Defectors call for better awareness on their flight
By John Redmond
Young North Korean defectors taking part in an English contest have expressed their hope for the public’s greater understanding of the plight of refugees.
During the Teach North Korea Refugees (TNKR) English speech contest in Seoul, Saturday, the contestants spoke candidly of their personal experiences of life in North Korea, their escapes via China and the personal struggles facing refugees in the South.
Limited to a 10 minute presentation, seven contestants touched on issues including censorship, brainwashing and fear of trust, even among family members.
Including Powerpoint presentations, the common thread among all speeches was the lack of understanding of what refugees experience after they escape North Korea and the resources and options offered to them.
While all contestants have either graduated from universities or are in the process of completing degrees, all but two refused to allow any photograph or recording of their presentations, despite displaying strong self-confidence.
The winner of the contest, Andrew Lee, spoke very strongly about how he was not trusted by members of the local community when he first went to school in Busan. He recounted a conversation with a high school friend some years ago about his first days in a school dormitory.
“When I was 19 years old I attended a high school in Busan. I eventually made friends, and one guy, who’s now a very close friend, told me he didn’t sleep on the first night I arrived,” said Lee.
“When I asked him why? He responded, ‘I thought you might stab me during the night and flee back to North Korea,'” he said.
Lee stated that many here in the South need to understand the pressures they face. He also said that every effort helps.
“It’s not only the big things but even small things help.”
Lee was presented 1 million won in prize money.
This weekend there is also a fundraiser at Thunderhorse Tavern in Haebangchon, Seoul, for the TNKR Mulmangcho School, a small alternative school for adolescent North Korean refugees founded in mid-2012 by Professor Park Sun-young.
The charity event will feature eight bands over two nights from March 6. The line up comprises Sons of Tiger, Lions on the Beach, Decoder and the Killer Drones on Friday; followed by Boss Hogwon, Les Sales, Pentasonic and Colin Phils on March 7.
Admission is 10, 000 won for one night or 15,000 won for both nights.
For more information visithttps://www.facebook.com/events/1522073321387434