Professor Lee Ki-Moon is a world authority on the study of the Korean language.
After graduating from the Department of Korean Language and Literature, Seoul National University (SNU) in 1953, he pursued his career as a dedicated researcher and educator at SNU until his retirement in February, 1996. Outside the campus, he has held distinguished posts as President of both the Linguistic Society of Korea and the Society of Korean Linguistics. His analysis employing the theory of linguistic universal has secured the position of Korean linguistics in the field of linguistics worldwide and his findings on individual linguistic phenomena of the Korean language has helped greatly to establish a theory of general linguistics. His research work and studies have been a source of inspiration for many researchers home and abroad, including a great number from Japan. He has also served as Director of the Institute of Korean Studies where he addressed the organization of orthography and language policy. As a member of the National Academy of Science, his contributions have been profound, as demonstrated by his dedication in the project for the compilation of a linguistic atlas for languages in the world. In this project held under the auspices of International Academic Union, he participated as the representative of South Korea to produce "Language Atlas of Korea". He is also eminent in international academic exchanges from his career as a visiting professor at many universities including Harvard University and the University of Tokyo. His one-year stay at Tokyo University in 1993 as the first visiting professor at its Department of Korean Culture newly added to the Institute for the Study of Cultural Exchange of the Faculty of Letters has opened a new channel for exchanges between Japan and South Korea.
Professor Lee Ki-Moon has examined the languages of Korea and other East Asian countries from various angles and presented a body of papers and books from his analysis with clarity and insight. His core study of the Korean language in the Middle Age and other elaborate research on wide ranging episodes in the history of the Korean language from its formation until today have been compiled into a number of publications, including "A Study of Korean Historical Phonology", "Historical Studies on the Lexicon of the Korean Language", and "The Formation of the Korean Language", to name a few. Above all, he is highly esteemed from the international academic circle for his meticulous and detailed accounts in "Introduction to the History of the Korean Language". The work translated into Japanese by Mr. Fujimoto Yukio was published in 1972 and later into German by Professor B. Levin in 1977. The latest English version with new findings now being organized by Professor Lee in collaboration with Professor S. R. Ramsey will undoubtedly be highly evaluated worldwide. Professor Lee adopted an innovative approach to identify characteristics of the language of ancient Koguryo kingdom from the interpretation of place-names in the Samguk Sagi and to use them as a key to his comparative study of Korean, Japanese and Altaic. This achievement not only represents a new method for comparative linguistics contributed by an Asian linguist but has advanced greatly the research on linguistic genealogy of East Asian languages including Japanese.
His contributions to the development of general linguistics, historical linguistics and comparative linguistics through his work on the Korean language and the comparative study of Korean, Japanese and Altaic, has not only earned him high recognition as a distinguished scholar of East Asia from the linguistics community worldwide, but also has served to disseminate the significance of Asian culture and its study throughout the world. The Grand Prize of the Fukuoka Asian Cultural Prizes is presented to Professor Lee Ki-Moon in recognition of his unparalleled accomplishments in the field of linguistics.