoon@heraldcorp.com)