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Yi Mun-yol was born in Cheongun-dong in Seoul and attended prestigious Seoul National University, studying Korean Literature. He dropped out in 1970. From 1994 to 1997, he taught Korean language and literature at Sejong University. Since 1999, he has served as the head of Buak Literary Center. In 1999, he was awarded the Ho-Am Prize in the Arts. Yi was also a visiting scholar at the Korea Institute, Harvard University.
He is the author of over thirty best-selling books including Song of the Front, Our Twisted Hero, The Poet, and An Appointment with My Brother. His early life was marred by discrimination after his father defected to the North during the Korean War. The main theme in his writing is the abuse of political power and its affect on the morality and consciousness of the Korean people, often drawing from his extensive autobiographical materials.