Sung Yi

Obituary of Sung Yi

Sung Hyok Yi was born on August 21, 1921 in Kanggye, North Pyongyang province, modern-day North Korea, as the first of four children of Jungwon and Myungsun Yi. His father was a successful businessman in Kanggye, running several businesses as diversified as lumber manufacturing and rice distribution. His mother was a devout Christian, eventually holding the highest positions in Saemoonan Presbyterian Church in Seoul, which was founded in 1887 by American missionary Horace Underwood. After graduating from Chuncheon High School in 1939, Mr. Yi went on to Tokyo, Japan, to study at Waseda University, where he completed his B.S. in Economics and Political Science in 1943. While at Waseda, Mr. Yi was a member of the varisty basketball team. After Korea's independence from Japan in 1945, Mr. Yi returned to Kanggye to work in his father's lumber business. But as rising political tensions made northern Korea unsafe, he was sent south in 1948 with his mother and two of his three younger sisters to Seoul. Shortly thereafter, the border between North and South Korea was closed, leaving his father and youngest sister, Sangseon, unable to escape. Their whereabouts are still unknown. In 1954, he married Yongcha Bae in Seoul, and had two boys, Peter and Robert Yi. Today Peter is a medical oncologist in Princeton, NJ, and Robert is Head of Investor Relations for Samsung Electronics in Seoul. Once settled in Seoul, Mr. Yi entered the film industry, founding a film production company. He produced several famous films, most notably introducing Koreans to actress Um Aing-Ran, Korea's first movie star. Mr. Yi led another business venture as President of a Korean crafts export business, which became so successful that he was awarded a Presidential Medal in 1970 by the President of South Korea, Park Chung-hee. In 1972, Mr. Yi immigrated with his family to the United States, settling in Queens, NY, and opening Subok Exports on 32nd St. and Broadway in Manhattan. He would become one of the first merchants to establish the region into today's Koreatown, finally retiring in 1983. Since 1990, Mr. and Mrs. Yi have lived with their son and daughter-in-law in Princeton. Mr. Yi was an avid golf player, stating that some of his happiest moments were on the golf course; In Seoul, he was a member of Korea's first private golf club, Hanyang Country Club. In the United States, he was a member of Princeton Korean Presbyterian Church in Plainsboro and Waseda University's New York Alumni Association. Mr. Yi is survived by his wife, Yongcha, two sisters, Sanggil and Sangcheon of Seoul, two sons Peter and Robert, two daughters-in-law Alice and Grace, and four grandchildren, Justin, Lauren, Jonathan, and Erin. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions will be accepted to Princeton Korean Presbyterian Church, 500 Plainsboro Rd., Plainsboro, NJ 08536 (www.princetonkorean.org), the Korean Community Center of Greater Princeton, P.O. Box 1128, Princeton, NJ 08542 (www.kccprinceton.org), and Princeton Healthcare System Foundation, 3626 US Route One Princeton, NJ 08540 (www.princetonhcs.org).
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