Lee, Kuan Yew 1923-

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Lee, Kuan Yew 1923-


Born September 16, 1923, in Singapore, Malaysia; son of Lee Chin Koon and Chua Jim Neo; married Kwa Geok Choo, September 30, 1950; children: two sons, one daughter. Education: Attended Raffles College (Singapore, Malaysia), 1942-45, and Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge University, 1946-49.


Laycock and Ong, Singapore, Malaysia, lawyer, 1949-1950s; People's Action Party (PAP), cofounder, 1954, secretary general, 1954-92; elected member of Parliament, 1955; prime minister of Singapore, 1959-90; member of Malaysian Parliament, 1963-65; senior minister of Singapore, 1990-2004, minister mentor, 2004—.


Order of the Rising Sun, 1967; Order of the Companions of Honour, 1970; Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Michael and St. George, 1972; Freedom of the City, London, England, 1982; Order of the Crown of Johore First Class, 1984; Order of Great Leader, 1988; honorary fellow, Edinburgh Royal College of Medicine, 1988; Man for Peace, 1990; fellow, Imperial College, London, England, 2002; named one of the 100 Most Influential People of 2005 by Time.


The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew, Prentice Hall (London, England), 1998.

From Third World to First: The Singapore Story, 1965-2000, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.


Lee Kuan Yew served as Singapore's prime minister from 1959 until he stepped down in 1990 to become a senior cabinet minister. He served in this position under his second son, Lee Hsien Loong, who was elected prime minister in 2004. Lee is respected for his strong stance on law and order, which has made Singapore among the world's safest cities, and his leadership was responsible for Singapore's industrial and financial growth during his years in office. One of Asia's most respected statesmen, Lee continues to serve his country as a senior minister and minister mentor.

Lee is Chinese. His great-grandfather, Lee Bok Boon, emigrated from Dapu county in Guangdong province to the Straits Settlements in 1862. His grandfather, Lee Hoon Leong, provided English educations to Lee Kuan Yew's father and uncles. In Lee's first volume of memoirs, The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew, he relates how his education in Singapore was interrupted by the Japanese occupation during World War II, during which time he acted as an interpreter and dabbled in the black market. He then applied and was accepted to Cambridge University; upon graduation, he passed the British bar exams. He returned to Singapore and began his political life in opposition to the Communist Party. He writes of his dream of successfully uniting Singapore and Malaysia and of those politicians who stood in his way.

In reviewing the volume in the Journal of Contemporary Asia, Michael D. Barr wrote: "The personal account of the Japanese Occupation is gripping, as is Lee's account of the creation of the People's Action Party, his brinkmanship with his communist 'allies,' and the lead-up to the PAP's election victory in 1959." Lucian W. Pye noted in Foreign Affairs that blurbs have been provided by twenty-six leaders who include presidents, prime ministers, secretaries of state, and foreign ministers. Pye concluded by writing: "The praise is well deserved; the readers will come away feeling that they have come to know an exceptionally brilliant political man."

From Third World to First: The Singapore Story, 1965-2000 begins in the year of Singapore's independence after breaking away from Malaysia, leaving it vulnerable in the shadow of Indonesia. The British were leaving and Lee was faced with high unemployment. He led Singapore into a period of great prosperity, however, by welcoming the free enterprise of the West into a multiethnic culture. His memoir goes into great detail about the economics of his decades as head of his country. He began by adopting protectionist policies, with local companies manufacturing goods that were purchased by the people of Singapore. As efficiency increased, Singapore became attractive to large companies from the West, and investment helped the economy grow. It became an important financial center and during the 1990s, was the third largest oil refiner, after Houston and Rotterdam. Hong Lysa reviewed both volumes of Lee's memoirs for the Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, concluding that Lee "is charting his battles, and imprinting his role on Singapore as its creator. The Lee Kuan Yew story thus becomes Singapore's history and vice versa."



Lee, Kuan Yew, The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew, Prentice Hall (London, England), 1998.

Lee, Kuan Yew, From Third World to First: The Singapore Story, 1965-2000, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.


Booklist, November 1, 2000, Jay Freeman, review of From Third World to First: The Singapore Story, 1965-2000.

Economist, December 2, 2000, review of From Third World to First, p. 4.

Foreign Affairs, March, 1999, Lucian W. Pye, review of The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew, p. 155.

Journal of Contemporary Asia, May, 2000, Michael D. Barr, review of The Singapore Story, p. 271.

Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, October, 2002, Hong Lysa, reviews of The Singapore Story and From Third World to First, p. 545.

National Observer: Australia and World Affairs, R.M. Pearce, autumn, 2001, review of From Third World to First, p. 69.


Asia Week Online,http://www.asiaweek.com/ (September 25, 1998), Alejandro Reyes and others, review of The Singapore Story.

Fareed Zakaria Home Page,http://www.fareedzakaria.com/articles/other/culture.html/ (November 7, 2006), Fareed Zakaria, "Culture Is Destiny: A Conversation with Lee Kuan Yew."

Time Online,http://www.time.com/ (August 23, 1999), Terry McCarthy, "Lee Kuan Yew"; (December 5, 2005), Michael Elliott, Zoher Abdoolcarim, and Simon Elegant, interview with Lee.*