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"How Asian Americans United to Free a Wrongfully Convicted Prisoner from Death Row"

Chol Soo Lee. Courtesy of

As a Korean American who was raised and circulated in predominantly white communities, Korean American history is something that I am still learning about--which is why I was so excited to research and write this article about the Free Chol Soo Lee movement for

Chol Soo Lee was a Korean immigrant who was wrongfully convicted of first degree murder for the death of a gang member in San Francisco's Chinatown in 1974. After journalist K.W. Lee's series of investigative articles, an intergenerational and pan-Asian activist movement united to exonerate Chol Soo Lee from death row, and succeeded. Lee was released from San Quentin State Prison's death row in 1983 as a result of legal actions, including a proposal for a writ habeas corpus, put together by the Chol Soo Lee Defense Committee. The story of the Free Chol Soo Lee movement shows the power of the Asian American community as it came together to unite for a common cause during a period of burgeoning Asian American activism starting in the mid-1960s.

I learned so much researching this article and speaking to the experts I interviewed. I felt very proud, as an Asian American and particularly a Korean American, for the way AAPI united to fight for this Korean immigrant who had struggled in the United States. I hope you feel the passion of the movement and learn something new as you read, too.

Thanks for reading!


Mom, PhD


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