Academic who exposed rights abuses in South Korea, dies at 97


South Korean scholar and professor Chi Myong Gwan, who exposed the tyranny in his country, died of a stroke at a hospital near Seoul on Saturday, his family said. He was 97.

While living in Japan, Chi exposed the oppression suffered by South Korea’s pro-democracy movement in the 1970s and 1980s through his writings in a Japanese magazine.

He penned a series of pieces for the Sekai (The World) monthly between 1973 and 1988 under the pseudonym “T.K Sei,” using materials brought out of South Korea by Christians to inform the world of human rights abuses under military dictatorships and of the pro-democracy movement challenging them.

After returning to South Korea, Chi was deeply involved in the lifting under the government of President Kim Dae Jung from 1998 to 2003 of the country’s decades-old ban on the import of Japanese popular culture.

Chi was born in what is now North Korea’s North Pyongan Province in 1924. He became a scholar of religious philosophy after completing his studies at Seoul National University’s graduate school. He moved to Japan in 1972 and in 1986 became a professor at Tokyo Woman’s Christian University.

While his pieces in Sekai, under the title “Communication from South Korea,” brought attention to the state of the pro-democracy movement there, he remained anonymous throughout. It was only in 2003 that he acknowledged being T.K Sei.

Chi returned to South Korea in 1993. Under the Kim government, he served as chairman of a policy advisory committee that considered the lifting of a ban on Japanese popular culture. He advocated the deregulation at a time when there was still unease regarding Japanese culture among the South Korean public following Japan’s 35-year colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula until 1945.

Back in South Korea, Chi served as professor at Hallym University until 2004. He also served as chairman of public broadcaster KBS as well as South Korea’s representative in a joint history research project with Japan. (Source: Mainichi Japan)