“Yi Yon-ju is not as widely known as Choe Sung-ja and Kim Hyesoon; however, her work has been critically acknowledged by scholars and poets, including the renowned feminist critic Kim Chong-nan. According to Kim, Yi’s poetry has a seminal place in the feminist poetry of the 1980s. Her poetry depicts women who live on the fringes of South Korean society, marginalized by the rapid industrialization of the 1970s and 80s, which, in part, was made possible by the exploitation of young women from poor rural areas.
Not much is known about Yi. According to her brother, Yi Yong-ju, the night Yi committed suicide she had asked him to reveal nothing about her life except for her date and place of birth. Yi was born in 1953, in Kunsan in the Northern Cholla province. She worked in Seoul and various parts of South Korea, including Uijongbu, a U.S. military camp town north of Seoul where women and children live trapped under devastating conditions of military prostitution, environmental pollution, and poverty. She also worked for three years in Saudi Arabia. Yi received an undergraduate degree in Korean literature. She excelled in various arts and was widely known outside of literary circles by painters, filmmakers, singers and dancers. Yi painted a great deal and was working on a collaborative video art project before she ended her life.”
— from Yi Yon-ju’s introduction, from Anxiety of Words, Don Mee Choi.