‘Twitter President’ publishes latest collection of short stories

By Claire Lee

Novelist Lee Oi-soo says his job is to be ‘preservative of the times’

  • Published : Mar 27, 2014 - 20:20
  • Updated : Mar 27, 2014 - 20:20

Lee Oi-soo is one of the most active writers online, dubbed “Twitter President” with more than 1.7 million followers. And it is not surprising to hear “Wanjeon Byeontae (Complete Metamorphosis),” his latest collection of short stories, is a result of his “writing exercises” on Twitter.

“People often said to me, ‘You are spending so much time online. When do you actually write your novels?” the 68-year-old author told reporters during a press conference in Seoul on Tuesday.

“But I actually thought of tweeting as my writing exercises. You can only write some 140 words for each tweet, so it requires you to only write what is essential. It helps you to write better sentences that are concise yet implicit.”
Lee Oi-soo’s latest collection of short stories, “Wanjeon Byeontae (Complete Metamorphosis)” (Hainam Publishing)

His latest book, which came out nine years after his 2005 novel “Out-of-the-Park Human,” consists of a total of 10 stories, all somewhat conscious and critical of contemporary Korean society. One of the stories, “Daejiju (A Big Landowner),” deals with a woman who suffers because of her own vanity and runs a marriage agency, while “Cheongmaenggwanieui Seom (Island of the Bat-Blind)” tells the story of a woman who despises people in the country side and their rural lifestyle.

The collection’s title story, “Wanjeon Byeontae,” features the life of a freedom-seeking writer who is imprisoned for smoking marijuana. Lee was arrested back in 1988 for allegedly smoking the plant, which is prohibited by law in Korea.

“Many assume that ‘Wanjeon Byeontae’ is about a sexual pervert because of the title (the Korean word ‘byeontae’ is a homonym that in Korean means both ‘pervert’ and ‘metamorphosis’),” the writer told reporters. “But it was actually inspired by insects with wings and how they metamorphose (from a larva to a moth). I wanted to write about a person who wants to have his own wings.”
Author Lee Oi-soo attends a press conference in Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

Aside from his popularity in cyberspace, Lee is also famous for his rather eccentric, Taoist appearance with a long ponytail and simple white garments. The author said he is currently working on a feature novel which is inspired by the Five Elements, or Ohaeng (Wu Xing), in Oriental philosophy, which are wood, fire, earth, metal and water. The novel will deal with the lives of five different characters representing the elements, he said.

Lee said he believes that the mission of all artists including writers should be to be the “preservative of the times.”

“I hope my agony as a writer can become happiness for my readers,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to and still want to be remembered as an author who made efforts to make his readers happy.”

By Claire Lee (