A message from the late Dr. Jaewon Lee’s family
If you had ever met our father, you would likely have thought of him as impressive. As his children, we always admired him. He and our mother always took special care in the quality of our environment; our home was always filled with books and records and media of all types. He was worldly and opinionated, all the while intensely focused on our family and our little house in Cleveland, Ohio, around which he cultivated his garden. On the one hand, he was our father, a person who liked strong coffee, golf, linguine with clam sauce, Russian composers. In conversation, his laughter often had the strength of anger. But he was also memorable in ways that go beyond a typical parent’s influence.
The defining feature of his professional life was his unending intellectual curiosity and desire to find meaning in all of his life experiences. He was acutely aware of the singularity of his vantage point as a Korean immigrant in an American, English-speaking realm of mass communications, and his keen political insight reflected all of these dimensions. An inveterate world traveler, his career took him to six continents and innumerable cities. In my view, he accomplished everything he possibly could in America, but retirement would not have slowed him down. Without a doubt, he would have had many more discoveries in Korea, where he would reconnect with peers, meet new people, and marvel at the progress of a cultural and media landscape bearing little resemblance to the Korea he left in the late 1960s.
There was such a specific cruelty in seeing the effects of ALS on a person who thrived on conversation, who was suddenly unable to communicate his thoughts and opinions. We are deeply grateful to our stepmother, Dr. Chae-Kyong Moon, for her care and irreplaceable companionship to him during these last years. I would urge younger Korean Americans to talk with their elders as much as they can, because there is so much in their life histories that is no longer documented in the ways that we have come to expect. We live in a time when life cycles are more and more uncertain: my brother and I had always envisioned my father living into his nineties like his parents, taking regular strolls along the riverside. It’s a loss that came too early, but remembering his life is to celebrate his unique personality, energy and dedication to his family, friends, and respected colleagues everywhere.
Gina S. Lee
Eric S. Lee