K. W. Lee
|Kyung Won Lee|
Kaesong, Japanese Korea
(now Kaesong, North Korea)
|Education||West Virginia University
University of Illinois
|Occupation||Investigative reporter, editor|
|Notable credit(s)||Kingsport Times-News
The Korea Times
|Spouse(s)||Peggy Flowers (1960-present)|
Kyung Won "K.W." Lee (Korean: 이경원; born 1928) is a Korean-American journalist who became the first Asian immigrant to the United States work for mainstream daily publications in the continental United States. Lee is also the founding president of the Korean American Journalists Association.
Early life and education
Lee was born in 1928 in Kaesong, Japanese Korea and attended Korea University in Seoul, South Korea. In 1950, he immigrated to the United States and studied journalism at West Virginia University. After receiving a master's degree from the University of Illinois in 1955, he embarked on an extraordinary career with daily newspapers such as the Kingsport Times-News in Tennessee and the Charleston Gazette in West Virginia. In 1960, he married Peggy Flowers of Bluefield, Virginia. A notable number of years were spent at the Sacramento Union in California, where he was in charge of investigative reporting and an internship program. He has won numerous professional honors, including awards from the National Headliners Club, the AP News Executive Council, and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
Over the decades, Lee has covered important social issues such as civil rights struggles in the South in the early 1960s, massive vote-buying practices in southern West Virginia, and the plight of Appalachian coal miners. Lee is best known for writing an investigative series on the conviction of immigrant Chol Soo Lee for a 1973 San Francisco Chinatown gangland murder which became the basis of the 1989 film True Believer, starring James Woods and Robert Downey Jr. His series of 120 articles over five years led to a new trial, eventual acquittal and release of the prisoner from San Quentin's Death Row.
In 1979, Lee founded the Koreatown Weekly, the first national English-language Korean American newspaper. In 1990, during rising tensions between African Americans and Korean Americans, he launched and edited The Korea Times English Edition from Los Angeles, with an internship program for both Asian Americans and other minorities.
Since entering semi-retirement, Lee has lectured on investigative journalism in communities of color throughout the University of California system. He also continues to serve on the editorial board of ColorLines Magazine and has freelanced as a columnist for Currents, The Korea Times Bi-lingual Edition, Korean Quarterly and KoreAm Journal. He has three children with Peggy and six grandchildren. He currently resides with his wife in Sacramento.
Honors and recognition
- In 1968, he received the Urban Service Award from the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity for outstanding coverage of the poor.
- In 1979, he was awarded first place for Best Series of Articles by the California Newspaper Publishers Association.
- In 1987, he was the first recipient of the Asian American Journalists Association's Lifetime Achievement Award.
- In 1992, he was presented the John Anson Ford Award by the Human Relations Commission of L.A. County.
- In 1994, he became the first Asian journalist to receive the Free Spirit Award from the Freedom Forum.
- In 1997, he was inducted into the Newseum's Journalism History Gallery in Arlington, VA.
- In 2000, he was profiled in Crusaders, Scoundrels, Journalists: The Newseum's Most Intriguing Newspeople.
- "Who is K.W. Lee?". K.W. Lee Center for Leadership. Retrieved 2010-06-23.
- "K.W. Lee biography". Asian Pacific American Program. The Smithsonian. Retrieved 2006-03-18.
- "UC Davis Cancer Center awarded $5.5 million to reduce cancer disparities in Asian Americans". UC Davis Medical Center. 2005-06-01.
- K.W. Lee Center for Leadership
- K.W. Lee biography / timeline at University of California, Davis General Library Digital Initiatives Program
- K.W. Lee at the Centennial Korean American Youth Conference (mirror on Archive.org)
- Honoring the dean of Asian American journalists at AsianWeek
- K.W. Lee Papers at Special Collections Dept., University Library, University of California, Davis