Q1. How did you know about, and come to UIC?
PROFESSOR LEE : My father is a graduate of Yonsei (entered in 1958!), so I am very familiar with the campus. In fact, I came to the Yonsei summer program in 1988.
Q2. What previous experience have you had as a professor?
PROFESSOR LEE : I was assistant professor of Japanese literature at the University of Florida, from fall of 2003 to spring of 2008.
Q3. How did you become interested in Japanese literature?
PROFESSOR LEE : Very coincidentally. Through a student in an intensive summer language program in Tokyo (1989) I started reading an ‘I-Novel’ (Japanese novel genre) by Ito Sachio. It was a beautiful story about first love, and the narrative was so powerful (I thought at the time). I still remember how I was so drawn to the story. When I went back to school in the fall I started taking classes in Japanese literature, and ended up majoring in it.
My father disapproved of my choice of major in college—majoring in Japanese literature did not quite fit the “American Dream” he had in mind. My father and I had a huge argument over this issue in my junior year, and we did not communicate for a long time. Born in 1935, he had been educated under the Japanese colonial rule, and could not understand why his daughter would choose to study Japanese in America. It was not until 2003, the year when I earned my doctorate degree in Japanese literature and secured a teaching position, that I felt I had been redeemed by my father.
Q4. What qualities do you think make a good student?
PROFESSOR LEE : I would say ‘intellectual curiosity’ and ‘commitment and self-discipline.’ Actually, these two criteria complement each other.
Q5. Are you enjoying your experience with UIC students?
PROFESSOR LEE : I have only been at UIC for 2 months now, so I am still making adjustments – I am sure my students will second this statement. My students are very polite and nice, so they have eased my institutional and cultural transition.
Q6. What do you do in your research time? (Academically focused)
PROFESSOR LEE : I am a scholar of postcolonial studies, and my research area is Imperial Japan. Specifically my project focuses on Japan’s colonization of Korea. I spend my free time (=research) reading the archival sources from the colonial period and writing my manuscript – not much different from what you do as a student.
Q7. What do you do to relax?
PROFESSOR LEE : I am a student and a fan of Korean dance, the Chum (fortune-telling), and I am currently learning the Salpuri (type of traditional dance).
PROFESSOR LEE : I studied with our Dean Lee in 1989 at the International Christian University’s intensive summer language program in Tokyo. Dean Lee was one of the few graduate students in the program who was also married, so most of us called him “Lee-sama” to pay our respect to a “grown-up” classmate.
Professor Lee’s classes are one of the most interesting and fascinating lectures in UIC. For students who have interest in Japan, a class in Japanese literature or history in the following semester might be quite fulfilling. Or, if you need to take another history or literature class, why not take an adventure and learn about something that has some distance from the well-known West? The experience may just open your eyes to other cultures