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Inventory of the K.W. (Kyung Won) Lee Papers, 1972-1998
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: K.W. (Kyung Won) Lee Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1972-1998
    Collection number: D-251
    Creator: Lee, K.W. (Kyung Won) 1928-
    Extent: 10.4 linear feet 237 Digital Objects
    Repository: University of California, Davis. General Library. Dept. of Special Collections.
    100 North West Quad
    Davis, California, 95616-5292
    Abstract: Correspondence, court records, clippings and other background materials relating to the Chol Soo Lee case (1973). Also contains office files, artwork, and photographs relating to the publication of Koreatown (1980-1983) and a bound volume of the paper (1979-1981).
    Physical location: Researchers should contact Special Collections to request collections, as many are stored offsite.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright is protected by the copyright law, chapter 17 of the U.S. Code. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Special Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of Special Collections, General Library, University of California, Davis as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the researcher.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], K.W. (Kyung Won) Lee Papers, D-251, Department of Special Collections, University of California Library, Davis, California.

    Acquisition Information

    Donated by K.W. Lee.

    Processing Information

    Arranged and described by John Skarstad in December 2001.


    Biographical Narrative

    K. W. Lee was born in Kaesong, Korea in 1928. He came to the United States as a student in 1950 and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism from West Virginia University in 1953. He continued his education at the University of Illinois, Urbana, where he earned an MA in Journalism in 1955. In his first professional job, Lee served as the City Hall reporter with the Kingsport (Tenn.) Times-News from 1956 to 1957. He became a staff reporter for the Charleston (WV) Gazette from 1958 to 1970.
    In 1970, K.W. Lee moved to Sacramento, California to become an investigative reporter for the Sacramento Union. For the next two decades Lee's investigations included corruption in the Sacramento Housing Authority, benefits given to legislators and other state officials, welfare reform, the Rancho Seco nuclear power plant, poverty, and the prison system. His reporting led to new legislation and numerous civic and political reforms. In 1977, he gained national recognition for his investigation into the wrongful conviction of Chol Soo Lee. His articles sparked the first successful pan-Asian political movement and ultimately led to Chol Soo Lee's retrial and full acquittal. K.W. Lee retired from the Sacramento Union in 1990.
    In 1979, K.W. Lee founded the first national English-language Korean American newspaper, Koreatown, which lasted until 1982. In 1990, at a time of rising tension between the African American and Korean American communities in Los Angeles and other cities, he launched and edited the Korea Times English Edition, based in Los Angeles. He received the John Anson Ford Award, for print media, by the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission for his outstanding coverage of the 1992 Los Angeles riots and "for promoting racial harmony...through journalism and community involvement." Though semi-retired, Lee continued to write for the Korean American community as a columnist for the Korea Times (English daily from 1995 to 1998 and Bi-lingual Edition from 2000 to 2001), Currents: Asian Pacific American newspaper serving Sacramento and Yolo Counties (2000 to 2003), and the KoreAm Journal (2002 to 2003).
    K.W. Lee began teaching journalism while still in West Virginia at West Virginia State College in 1969. He became a part-time journalism lecturer at California State University, Sacramento from 1974 to 1979. In 1998, Lee taught investigative writing at UC Davis. He taught investigative journalism at UCLA in 2000 and 2001, and in 2001 he taught investigative journalism at UC Santa Barbara and interethnic studies at UC Riverside. And throughout his career, Lee devoted countless hours to mentoring hundreds of Korean Americans.
    Over the course of his career, K.W. Lee received numerous regional and national awards for his work. These include the Paul Tobenkin Memorial Award from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism (1982), the first Lifetime Achievement Award from the Asian American Journalists Association (1987), and the Free Spirit Award from the Freedom Forum (1994). In 1997, he was inducted into the Newseum's News History Gallery.

