South Korean wrote epic saga

From Times Staff and Wire Services

Park Kyung-ni, 81, one of South Korea's most celebrated novelists who was best known for her epic saga set against 19th- and 20th-century turbulence on the Korean peninsula, died Monday of lung cancer in a Seoul hospital. She had been in a coma since suffering a stroke April 4, the Korea Times reported.

Park made her debut as a writer in 1955, and many critics have said her 16-volume saga called "The Land" is South Korea's best novel. It took Park about 25 years to write and has been made into a TV drama series, a movie and an opera.

Called "Toji" in Korean, the sweeping book has a cast of hundreds throughout the peninsula. It follows them from the late 19th century, through Japan's 1910-1945 colonial rule and to the division of the peninsula after World War II.

Park was born in 1926 in Tongyeong in South Gyeongsang Province, the Korea Times reported. She graduated from Jinju Girls' High School in 1946 and married soon after that. But her husband was killed during the Korean War. Their son died right after the war.

The Korea Times said she debuted on the literary scene in 1956 with the publication of two short stories.

Before her stroke, she had been staying at the cultural center in Wonju, Gangwon Province, which was established in 1999 on the site that had been her home.

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