“North Korean defectors must overcome big challenge once free: Learn English”
Thomas Maresca, Special to USA TODAY
Teach North Korean Refugees Ambassador Sharon spoke earlier today at Sungkyungkwon University. We have suddenly had several speaking opportunities, arranged by volunteers in TNKR.
- Dead men can ask questions: Sharon spoke in Korean today, so it meant she could tell her story in more detail. A few of the students remarked that it was the first time they had concentrated that hard in class. The students, a mix of international and South Koreans, had many questions during Q&A. Korean students are known for being bumps-on-a-log during Q&A, but they had many questions today. That means: If you present something interesting or different, even Korean students can rise from the dead…
- Click your heels three times: So often people ask me how they can help. I count to 10 before answering. Then I meet others who just do it. They read, listen, observe, then come up with something to do. Today’s event was set up by international students who visited my office last month. Rorry and Maaike set up the event, the first of two, by finding professors willing to accept us (many think the words “North Korea” are automatically political and avoid anything to do with it). So many people want to save the world, looking for the BIG THING that requires the UN to get involved, rather than doing what they can do with the resources they have. Nobody can do everything, but everyone can do something. These days, when people ask what they do, I tell them to pretend they are Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz–click your heels three times, the power is within you…
- They laughed, they cried… Last week, the translator cried during Sharon’s speech. Today, Ingue Chun almost had the crowd in tears, with his humorous translation performance. I won’t mention details, to protect his reputation as a translator.^^
So happy and proud to have finally brought TNKR to SKKU to educate & raise awareness among the students with Maaike‘s valuable contribution. Big thanks to our professor Lee for the generous donation & being a kind host. I can’t wait for the next two events of TNKR involving international students and SKKU!
PS: if you are interested in volunteering, come to our open house event for international students next Thursday, 8pm, Itaewon smile emoticon
Thank you Casey Lartigue for your support and this well written post. Thank you Sharon for your informative and interesting speech. Thank you Ingue for your entertaining translation. & last but not least. Thank you Maaike for being a lovely and committed team partner!
Ingue Chun writes:
This day was a good day with Casey Lartigue Sharon Jang Rorry Ambers Late and Maaike. We helped raise awareness of the hardships North Korean Refugees go through to young Korean students.
Big shout out to all who helped organize and I thank them for having me! ^^
Teach North Korean Refugees presented today at the Osan Air Force Base to an overflow crowd of at least 500 air force personnel and spouses.
- One speaker delivered his talk in English, another speaker spoke in Korean. It was quite a sight to see the translator lose his composure while he was translating. Then I looked in the audience, and many of those tough soldiers were also crying.
- Getting it done! An awesome lieutenant got this done. Many people talk about arranging events for us, then, nothing happens, or we keep talking. The first time was slightly smaller scale, maybe 150 to 200 attendees. But today, it was an overflow crowd, at least 500, plus some high-ranking people joined us.
- Many people came over to thank me for TNKR presenting their stories. They are military people, so they appreciated hearing the human side about North Korea, about the people inside the country, about their escapes and adjustment.
- For our speaker who was in the North Korean military, he admitted that was a bit nervous looking at all of those U.S. military people. He had been taught in North Korea that he must try to kill U.S. soldiers anytime he saw them. But he met the “enemy” today, and they were friendly, respectful, gave him congratulations, and even gave huge gift baskets to both of the speakers.
- * If he is ever questioned by North Korea about the event:
Q: Comrade! Is it true that you gave a speech before the enemy US soldiers? I hope you showed them no mercy.
A: Yes! I made them cry, that’s how tough I was.
Q: Then what happened next?
A: Oh… they applauded me, hugged me, and gave me gifts… But I made them cry, I promise…
- After the speeches, we joined them at a casual discussion over pizza and soft drinks. So many people wanted to talk with our two speakers today, take photos with them, and also asked me how they could volunteer for TNKR. I recommended a couple of things, and they are military people, so one thing they apparently believe in is following up, getting it done!
- I will post more photos, I will need to mosaic them first..