Landmark gift to boost UC Berkeley’s world-class Korean collection

four men walk on campus with the East Asian Library in the background
Entrepreneur Chong-Moon Lee, second from left, walks on campus with, from left, John Orbon, associate director of development at the UC Berkeley Library; Peter Zhou, director of the C. V. Starr East Asian Library; and Jeff MacKie-Mason, Berkeley’s university librarian. (Photos by Jami Smith/UC Berkeley Library)

The C. V. Starr East Asian Library at UC Berkeley has recently received an important gift for its world-class Korean collection.

The $1 million gift from Chong-Moon and Reiko Lee is the first endowment established for a Korean collection at an East Asian library in North America. The funding will go toward building upon the library’s collection of Korean-language materials, already one of the largest of its kind in the country.

With the endowment, EAL’s Korean materials will be united under a new name: The Chong-Moon Lee Korean Collection.

“I am really grateful to Chong-Moon and Reiko Lee for their generous gift and their vision for the Korean collection,” said Peter Zhou, director of the C. V. Starr East Asian Library, or EAL, and assistant university librarian. “This gift will provide a stable revenue for our collection development for many years to come.”

The donation came about through a connection between Chong-Moon Lee and Jaeyong Chang, the librarian for EAL’s Korean collection. The two have known each other for two decades, having met at an event at San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum.

“When we met at that event, he said if he had not been a businessman, he might have been a Korean studies librarian exactly like me,” Chang said.

The gift from Chong-Moon, pictured, and Reiko Lee will help grow the East Asian Library’s collection of Korean-language materials.

Lee’s respect for libraries runs deep. A native of South Korea, Lee earned a master’s degree in library sciences from Vanderbilt University, and was the first person to receive an official librarianship in Korea. He played an important role in the library field in Korea, founding departments of libraries in Yonsei University and Chung-Ang University, and establishing the Korean Library Association. Lee fled his home country’s dictatorial regime, immigrating to the U.S. in 1970.

Lee’s journey as an entrepreneur rivals even the most outlandish Horatio Alger storyline. Having gained and lost his fortune two times over through business ventures, Lee struck gold with Diamond Multimedia Systems. The company, which he co-founded in 1982, achieved early success with the production of a technology that allowed PCs to run Apple programs, an idea inspired by observing his son playing in his sister’s room with her Apple II instead of using his own PC. After stepping down as CEO and chairman of the board of that company, Lee started the venture capital firm AmBex Venture Partners.

The Lees have championed many charitable causes through the Chong-Moon Lee Foundation. The foundation’s notable contributions include a $15 million donation in 1995 to San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum, whose edifice bears Chong-Moon Lee’s name.

Over the years, Lee has expressed his gratitude for the United States, and the communities that have made his prosperity possible.

“What little I have today,” Lee told an alumni relations publication, “belongs to this great country and is not mine.”

Through their gift to EAL, Chong-Moon and Reiko Lee are supporting and strengthening a Korean collection that encompasses all fields of the social sciences and humanities, and includes more than 130,000 volumes, in addition to maps, films, and other materials. Among the collection’s rare gems are about 60 examples of moveable-type printing dating back to as early as the 17th century, 200-plus rubbings of inscriptions dating back to as early as the sixth century, and the entire Korean Buddhist canon, printed in the 1960s from the original blocks preserved at the famed Haeinsa Temple.

To learn about how you can support the East Asian Library, contact the Library Development Office at 510-642-9377 or