The Korea Publication Ethics Commission, a state review board, told the local publisher of "The 120 Days of Sodom" to recall and destroy all copies currently at stores, senior board official Jang Tag-Hwan told AFP.
The translated version of the book, which details the sexual orgies of four wealthy French libertines who rape, torture and finally murder their mostly
teenage victims, hit stores in the South last month.
"A large portion of the book was extremely obscene and cruel, involving acts of sadism, incest, bestiality and necrophilia," Jang said.
The book's extensive portrayal of sexual acts involving minors played a part in designating it a "harmful publication," he said.
It was the first time for the commission to issue such a ban on a book — excluding cartoon material — since 2008, Jang added.
The publisher has vowed to appeal against what it labelled as a "death sentence on the book" and to take the case to court if the appeal is rejected.
"This book is not about promoting pornography and violence … it mocks and criticises the dark side of human nature behind such acts," Lee Yoong, senior editor of Dongsuh Press, told AFP.
He stressed that the book was widely available in many countries, including the United States, Britain, France and Japan.
"There are numerous pornographic books available everywhere. I can't understand why this book, worthy of academic research by psychiatrists or literary experts, should be treated so differently," Lee said.
The book will still be available while the ban is under appeal.