Cartoonist Lee Woo-young, 51, found dead in his residence

A scene from animation series ″Black Rubber Shoes″ from a comic book of the same series by Lee Woo-young and Lee Yeong-il [SCREEN CAPTURE]

Korean cartoonist Lee Woo-young, famed for the “Black Rubber Shoes” series, was found dead in his residence in Incheon on Saturday evening, the JoongAng Ilbo reported Sunday.

According to police, the 51-year-old was found dead when the police arrived at his house in Ganghwa County in Incheon after receiving a report from his family that Lee had locked the door to his room and was not responding to their calls.

Police concluded that Lee took his own life and will not perform an autopsy as per the wishes of his family.

The cartoonist had been “struggling due to copyright suit issues,” according to the family. No note or message was found.

Lee was going through a legal suit against Hyungseul Publishing, the production company behind the “Black Rubber Shoes” television and film animation series, over the copyright ownership of the comic franchise. "Black Rubber Shoes" was drawn by Lee and written by Lee Yeong-il.

The late Lee was sued by Hyungseul, which argued that it held the right to the derivative content based on "Black Rubber Shoes" because Lee had signed a contract to hand over the copyright to the comapny, while Lee argued that he still has the right to the characters and the story as the original cartoonist.

The first “Black Rubber Shoes” series began in 1992 in a local comic magazine called “Sonyeon Champ” and continued until 2007. It was loved by viewers of all generations for its comical yet detailed portrayal of a 1960s Korea, before the technological and industrial development that took place later in the century.

The latest work based on the franchise came last October, a film titled “Black Rubber Shoes the Movie: My Happy Home.”

“Comics can soften people’s hearts,” Lee had said during an appearance in a YouTube video in 2021. “The ‘Black Rubber Shoes’ series shows Korea during the 1960s and '70s in an economic hardship but also shows that the love between neighbors was still there despite the difficult environment.”