Rhee, ex-journalist, author, dies at 81

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Rhee, ex-journalist, author, dies at 81

Rhee Yueng-hui, a former journalist, best-selling liberal author and former Hanyang University professor who fought against dictatorship his whole life, died yesterday of cirrhosis of the liver. He was 81.

Born in 1929 in North Pyongan Province, North Korea, Rhee started his career as a journalist at Hapdong News Agency, the predecessor to Yonhap News Agency, from 1957 to 1964, after graduating from the Korea Maritime University in 1950.

In 1964, he was arrested on charges of violating anti-communist laws for writing a story saying that the United Nations would invite both North and South Korea as new member states. In the 1960s, censorship rules discouraged any news about North Korea and communism.

Rhee then worked in 1965 as a journalist at the Chosun Ilbo and was later foreign news editor at Hapdong News Agency in 1969. In 1972, Rhee become a journalism professor at Hanyang University, but he lost his job two times - in 1976 and 1980 - during the regimes of Park Chung Hee and Chun Doo Hwan.

In 1977, Rhee published a best-selling book, “Dialogue with 800 Million People,” but he was put in jail on charges of “praising the Chinese Communist Party.” His other best-selling books are “Idol and Reason” (1977) and “Logics of Conversion” (1974).

Rhee was arrested again in 1989 for violating anti-communist laws. Rhee then served as editorial adviser for the liberal daily newspaper Hankyoreh and was arrested over plans to travel to North Korea to do reporting.

Rhee is also noted for his remark, “birds fly with both their right and left wings,” which was published in a book by the same title in 1995. The book criticized Korean society for being excessively right-wing.

Rhee received the Press Freedom Award in 1989 and Culture and Academic Award from the Kim Dae-jung Foundation in 2008.

Rhee’s funeral altar is at Yonsei Severance Hospital in Sinchon, western Seoul. The funeral procession will leave his residence at 6 a.m. on Wednesday.


By Kim Mi-ju [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]

Rhee Yueng-hui

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