Lee Seung-u wins Yi Sang Literary Award
Posted : 2021-01-06 08:54
Updated : 2021-01-06 10:29
|Author Lee Seung-u / Courtesy of Literature & Thought|
By Park Han-sol
Literature & Thought, the organizer of the prestigious Yi Sang Literary Award, which caused a stir last year after awardees boycotted the prizes protesting unfair copyright restrictions imposed by the organization, named Lee Seung-u as this year’s winner, Monday.
The 61-year-old writer won the grand prize for his short story “The Buoyance of Mind,” which was published in the 2020 spring edition of the Literature and Society quarterly magazine. It portrays a mother who mistakes her younger son for his dead brother, in the religious context of guilt and sin.
The judges praised the story for its detailed description of the character’s internal struggle as well as its elegant writing style.
“Even though the narrative contains a brief family story that one can easily encounter in everyday life, it has succeeded in combining the heavy, abstract theme of guilt and a sense of liability between the son and the mother with various real-life socio-ethical problems,” they said.
In his written acceptance speech, Lee described his work as “a story that examines the emotional struggles of individuals left behind who cannot ignore the words uttered by those gone, thus suffering from guilt and a sense of loss.”
He added that the novelist winning an award for his work is “like an incident where unfamiliar guests make a surprise visit to a worker’s office filled with regulations and repetition,” awakening his weary spirit, and leaving him vowing to continue his work instead of questioning the reason for the visit.
Since his literary debut in 1981, the writer has published multiple novels and short story collections, including “In the Shadow of Thorny Bushes,”http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/”The Reverse Side of Life” and “The Song of the Ground.” He has won the Daesan and Hwang Sun-won literary awards, among many others.
Runners-up for the award were Park Hyoung-su’s “The World of 97,” Yoon Sung-hee’s “Black Hole,” Jang Eun-jin’s “My Romanian Class,” Cheon Un-yeong’s “Please Be My Father” and Han Ji-soo’s “Acting Class at Night.”
Last year, the organizers of the iconic award faced criticism for its unfair contract terms, which imposed a three-year exclusive use of copyright on winners and forbade them from publishing their works as a title piece in their own short story collections.
The controversy prompted multiple runners-up, including Kim Keum-hee, Choi Eun-young and Lee Ki-ho, to refuse the award and sparked a series of boycotts among other writers online. The grand prize winner Yun I-hyeong even announced the end of her writing career to protest such unfair practices. Literature & Thought subsequently issued a formal apology and vowed to remove “the toxic clause.”
With the announcement of the winners this year, the organizers laid out in detail the changes made in their regulations. These include making public the appointment of judges and their evaluation, imposing no copyright or publishing right use on winners and increasing the amount of grand prize money from 35 million won to 50 million won.
A collection of the works of this year’s winners will be published later this month.