Lee Hee-ho

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Lee Hee-ho
First Lady of South Korea
In role
25 February 1998 – 24 February 2003
PresidentKim Dae-jung
Preceded bySon Myeong-sun
Succeeded byKwon Yang-sook
Personal details
Born(1922-09-21)21 September 1922
Susong, Seoul, Japanese Korea
Died10 June 2019(2019-06-10) (aged 96)
Severance Hospital, Sinchon-dong, Seoul, South Korea
Resting placeSeoul National Cemetery, Seoul South Korea
(m. 1962; died 2009)
Children1 (2 stepchildren)
EducationSeoul National University
Lambuth University
Scarritt College
Lee Hee-ho
Revised RomanizationI Huiho
McCune–ReischauerYi Hŭiho

Lee Hee-ho,[1] sometimes spelled as Lee Hui-ho, (Korean이희호; Hanja李姬鎬; 21 September 1922 – 10 June 2019), was a South Korean women's rights activist, peace advocate and former First Lady of South Korea during the presidency of her husband Kim Dae-jung from 1998 to 2003.

She is widely regarded as one of pioneers of the first generation feminist of South Korea. Throughout her life, she championed for women's empowerment and elimination of gender discrimination.

After her marriage, she worked for pro-democracy movements with her husband over two decades of authoritarian regimes.

During and after her husband's presidency, she had participated and lead notable works enhancing inter-Korean relations. Lee chaired the Kim Dae Jung Peace Center, which was founded by her husband to promote peace and constructive Inter-Korean relations, as well as to alleviate poverty.[1]

Early life[edit]

Lee was born in Seoul on 21 September 1922 during the Japanese occupation of Korea. Lee's father was the fourth person to receive medical license in Korea after graduating from Severance Medical College whilst her mother was a faithful Methodist born in family devoted to Korean traditional medicine.

When Lee was 18, her mother died and this led to her decision to live up to three principles: not getting married, staying healthy and studying, according to her book "To Accompany." Moreover, her deep faith in Methodism and continued academic endeavours are hugely influenced by her mother.

Lee graduated from Ewha Girls' High School.


Lee attended Humanities and Arts department of Ewha College in 1942. However, she couldn't graduate due to Japanese rule's policies. In 1946 she went to College of Education of Seoul National University to major English literature which changed to education when she was a sophomore. She was her College's representative at the University's student union. In February 1950, several months before the break of the Korean War, Lee graduated from Seoul National University.

Lee earned a bachelor's degree from Lambuth University. Lee earned a master's degree from Scarritt College.


First generation feminist of South Korea[edit]

During the Korean War, Lee left Seoul and moved to Busan where she founded Korean Women Youth Organisation with her friends as opposed to women's league of North Korea's Communist Party. After quitting from the Organisation due to its function in reality limited solely to assisting military and police officers, Lee worked for youth division of National Council of Churches in Korea.

In 1952 Lee co-founded Research Institute for Women's Issues with her fellow women's rights activists including Lee Tai-young[2] and continued to lead the Institute as the second president of the institute from 1964 to 1970.

First Lady of South Korea[edit]

In June 2000, First Lady Lee Hee-ho accompanied her husband to North Korea for the 2000 inter-Korean summit, which was the first time that the leaders of North and South Korea met face-to-face since the division of Korea.[1] President Kim Dae-jung and Lee met with Kim Jong-il during the summit.[1]

Inter-Korean peace advocate[edit]

Lee remained active in politics, diplomacy and inter-Korean relations throughout her 80s and 90s.[1] She undertook several visits to North Korea to promote dialogue and better relations between the two countries. She traveled to Pyongyang in December 2011 following the death of Kim Jong Il.[3]

At the age of 92, Lee led an 18-member delegation on a goodwill trip to North Korea from 5–8 August 2015.[3][4][5][6] Her delegation included former Minister of Culture Kim Sung-jae, scholar Paik Nak-chung, and several educators, but no members of the sitting South Korean government.[3][6]

Personal life[edit]

In 1962, Lee married Kim Dae-jung.


In April 2019, Lee's oldest stepson, Kim Hong-il, a politician and former lawmaker, died at the age of 71.[1] Lee was not informed of her son's death at time due to concerns about her own deteriorating health.[1]

On 10 June 2019, Lee died at Severance Hospital in Seoul, Korea. She was 96 years old.[1] Spokesperson of Kim Dae Jung Peace Center which she chaired confirmed that she died of old age not due to cancer-related issues, ten years after of your husband's death, Kim Dae-jung.[7]



  • My love my country.
  • Lee Hee-ho "Pray for tomorrow.
  • A letter from prison.
  • To accompany.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Lee Hee-ho, widow of ex-President Kim Dae-jung, dies at 97". The Korea Herald. Yonhap. 11 June 2019. Archived from the original on 10 June 2019. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  2. ^ "Madame Lee Hee-Ho".
  3. ^ a b c Shim, Elizabeth (3 August 2015). "North Korea extends official invitation to former first lady". United Press International. Archived from the original on 24 May 2019. Retrieved 10 June 2019.
  4. ^ Kim, Hwan Yong (6 July 2015). "Former South Korean First Lady to Visit North Korea". Voice of America. Archived from the original on 1 June 2017. Retrieved 10 June 2019.
  5. ^ Choe, Sang-Hun (5 August 2015). "Former First Lady of South Korea Visits Pyongyang in Good-Will Trip". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 31 July 2017. Retrieved 10 June 2019.
  6. ^ a b "Lee Hee-ho, first lady from South Korean 'sunshine' era, visits the North". The Guardian. Agence France Presse. 4 August 2015. Archived from the original on 22 December 2015. Retrieved 10 June 2019.
  7. ^ "이희호 여사 별세…'민주화 큰 어른' 평화 여정 마치다" [Lee Hee-ho passed away...ending her journey for peace] (in Korean).
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Son Myeong-sun
First Lady of South Korea
Succeeded by
Kwon Yang-sook