PBS Hawai‘i Series Introduces Viewers to Chol Soo Lee

The Korean American immigrant was wrongfully convicted of murder in 1973—sparking a movement and the Free Chol Soo Lee Defense Committee.


Fcsl On Screen Image

Photo: Courtesy of PBS Hawaiʻi


The PBS documentary series Independent Lens tells deeply personal stories of individuals displaying perseverance in the face of nearly insurmountable challenges. Last September, the film “Move Me” shared Kelsey Peterson’s search for identity, from being an athlete and dancer to suffering a life-changing spinal cord injury. In February, the award-winning series presented “Love in the Time of Fentanyl,” which followed the volunteers of Vancouver’s Overdose Prevention Society, a safe injection site dedicated to reducing overdose deaths. This month, the award-winning series introduces you to Chol Soo Lee, a Korean man thrust into the role of the voice of a marginalized community.


“Free Chol Soo Lee” opens in the streets of San Francisco’s Chinatown in 1973. Despite proclaiming his innocence, Chol Soo Lee is convicted of murder, and as the deputy drives him to the prison where he will spend the rest of his life, he hears on the radio the opening horn strains of Tower of Power’s “You’re Still A Young Man.”


Four years later, an investigative reporter starts digging into Chol Soo Lee’s case, leading to the formation of the Chol Soo Lee Defense Committee, a movement dedicated to his release.


On Tuesday, April 18, PBS Hawaiʻi brings you an advanced screening of Free Chol Soo Lee, to be followed by a discussion moderated by PBS Hawaiʻi President and CEO Ron Mizutani, with panelists:

  • Alan Shinn, retired, Executive Director, Coalition for a Drug-Free Hawaii and member, Chol Soo Lee Defense Committee in the SF Bay Area
  • Ranko Yamada, community activist, retired attorney, and participant in CSL movement
  • Eric Yamamoto, retired, Fred T. Korematsu Professor of Law and Social Justice at the William S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawaii at Manoa
  • Hoyt H. Zia, retired attorney, Founding President, National Asian Pacific American Bar Association

Indie Lens Pop-Up Screening: Free Chol Soo Lee, Tuesday, April 18 at 2:00 p.m., click here to RSVP.



2020pbshawaiilogo Primary Every month, HONOLULU publishes a blog written by the folks at PBS Hawai‘i, the only locally owned, statewide television station in Hawaiʻi that receives support mainly through donations. Visit pbshawaii.org to learn more about exceptional, locally produced shows and the most prominent provider of educational and national programming. Explore music and the arts, discover in-depth documentaries and learn what makes Hawaiʻi so special. Follow PBS Hawai‘i on all platforms: @pbshawaii