Lee Hyo-jae, Champion of Girls’s Rights in South Korea, Dies at 95

Lee Hyo-jae was born on November 4, 1924 in Masan, a district of Changwon, Gyeongsang Province, during the Japanese occupation of Korea. Her father, Lee Yak-shin, was a Presbyterian pastor and Church leader, and her mother, Lee Oak-kyung, founded and ran an orphanage.

When she was a young woman, her parents took her to Seoul for an arranged marriage, but Ms. Lee ran away believing it would affect her ambitions, Mr. Rowe said. She never got married.

A few years later, her father met Jobe Couch, an American soldier from the US Embassy in Korea. Mr Couch, who was married but had no children, was impressed by Ms. Lee’s younger sister Hyo-suk and offered to take her to the United States for college. However, the sister refused to do without Ms. Lee and brought them both with her in 1945.

It was’nt easy. Mr. Couch had to enlist the help of an Alabama Congressman, Carl Elliott, to obtain visas, and he had to lobby the University of Alabama to ensure that the sisters received full scholarships even though they did not speak English.

Ms. Lee earned a bachelor’s degree in Alabama and a master’s degree in sociology from Columbia University before returning to South Korea in 1957.

The following year she founded the Department of Sociology in Ewha. She began teaching the school’s first women’s studies course in 1977, which led to the development of South Korea’s first graduate women’s studies program.

“She was the most respected women’s leader at the time,” Jung Byung-joon, a history professor at Ewha, said in an email, becoming an advocate for human rights and democratization. “It was a very challenging and dangerous decision for them to join the anti-regime movement.”

Comments are closed.