    Biography/Organization History

    K.W. Lee Timeline
    1928 Born in Kaesong, Korea
    1946-1949 Major in English Literature, Korea University, Seoul
    1950 Came to USA
    1951-1955 Editor, The Korean Messenger, an English language periodical for Korean students
    1953 BS Journalism, West Virginia University, Morgantown
      News Editor, The Daily Athenaeum, the WVU student newspaper
      Research Assistant, Institute of Communications, University of Illinois, Urbana
    1955 MS Journalism, University of Illinois, Urbana
    1956-1957 City Hall Reporter, The Kingsport (Tenn.) Times-News
    1958-1970 Staff Reporter, The Charleston (W. Va.) Gazette
    1960 Married, Peggy N. Flowers of Bluefield, VA
    1966-1967 Mark Ethridge Fellowship, Ford Foundation, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
    1968 Urban Service Award, U. S. Office of Economic Opportunity, for outstanding coverage of the poor.
    1969-1970 Part-time journalism instructor, West Virginia State College
      Institute faculty advisor to The Yellow Jacket, WVSC student newspaper
    1970 Investigative Reporter, Sacramento Union
      Ring of Truth Award, Copley Newspapers, for outstanding community service
      Editorial Citation, California Newspaper Publishers Association, Best Article or Best Series, for "Welfare Mess."
    1971 First Place, Enterprise Category, California-Nevada AP Writing Contest
      Ring of Truth Award, Copley Newspapers, for outstanding initiative and originality in reporting.
    1972 Second Place, Enterprise Category, California-Nevada AP Writing Contest
      Ring of Truth Award, Copley Newspapers, for outstanding initiative and originality in reporting
      Ring of Truth Award, Copley Newspapers, for best spot news coverage
      Certificate of Merit, American Bar Association Gavel Award, for a series of investigative articles
    1973 Ring of Truth Award, Copley Newspapers, for outstanding community service
      Editorial Citation, California Newspaper Publishers Association, for community service
    1974 Part-time journalism lecturer, California State University, Sacramento
      Faculty advisor to The State Hornet, CSUS student newspaper
      Ring of Truth Award, Copley Newspapers, for a series of investigative articles
      Special Merit Award, California Taxpayers Association, for a series of investigative articles entitled, "The Golden Dome."
      National Headliners Award, National Headliners Club, for outstanding news reporting
    1976 Editorial Citation, California Newspaper Publishers Association, for best series of articles
    1977 Contacts Chol Soo Lee and begins working for his release.
    1978 Mark Twain Sweepstakes Award, Associated Press News Executives Council (APNEC), for "The Americanization of Chol Soo Lee."
    1979 Starts editing and publishing Koreatown.
      Gavel Award, American Bar Association, for yearlong investigative series that resulted in the overturning of Chol Soo Lee's murder conviction.
      First Place, Best Series of Articles, California Newspaper Publishers Association's Better Newspaper Contest
      Honorable Mention, Paul Tobenkin Memorial Award, for investigative coverage of Chol Soo Lee case.
    1981 Top Honors, News Division, California State Fair, for his series, "People's Revolt Against Crime."
    1982 Second place, investigative reporting, San Francisco Press Club Writing Contest
    1983 Chol Soo Lee released.
      National Headliners Award, National Headliners Club, for outstanding news reporting
      American Legion Fourth Estate Award
      Second Place, Writing Contest, California-Nevada Associated Press News Executive Council
    1986 Finalist, Roy W. Howard Award for Public Service, Scripps-Howard Foundation
    1987 Lifetime Achievement Award, Asian American Journalists Association
    1990 Editor, Korea Times English Edition
      Retires from Sacramento Union
    1992 John Anson Ford Award, Los Angeles Human Relations Commission for journalistic efforts to promote racial harmony before, during, and after the 1992 LA Riots.
      Retires from Korea Times English Edition
      Received liver transplant.
    1993 Investigative reporter/internship program coordinator, Sacramento Union
    1994 Free Spirit Award, Freedom Forum
      National Award for Outstanding Service, Association of Asian American Studies
    1995 Special projects consultant to KCRA-TV in Sacramento
      Columnist, The Korea Times (English daily), Seoul
    1997 Inducted into the Journalism History Gallery of the Newseum in Arlington, VA.
    1998 Retired from The Korea Times
    2000 Columnist, Currents
      Columnist, The Korea Times Bi-Lingual Edition, Los Angeles
      Retires from KCRA-TV
    2001 Columnist, KorAm Journal

    Scope and Content of Collection

    These papers cover K. W. Lee's professional life from 1977 to 1983. They are limited to his two main activities during those years: the Chol Soo Lee case and the founding of the Koreatown newspaper. There is also a small series hinting at his larger career as an investigative reporter and teacher.
    In the Chol Soo Lee case, the correspondence between K.W. Lee and Chol Soo Lee, the newspaper coverage of the case (particularly the Sacramento Union stories by K. W. Lee), and the court documents contain most of the substance of the series. The interviews also warrant use though there are few. The strength of the Koreatown series lies in the newspaper itself and in the files of story ideas. They focus on the Korean immigrant/Korean American experience in California and the major Korean immigrant centers around the United States.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


    Lee, K.W. (Kyung Won), 1928-
    Lee, Chol Soo
    Korean Americans--California--Politics and government.
    Korean American journalists.
    Koran American literature--Periodicals.