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Fallen Korean student a hero in Japan


Unswerving cyclist
14 Mar 2002
From the Digital Korean Herald, January 29th, 2001

A Korean student who was killed by a subway train while trying to rescue a man Friday in Tokyo is receiving wide media attention in both South Korea and Japan for his heroic deed.

Lee Soo-hyun, 26, along with a Japanese man, was killed by a train at JR Shin Okubo Station in Shinjuku Ward at 7:15 p.m. on Friday after they jumped onto the track to rescue a drunken man who fell below the platform.

The Japanese men were identified as Seiko Sakamoto, 37, a plasterer from Asaka, who had fallen on the train track drunk, and Shiro Sekine, 47, a photographer from Yokohama.

The three did not know one another, according to Japanese press reports that quoted police officers.

Lee, from Pusan, suspended his business study at Korea University in 1999 and went to Japan to learn Japanese, his parents said. Lee planned to make a temporary return home this March before pursuing a graduate course in Japan.

The Asahi News, quoting the police and witnesses, reported that Lee and Sekine immediately jumped down from the crowded platform when Sakamoto fell onto the track to try and lift him back up.

But all three were hit by a train which spotted them too late, as other passengers screamed in horror, the Asahi said.

"The three had no chance to escape," one witness was quoted as saying.

The Asahi Shimbun also reported that the train driver later told JR East officials: "It looked like the three jumped from the platform at the same moment. I put on an emergency brake but the train didn't stop soon enough."

Sakamoto, who had been reportedly drinking with a friend at a nearby restaurant, was also seen drinking on the platform, before walking wobbly toward the track pit and falling, the local police was reported to have said.

The Asahi and other major Japanese media such as the Mainichi Shimbun and NHK TV gave in-depth coverage of the tragic accident. They praised the two "heroes" for giving up their lives and especially Lee for he, a Korean, who gave his life for a stranger in a foreign country.

The Korean press also paid great attention to the accident, with some reports mentioning how a person from a country that still bears a grudge against Japan for the colonial years (1910~1945) sacrificed himself to save a Japanese.

According to accounts of his friends and family members, Lee was an ambitious and hard-working man who wished to become a businessman involved in trade between Korea and Japan.

Many of his friends and school officials were quoted as saying that he was a responsible man with a strong sense of justice who was good at leading people.

Even though his family in Pusan was well off, he worked at the Internet cafe to earn his own living expenses, they said.

Lee, who when the accident occurred was on his way back to the dormitory after finishing work at a nearby Internet cafe, had stayed late after helping with a few more chores, said a co-worker.

Lee's homepage is still up on the Internet with many words of condolences left by netizens who have heard of his heroic death.

Upon hearing the news, Lee's mother and sister broke into tears and wailed that it could not be true.

Lee's father, after overcoming the initial shock and sorrow, said his son cared much about those around him.

"He was always generous to other people. I can still see my son's bright face when he came home without his jacket which he gave to his friend who was selling baked sweet potatoes out in the cold," Lee Sung-dae said.

Family members flew to Tokyo Saturday.

Japanese reports said that Sekine worked at an advertising agency in Bunkyo Ward as a photographer and he did not regularly commute home from Shin-Okubo station.

By Lee Joo-hee Staff reporter


Copyright 2000 Digital Korea Herald
Train death student is hero in Japan

Electronic Telegraph, Issue 2080 Saturday 3 February 2001

Train death student is hero in Japan

By Colin Joyce in Tokyo

A KOREAN student who died in an attempt to save a Japanese man from death under a train has become a hero in Japan and has inspired similar acts of courage.

Lee Su-hyon, 26, from Pusan, was trying to save Seiko Sakamoto, who fell on to a track in Tokyo last week. A Japanese man, Shiro Sekine, 47, also died in the rescue attempt. Mr Lee became famous across Japan as the media and politicians praised his bravery. Japanese said they admired his selflessness, a quality they felt Japan lacked.

Yoshiro Mori, the Prime Minister, and Yohei Kono, the Foreign Minister, attended the mourning ceremony for Mr Lee in Tokyo. Mr Mori said: "He has become a role model for young men." On Thursday in Nagoya, central Tokyo, a schoolboy attempting suicide was dragged off the railway by two men. One said: "The heroic story gave me courage."

Copyright ツゥ Electronic Telegraph
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