South Korea novelist who was prosecuted for obscenity found dead after suspected suicide
In the 1990s, in an extremely rare case in South Korea, he was convicted of spreading obscenity and given a suspended jail sentence
An avant-garde South Korean novelist whose 1990s prosecution on obscenity charges prompted comparisons between his work and Lady Chatterley’s Lover was found dead on Tuesday in an apparent suicide, police said.
Ma Kwang-Soo, 66, was arrested in 1992 and held in custody pending trial over Happy Sara, the story of a female student who has an affair with her professor, with other characters also engaging in various liaisons.
A professor of Korean literature at the prestigious Yonsei University, he was arrested when prosecutors barged into a lecture hall in the middle of a class.
In an extremely rare case in South Korea, he was convicted of spreading obscenity and given a suspended jail sentence. He was fired from the Protestant-founded university.
At the time the country was in the process of embracing democracy after a period of military dictatorship, and Ma said in an appeal that he had fallen prey to the “piety” of the country’s cultural conservatives, who he said had no understanding of avant-garde literature. But the Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s finding.
Ma was found dead in his apartment in Seoul on Tuesday in what appeared to be a suicide, police said. News reports said he had been suffering from depression and was found hanging from a window pane with a scarf around his neck.
South Korea has one of the world’s highest suicide rates.
Ma’s case raised parallels with Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence, the story of an aristocratic wife’s affair with her gamekeeper.
Publisher Penguin Books appeared in a British court in 1960, when the prosecutor was ridiculed for asking the jury: “Is it a book that you would even wish your wife or your servants to read?”
Happy Sara remains banned in South Korea to this day.