A defector from North Korea is scheduled to talk about her life under the brutal regime during a visit to Queen’s University in Toronto.
“It is definitely going to be an eye-opener,” said Danny Yeo, president of the Queen’s chapter of HanVoice, a Toronto-based non-profit organization that advocates for North Korean rights and refugees through political and grassroots advocacy in an attempt to raise more awareness among Canadian decision-makers.
“Han” means “one,” Yeo explained. A fourth-year politics student, he came to Canada from South Korea when he was five. He founded the Queen’s chapter of HanVoice last January. “I have been interested in this cause ever since I was 16,” Yeo said.
There are also chapters at York University, Western University and the University of Toronto. The chapters support the main body in its efforts to help change legislation to make it easier for North Korean refugees to settle in Canada. While the local chapters work to raise awareness about the issue in their own communities, they also take part in HanVoice‘s Pioneer Projects program, in which young North Korean defectors are invited to share their stories about life under the oppressive regime.
This year’s speaker is Audrey Park. Part of a family of seven, Park grew up in North Korea during a famine in the 1990s partly orchestrated by the government, often having only one meal a day. When Park was 10, she and her mother fled to China, bribing a border guard to allow them to cross. They lived in China for seven years before being deported. Twice more they escaped before finally reaching the safety of South Korea in 2006.
Park’s speech will put a human face to the misery of living in the country and the need to help the refugees settle in Canada, Yeo said. Park is currently working as an intern for Yonah Martin, the first Canadian of Korean descent to serve in the Senate.