Former Culture Minister Lee O-young (Yonhap)
Former Culture Minister Lee O-young, one of South Korea's most revered literary critics and novelists, died of cancer Saturday at the age of 89.
Lee, born in 1933 in Asan, South Chungcheong Province, served as the country's first cultural minister in 1990-1991 under the Roh Tae-woo administration.
With his various literary works, he was respected as one of the most prominent "intellectuals of this era" in South Korea.
In 1956, Lee caused a stir in the literary critics circle when he criticized veteran writers for their authoritarianism in his iconic piece titled "Destruction of an Idol," published in the Hankook Ilbo newspaper.
Lee, a graduate of Seoul National University, worked as an editorial writer in several newspapers between 1960 and 1972.
He also taught Korean literature at Ewha Womans University in Seoul and became an honorary professor in 2011.
While serving as the culture minister, Lee laid the groundwork for developing the country's cultural policy by leading four key projects, including the establishment of the National Institute of Korean Language.
He had undergone cancer surgery twice since 2017 but later refused to receive anticancer treatment to instead focus on completing his writing projects.
In October 2021, Lee was awarded an order of cultural merit for his contribution to the development of the country's literature.
He is survived by his wife, Kang In-sook, a literature critic, and two sons. (Yonhap)