The Korea Herald


‘White Badge’ novelist, translator Ahn Jung-hyo dies at 82

By Hwang Dong-hee

Published : July 3, 2023 - 20:33

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Ahn Jung-hyo (KTV/Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism) Ahn Jung-hyo (KTV/Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism)

Novelist and translator Ahn Jung-hyo, who wrote novels including “White Badge” based on his experiences in the Vietnam War, died Saturday at the age of 82.

The deceased had been battling cancer, according to his family.

Born in Seoul in 1941, Ahn graduated from Sogang University with a degree in English literature. He worked as a journalist for The Korea Herald in 1964 and later The Korea Times. He was the editorial director for the Korean division of Encyclopedia Britannica from 1971 to 1974.

Ahn, who served in the 9th Infantry Division in the Vietnam War, made his literary debut in 1983 with “Of War and the Metropolis" based on his war experience. The book was later reissued as "White War."

He left behind 24 novels including “Silver Stallion,” “The Life and Death of the Hollywood Kid” and “Mineul,” along with a number of essays.

"White Badge" (left) and “Silver Stallion" by Ahn Jung-hyo (Soho Press)

His most notable work, “White War (White Badge),” deals with the post-traumatic stress disorder experienced by soldiers who participated in the Vietnam War. The author rewrote it in English and published it in the US in 1989.

The novel was adapted into a commercially successful film in 1992, directed by Jung Ji-young. It starred Ahn Sung-ki, Lee Kyung-young and Heo Joon-ho. His other novels, “Silver Stallion” and “The Life and Death of the Hollywood Kid,” were also adapted into films.

Translation was another significant aspect of Ahn’s career.

He was a prolific translator, beginning with his translation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "One Hundred Years of Solitude," which was serialized in the monthly “Literature and Thought” in 1975. He went on to translate some 130 books into Korean.

Ahn received a translation award in 1982 for translating John Updike's "Rabbit is Rich" and taught literary translation at the Graduate School of Interpretation and Translation at Ewha Womans University from 1999 to 2002.

Until recently, Ahn had been translating literary works, including the translated edition of "The Quiet American" by British author Graham Greene which was issued in April.

The deceased is survived by his wife, Park Kwang-ja, a professor emeritus at Chungnam National University, and two daughters.