Nine North Korean refugees living in South Korea each gave 10-minute speeches at an English speech contest held by the Teach North Korean Refugees Global Education Center (TNKR).
The grand prize winner was Song Chaeeun, who escaped to South Korea in 2007. Her speech on the “three types of freedom” told of the importance of free speech, education and private property as fundamental freedoms. “Having experienced years of oppression and tyranny, I am finally able to talk about true freedom,” she said. At age 21, Song escaped from North Korea, arriving in China before moving to Myanmar and then Thailand, where she spent five months in jail before she was released and traveled to South Korea. “In time dictators will fail and freedom will prevail,” Song told the audience. “To all of you, the rights and freedoms you enjoy are fundamental from the day you are born.”
Next prize went to Eom Yeong-nam (Ken), who served in the North Korean military until “life threw (him) a curveball” and he escaped to South Korea. After working and studying in Canada, Eom returned to Seoul to earn a master’s degree at Korea University. Eom spoke of the difficulties he had after graduating from Hanawon and feeling shameful about his North Korean origins. He tried to hide his identity but opened up to his teacher and classmates in Canada. “That day was the greatest day of my life. I became a star,” he said. “If you do not accept yourself for who you are, then how can you expect others to accept you?”
Ju Chan-yang, who has been a prominent advocate for other North Korean refugees, also received a prize. She spoke of her childhood in North Korea, growing up listening to the Voice of America on a black market-bought radio and watching American movies like “Charlie’s Angels.” Her father escaped from North Korea in 2008, and her mother and siblings followed soon after. Finally, she was able to escape too with their help. “I remembered dreaming of my family every night, and I was afraid that this too was a dream,” she recalled.
[The Korean Times]