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The collapse of 'The Eternal Empire'

Posted January. 03, 2017 07:11,   

Updated January. 03, 2017 07:22


Ewha Womans University Professor Ryu Chul-kyun was arrested Monday for giving preferential course records treatments to Chung Yoo-ra, the daughter of President Park Geun-hye's confidante Choi Soon-sil, who is at the center of the recent influence-peddling scandal. Ryu is famous for his pen name Lee In-hwa. After debuting with "Who can say who he is" in 1992, he became a million seller writer with "The Eternal Empire," which took motif from King Jeongjo's death by poison. This debut book was largely sympathized by young people who had suffered the gloomy age in the 1980s along with Park Il-moon's "The Sorrow for the Survivor."

However, assessment on Ryu's quality as writer was not favorable. He had to suffer from critics' harsh criticism that he mimicked books of domestic and foreign writers including those of Kong Ji-young and Murakami Haruki. "The Eternal Empire" was also mired in disputes that it mimicked "The Name of the Rose" by Italian novelist Umberto Eco. As plagiarism disputes rose, Ryu used both his penname and real name, making self-defense comments only to receive harsh criticism by critics.

It is uncertain when he knew the Choi Soon-sil family. Yet the three-edition novel "The Road of a Human Being" published in 1997 offers a glimpse. In the novel, Ryu beautified former President Park Chung-hee. In 2014, Ryu actively engaged with Cha Eun-taek, a close aide of Choi Soon-sil, at a culture promotion committee operated under President Park Geun-hye. In October 2010, Ryu was appointed as a director to youth hope foundation launched by President Park's proposal. The foundation arose disputes that it received millions of dollars from large companies in a relatively short period of time, just like Mir and K Sports, the two foundations backed by Choi.

All human beings have a dual personality as seen in the novel "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." However, professors say that Ryu's act of trying to hide crime by making his teaching assistant write the answer sheet for Chung is something that cannot be forgiven. Once an author adheres to power, he or she will lose writer spirit. Novelists and scholars should live with a soul free of guilty conscience. This is why writers are socially respected and gain public popularity.

Jong-Dae Ha orionha@donga.com