David Lee

David Lee: He was a national leader who secured an official recognition of the Korean National Association as a representative Korean government from the United States government.


He is regarded as the best national leader for Korean independence second next to Dosan Ahn Chang Ho after the Korean National Association was founded in San Francisco. He then served the Korean ministry. One of the finest moments was when he secured the status of the Korean National Association as that of a provisional government from the State Department of the United States. In 1913, when Korean laborers went to Riverside farm, they were kicked out as the farm owner mistakenly thought they were Japanese. When the Japanese consul got there and tried to negotiate their status as Japanese. Rev. David Lee immediately sent an official protest letter to the U.S. Secretary of State demanding Japan should never interfere with Korean issues. The United States and California state governments officially recognized the Korean National Association as the representative exile government status. When two Korean patriots were charged with assassinating Stevens in San Francisco, he was actively involved with collecting defense funds for the trial. He served as vice-president for Korean National Association and he prepared a protest letter to the Japanese Emperor for their illegal occupation of Korea. He was active in assisting Korean exiles and students coming to America with their immigration process and other needy accommodations. He was the first Korean Berkeley graduate with  a  B.A. in sociology. Later, he graduated Pacific Theological Seminary in Oak- land, California. Thereafter, he served San Fran- cisco Korean Methodist Church for the next 17 years. In 1915, Rev. Lee invented an inter-type Korean letter printing machine: A revolutionary printing feat away from type-picking arrangement. He himself made Korean letter matrixes and he set up a Korean printing machine with the funds collected from Korean residents in America. In 1918, he was elected as the president to lead Korean National Association and he also actively participated in the 1919 Korean Independence Declaration while he was fiercely working with Song, Hurn-joo and Kim Kiu-sik for the U.S. Diplomacy Committee in Washington, D.C. preparing Korean diplomacy and independence materials. Throughout the periods of 1910 and 1920, he played a key role as a national leader and as such, he obtained a full-fledged legal entity of Korean National Association from the State of California and it acted as an autonomous provisional government until 1945. Leaving his last words from his death bed “Peace be with you. I love you!” Rev. Lee was 49 years young when he passed away on June 17, 1928 while his wife and four brothers were watching. The official statement of the Ministry of Patriots and Veteran’s Affairs of Korea described his demise this way: ‘While he was working fiercely for Korea’s independence, he died of overwork.’ He was buried at Cypress Cemetery in San Francisco. In 2005, the South Korean government repatriated his remains to Dae Jeon National Cemetery in Korea. In 1995, the South Korean government posthumously recognized him with the Order of Merit of National Foundation / Independence Award for his sacrificial dedication and unfaltering contribution to the Korean independence movement.



▲ San Francisco Korean School with Rev. David Lee.