I realize that many people who see me deeply involved in North Korean refugee issues can’t imagine that I have ever done anything else, like I fell off the back of a potato truck one day and woke up wanting to help NK refugees. Well, where were you during 2011-12?
* I was the MC and organizer for Seoul-based events hosting politicians and academics from Greece, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden and the United States.
* I was the MC and co-organizer of a conference on the Korea-EU free trade agreement one week after the agreement went into effect in July 2011.
* I was a featured speaker at conferences in Shanghai, Colorado, Virginia and was a VIP guest at a conference in Malaysia. Colorado in April 2012 was particularly great, I led a three hour seminar with American politicians and political activists.
* I became a regular guest on a radio show based in China.
* After I became the Director for International Relations at the Center for Free Enterprise, it went from being unranked in the Global Think Tank Rankings to being ranked in three different categories in the 2012 evaluation of global think tanks.
CFE placed 16th in the category of “Top 45 Think Tanks in China, India, Japan and the Republic of Korea.” Among think-tanks outside of the United States of America, CFE went from unranked to 78th.
CFE went from unranked to 106th in the world out of 1,647 nominated think tanks and a total of 6,603 think tanks around the world. Among 35 think tanks in South Korea, the CFE ranked fourth behind the Korea Development Institute, Asan Institute, and Korea Institute for International Economic Policy. Going from unranked to number 4 was incredible.
My colleagues said it was because of one man: Casey Lartigue. (Okay, okay, but Casey also thanked the CEO who took a chance on him, as well as the team members who did the real heavy lifting.)
I loved the many events, but the one that was particularly satisfying was hosting professor Aristides Hatzis from the University of Athens. He gave a major address in downtown Seoul in August 2011 about the failure of welfare populism in Greece. He was interviewed by numerous Korean print, radio and TV outlets, and was invited to address members of the National Assembly. He was favorably mentioned in President Lee Myung-bak’s address to the nation that month. It was a worldwind couple of days that Prof. Hatzis and Yulie Foka-Kavalieraki were here.
That was a non-stop busy time for me, kind of like now, except that I was talking about economic freedom. I already had my eye on North Korea, but had no idea what to do about it. About a month after hosting Prof. Hatzis, I hosted a policy forum with Prof. Andrei Lankov. I was looking for clues about how to get involved with NK issues, and figured I would find a way by listening to him.
I wasn’t even sure it made sense to consider North Korea as part of my “International Relations” job. But I had gotten to know some North Korean refugees, and as I began to learn about the horrors of NK, my focus began to drift from speaking, writing, and organizing events focused on economic freedom, to trying to do something effective about North Korean refugees.
I didn’t join Facebook until July 2012, these photos were taken in August 2011. Before I joined Facebook, people would ask me if I was going to post the photos on Facebook. I was asking then, “Why would I do anything like? What’s the point of Facebook?”
Anyway, except for possibly gaining a few pounds and a different focus, I’m the same guy I was then…