|Novelist Yun I-hyeong Courtesy of Munhaksasang|
By Kwak Yeon-soo
Novelist Yun I-hyeong was named the winner of the 43rd Yi Sang Literary Award, one of the most prestigious literary awards in Korea, Monday.
The 43-year-old won the grand prize for her latest novel, "Their First and Second Cat," described by the judges as "a trailblazing novel that highlights the importance of loving all living creatures."
The story was published in the November and December issues of local literary magazine Munhaksasang.
The judges were unanimous in their choice of winner due to her utterly distinctive depiction of a married couple struggling with hardships in life, including financial difficulties. In the story, the couple eventually gets divorced and the mother takes custody of the daughter.
Kwon Yeong-min, Life & Thought's chief editor who was on the judging panel, said he was impressed by how writer Yun depicted divorce without acrimony and hatred.
The story and title of the novel were inspired by Yun's experience after the death of her cat, according to the author.
"I was devastated by the loss of my cat last year. Then I started to delve into dark themes about life and death. As a result, I crafted the story about people who find new life through death," Yun said during a press event held in Seoul, Monday.
"The novel is commended for giving us a deep understanding of death, the limitations of the marriage system and a divided society," she added.
Yun, who debuted in 2005 after winning the Joongang Rookie Literary Award with "Black Starfish," has written novels that explore the boundary between reality and imagination with immersive prose.
Prior to receiving the Yi Sang Literary Award, the writer has won the Munhakdongne Young Writer Award and Moonji Literary Award. Her other novels include "A Waltz for Three," "Love Replica" and "Personal Memories."
The 2019 Yi Sang collection, consisting of "Their First and Second Cat" and five other finalist works, will be published Jan. 21 and the award ceremony will be held in November. Five other works that earned runner-up prizes are Kim Hee-sun's "Grave at the Beach," Chang Kang-myoung's "Three Bakeries in Hyeonsoo-dong," Jang Eun-jin's "Cry," Jung Yong-jun's "Things that disappear" and Choi Eun-yeong's "One Year."
The grand prize winner will receive 35 million won and the runner-up prize winners will get 3 million won respectively.
The annual Yi Sang Literary Award ceremony was established in 1977 to celebrate the finest Korean fiction.