Obituary: Lee Lee Hyo-jae, Pioneer of Feminism

Lee Lee is best known for South Korea's first women's studies and the movement to use two surnames.

Obituary: Lee Lee Hyo-jae, Pioneer of Feminism

Photo: Dr. Lee Lee Hyo-jae with President Moon Jae-in.  Credit: Website of the Office of the President.

The professor emeritus at Ewha Womans University 이화여자대학교 passed away on October 4 at age 96. Born in 1924, Lee Lee attended Ewha, University of Alabama and Columbia University and began her career as a sociology professor at Ewha. She was fired from her post in 1980 when she took a public stance against the Chun Doo-hwan 전두환 military dictatorship. As a professor, she pushed Ewha to create South Korea’s first women’s studies program in 1977. Lee Lee also pioneered the movement to use two surnames to represent the heritage of both mother and father. She was also a founding member and co-chairwoman of the Korean Committee on Response to Comfort Women Issue 한국정신대문제대책협의회 established in 1991, and played a major role in raising global awareness of the sexual slavery perpetrated by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II.

President Moon Jae-in 문재인 issued a statement saying: “Dr. Lee Lee Hyo-jae was the pioneer of Korean women’s movement and played an enormous role in democracy and social movement. She was among the big stars, in those dark days when the stars shone so brightly.” Democratic Party Chairman Lee Nak-yeon 이낙연 민주당 당대표 said: “It is not at all an exaggeration to say every woman who lives today owes a debt to Lee Lee Hyo-jae. Our history came this far thanks to pioneers like Dr. Lee Lee.”

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