Obituary: Lee Hee-ho, feminist activist who also fought for democracy in South Korea

Lee Hee-ho, feminist and democracy activist. Born: 21 September, 1922, in Seoul, South Korea. Died: 10 June, 2019, aged 97.

Lee Hee-ho has died at the age of 97. Picture: AP
Lee Hee-ho has died at the age of 97. Picture: AP

Lee Hee-ho, a South Korean feminist activist who fought for democracy against ­dictatorships alongside her husband and future president Kim Dae-jung, has died. She was 97.

Lee, a devout Christian, left a will saying that she would pray for South Korea’s ­people and a peaceful unification with North Korea in heaven, according to Park Han-shik, an official from the Kim Dae Jung Peace Center.

South Korean president Moon Jae-in tweeted that the country has lost a “great ­person” who devoted her life to women and democracy.

Born in Seoul in 1921, Lee, following her college graduation and studies in the ­United States, began actively ­campaigning for women’s rights in the 1950s, establishing activist and research groups and serving a senior role with South Korea’s YWCA.

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She married Kim in 1962 when he was a dissident ­politician. Kim, who died in 2009, survived a death ­sentence and an assassination bid by dictators before winning the presidency in 1997.

Kim won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000 for his ­pro-democracy struggle and his rapprochement policies with North Korea, months after he met then-North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang for the first ­summit between the Koreas since their 1950-53 war.

North Korea sent a high-level delegation to the South after Kim Dae-jung died in 2009.

There’s speculation the North may send another ­delegation to mourn Lee’s death although diplomatic activity between the ­Koreas has halted since a February summit between current North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump collapsed over ­disagreements about exchanging sanctions relief for nuclear disarmament.

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Lee had joined her husband’s 2000 trip to Pyongyang for a summit and also visited the North Korean capital in 2011 after the death of Kim Jong Il.

She is survived by her two sons.

KIM TONG-HYUNG