Hwang Hyun-san, a literary critic, writer and professor emeritus at Korea University, passed away on Wednesday after fighting cancer. He was 73.
Hwang underwent surgery after being diagnosed with bile duct cancer in 2015. Cancer cells, however, spread to other organs later, causing him to resign as chairman of Arts Council Korea (ARKO) in February, three months after he was appointed to the post.
|Hwang Hyun-san / Yonhap|
He was hospitalized in July as his health worsened.
Hwang was a prolific writer and translator. He was one of the "blacklisted" writers during the Park Geun-hye administration. Last year, he joined 423 intellectuals who endorsed Moon Jae-in as president.
He was a popular critic of literary works and had over 400,000 Twitter followers.
He earned the nickname "a sharp connoisseur of poems" for his thorough style. He translated several French books into Korean. He was a rare Korean-French translator who didn't study in France.
He was a bestseller author and his 2013 essay collection, "Night Teaches Us" (a tentative English title), sold over 50,000 copies.
He was a vocal critic of the government intervention in freedom of expression.
Following the death of "literary martyr" Ma Kwang-soo last year, Hwang accused the prosecution of putting Ma, author of the controversial book "Happy Sara," behind bars in the early 1990s for obscenity.
"The law enforcement authorities were excessive and brutal as they put Ma in jail," he wrote on Twitter last September. "The law enforcement authorities are there to protect freedom of expression, not to violate it. Because of them, literary critics came to lose opportunities to review and criticize Ma's works."
Hwang published his second essay collection book, "Do Me a Favor," this year and translated French literature while fighting cancer.
In the preface of his second essay collection, Hwang wrote he had been wrestling with literature's potential to change the world. "If I gain some wisdom about it, it would be because of my decades of struggles to find the answer," he wrote.
Born in the southwestern port city of Mokpo in 1945, Hwang graduated from Korea University with a degree in French literature and earned a doctoral degree there.
He had taught students in several universities including Korea University and Kangwon National University for 30 years before retiring from teaching.