Defense, Communications Engineer

By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 11, 2009

Jhong Sam Lee, 73, owner of a federal consulting firm that worked on military and satellite matters and who taught at George Washington and Catholic universities, died June 5 of pancreatic cancer at his home in Potomac.

Dr. Lee worked much of his life on classified military projects, developing technology now widely used in Global Positioning Satellite systems and CDMA-based cellphones. He co-wrote a 1,228-page bible of computer program developers, the "CDMA Systems Engineering Handbook" (1998), and he delighted in watching it drop from its original price of about $800 to its current price of $88 for used copies on

He was named a life fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers in 1992, which cited him for his leadership in developing "anti-jam receiver design techniques for frequency-hopping spread spectrum systems." He helped develop anti-submarine warfare technologies and some of the space satellite technologies that became part of the system known as Star Wars during the 1980s.

He was born on a rice farm in Kiljoo, Korea, which later was absorbed into North Korea. He left home at the age of 15 to join the new Republic of Korea army, fighting during the Korean War. Taken prisoner by North Koreans, he was liberated by members of the Oklahoma National Guard. When the University of Oklahoma offered him a scholarship, he came to the United States in 1955.

He graduated from Oklahoma and received a master's degree in electrical engineering in 1961 from George Washington University. He did further graduate work at Columbia University, then returned to GWU and received a doctorate in electrical engineering in 1967.

Dr. Lee worked as an assistant professor at GWU from 1965 to 1968 while also consulting for the Naval Research Laboratory and Radiation Systems Inc. of McLean. He went on to work as an advisory engineer in military satellites at IBM and consulted for Comsat Laboratories. He taught electrical engineering at Catholic University from 1969 to 1973, then became associate director of the advanced system analysis office at Magnavox in Silver Spring. In 1976, Dr. Lee founded his own eponymously named firm, which did research and development work in communication technology. He operated the firm until his death.

In addition, Dr. Lee was an executive or founder of several companies in Korea, including SeoHwa Telecom, Hung Chang, Dae Young Electronics Industrial and Advanced Technology Systems.

Dr. Lee wrote or co-wrote more than 80 professional papers, and he held several patents.

He attended Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda and Church of the Redeemer in Gaithersburg.

Survivors include his wife of 50 years, Helen Lee of Potomac; three children, David S. Lee of Seattle, Grace S. Lee of Hong Kong and MaryLeeOwen of Amsterdam; a sister and a brother in North Korea; a brother in South Korea; and eight grandchildren.

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