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‘Free Chol Soo Lee’ screening offers connection to little-known history

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Official ‘Free Chol Soo Lee’ trailer screenshot
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Chol Soo Lee (No. 5 in this lineup) was wrongly identified and convicted as the killer in a 1973 San Francisco Chinatown murder. The documentary film "Free Chol Soo Lee" has a one-night screening, organized by Gateway Korea Foundation and Very Asian Foundation, at Webster University on Friday.

In the early 1970s, Chol Soo Lee, a Korean American immigrant, was falsely convicted of a San Francisco Chinatown murder and later sentenced to death. Activists led by a Korean American journalist and college students who later became lawyers initiated a Pan-Asian American movement to exonerate Lee.

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Miya Norfleet
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St. Louis Public Radio
Liz Lenivy is an attorney and Gateway Korea Foundation board member.

This largely unknown piece of American history is the focus of the 2022 documentary film “Free Chol Soo Lee.” Liz Lenivy, attorney and Gateway Korea Foundation board member, joined St. Louis on the Air to discuss the relevance of Lee’s story and the one-night screening and post-film discussion happening Friday night at Webster University.

“Even though it took place in California 50 years ago, the issues are still happening and still resonate today across our country,” Lenivy said. “We wanted to bring in individuals, both in law and in media, to talk about the role they play within this larger system, how we can fix the system, and specifically how that impacts our community right now and going forward.”

Lenivy also spoke to the power of “Free Chol Soo Lee” in its depiction of the deeply challenging realities people face, even in their own communities, after incarceration, and the mobilization of Asian American activists in a time long before the advent of Stop AAPI Hate efforts. She said the mobilization of a younger generation of Asian Americans is especially encouraging.

“We have so much to gain from watching how young people advocate and work across racial lines with fellow minorities to just really just improve everyone's life. And the goal of this event tonight is to bring a community together in order to make it better,” Lenivy said.

For more about “Free Chol Soo Lee” and the law- and media-focused panel to follow its St. Louis screening, listen to Liz Lenivy’s conversation on St. Louis on the Air on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, Stitcher, or by clicking the play button below.

‘Free Chol Soo Lee’ screening offers connection to little-known history

Related Event
What: "Free Chol Soo Lee"
When: 7 p.m. Nov. 18
Where: Webster University, Winifred Moore Auditorium (470 E. Lockwood Ave., Webster Groves, MO 63119)

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Avery Rogers is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Elaine Cha is the host/producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio. Her past work includes journalistic storytelling and producing engagement programming/content for Southern California Public Radio; Nine Network (now Nine PBS); the Ferguson Commission; Regional Arts Commission; Forward Through Ferguson; and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri, through which she co-edited the Humans of St. Louis book. Elaine joined St. Louis Public Radio in November 2022.

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