Lee Yoon-ki, ‘best Korean translator’ and novelist, dies of heart failure

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Lee Yoon-ki, ‘best Korean translator’ and novelist, dies of heart failure

Lee Yoon-ki, a novelist and translator famed for his work on Greek and Roman mythology, died of heart failure on Friday, his publisher said. He was 63.

Lee had been in a hospital care unit in Seoul since he had a heart attack on Wednesday, said Han Hee-deok, chief of Lee’s publishing company, Seom & Seom.

The writer “passed away at around 9:50 a.m. today while being treated” at Seoul St. Mary’s Hospital, Han said.

Born in a rural village in North Gyeongsang in 1947, Lee made his literary debut at age 30 when his short novel “White Helicopter” was selected in a contest organized by the Joong-Ang Ilbo daily newspaper, which is affiliated with the JoongAng Daily. He received the Dong-in Literature Prize in 1998 with a novel with a title that roughly translates as “Finding Hidden Pictures.”

Greek and Roman mythology was his main interest, and he devoted a great deal of his time to studying and translating the Western classics into Korean.

He also translated the Western novels “Zorba the Greek” by Nikos Kazantzakis, “The Name of the Rose” and “Foucault’s Pendulum” by Umberto Eco and “The Silence of the Lambs” by Thomas Harris, and wrote many acclaimed works of nonfiction including the three-volume “Greek and Roman Myths,” “Lee Yoon-ki Asks the Way to Greece” and “The Scale of Time.”

In 2000, Lee was named Best Korean Translator by Mimesis, an publisher of information on literature in translation.

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