Born in the North Korean city of Wonsan, South Hamgyong Province, in 1932, Lee was drafted into the North Korean army during the Korean War (1950-1953) but ultimately fled to South Korea.
Since his 1955 debut with the story "Leaving Home," he has written stories exploring the emotional toll of the Korean War on individuals and the conflict between those who benefited from the war and those who were deprived.
His major works include the 1961 novel "Panmunjeom," a story of a South Korean reporter's visit to the Korean Demilitarized Zone and his brief but warm encounter with a female reporter from the North.
A fervent activist, he participated in the democracy movement against the dictatorial regime of former President Park Chung-hee and spent most of the 1970s in prison. He was a member of the Association of Writers for Literature of Freedom and Practice.
He received the Contemporary Literature Award for "Panmunjeom" and the Dongin Literary Award for "Wasting Away" in 1962.
He is survived by his wife and daughter. A funeral will be held Wednesday.