Tuesday, March 26, 2013

TED Talk: My Escape from North Korea

The video I'm sharing here is a TED Talk given by Hyeonseo Lee, a North Korean defector. She escaped her destitute, totalitarian country when she was a teenager, lived in China for ten years, and finally made it to South Korea, where she struggled to keep up with fast-paced life in Seoul while making ends meet. Even more amazing is how she returned to North Korea secretly to help her family escape years later. Her story is one of perseverance and extreme courage. You should listen to her TED Talk.

It is because of people like Hyeonseo that I want to volunteer with North Korean defectors to teach them English. She herself admitted that it was difficult to gain a foothold in Korean society without any knowledge of English. (My opinion is that the prejudice toward English-speakers is mostly limited to Seoul and the largest cities. Plenty of Koreans I've met can't string an English sentence together but get along fine. But who knows for sure?) I often joke about how I'm having a great time vacationing in South Korea on the government's tab; and it's true to some extent: the Fulbright grant helps me live comfortably and also travel. But I have to remind myself daily that it's also a privilege for me to be able to share my knowledge of a globally-important language to those who need it the most. I could be so much more than just another foreigner English teacher. I just want to do my part to help.

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