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Author of legendary English textbook dies

Song Sung-moon, the author of the Sung Moon Comprehensive English Grammar book, so called “the bible of English grammar,” died from liver cancer last Thursday (Sept. 22) at the age of 80.

The book has been a steady seller since it was published in 1967 and sold over 10 million copies in over 40 years.

It has been studied by thousands of middle and high school students especially during 1970s to 1990s and considered the must-see grammar book as some of the exemplary sentences in the book had been on the university entrance exam. 
Song Sung-moon
Song Sung-moon

Song was born in the North Korean province of Northern Pyeongan in 1931. He became a teacher after graduating from the Shinuiju teacher’s college. But soon the Korean War broke out and he became a soldier in charge of interpretation and translation, helping U.S. soldiers.

Then he went to Busan and worked again as the interpretation soldier for the Korean army in 1952. While in the military, he earned a bachelor degree and later became an English teacher after he was discharged. A well-known Grand National Party lawmaker Ahn Sang-soo was one of his students.

He started to make the Sung Moon Comprehensive English Grammar book in mid 1960 when a head of a publishing company approached him to make one.

When it was published, it sold about 300,000 copies a year. “At that time, there were no useful studying materials in Korea,” he recalled later. “The secret of success was the good compilation of many sentences and grammar facts.”

He was also a collector of many historical artifacts and awarded for donating his collection to the National Museum in 2003.

But he was diagnosed with liver cancer that year and had failing health in recent months.

He left behind his wife, two sons and a daughter.

By Lee Woo-young (