CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Former Gazette reporter K.W. Lee, who exposed local political corruption in impoverished coal counties a half-century ago, will be inducted Feb. 22 into West Virginia University's Academy of Distinguished Alumni.WVU announced Monday that Lee will be honored along with two other graduates of the state's flagship university: Rouzbeh Yassini-Fard, inventor of the cable modem, and Joel Newman, president of the American Feed Industry Association. They are to be guests at a reception at the university's Erickson Alumni Center.A WVU release said Lee is "known for bringing a voice to poverty in Appalachia" and also is the "godfather of Asian-American journalism."Born in Korea and raised under Japanese domination during World War II, Lee came to the United States on a student visa in 1950. He earned a journalism degree at WVU, and a master's degree from the University of Illinois in 1955.
After joining the staff of The Charleston Gazette, Lee covered local governments, especially in Deep South coal counties, where he outlined hardships of laid-off coal miners' families.He married a Charleston nurse, and they later moved to California, where Lee worked for the Sacramento Union and exposed corruption by legislators. He also exposed mistreatment of Korean immigrants. His disclosures won the freedom of Chol Soo Lee, who had been racially profiled and wrongly convicted of murder. The case was made into a movie, "True Believer."After Korean shops in black neighborhoods were destroyed in 1992 Los Angeles riots, Lee was joined by former Gazette Business Editor Ed Peeks to appeal for harmony between the ethnic groups.Lee won numerous national journalism awards before retiring. Today, the K.W. Lee Center for Leadership in Los Angeles, named in his honor, trains Korean-American youths for civic betterment roles.