During my trip to Seoul this summer, I met extraordinary people who escaped North Korea and are involved in service projects throughout South Korea. I was particularly inspired by North Korean defectors who are now college students in Seoul who want to “achieve unification of the two Koreas on a small scale by working with South Korean native peers through service projects.”
Esther Eom left North Korea several years ago and has been engaged in service projects over the past several years in Seoul. She is currently directing an NGO called “UNI SEED,” which engages university students who are South Korean natives and North Korean defectors to serve homeless people in Seoul. She believes that individual students can achieve what politicians currently cannot: unification (on a small scale) between North and South Koreans.
Additionally, she and her fellow NGO members want to signal to South Koreans and others that people who escaped North Korea are not solely dependent on South Korean NGO and government handouts. This young generation of North Korean defectors want to prove to themselves and others that not only can they survive, but also serve those in their new country.
Every third Saturday, UNI SEED cooks North Korean food, packages them into individual meals (rice, North Korean side dishes, and North Korean soup), and hands them out to homeless men and women in Seoul Station, a high-traffic area. They hand out the meals, and then go around the station to collect any and all trash that resulted from these meals. I was invited to their recent meal event and was inspired by how passionate, determined, and creative this group is.
There are other similar groups at churches and university campus across South Korea who want to achieve unification on a small scale by inviting South Korean native and North Korean defector students to work together on service projects and build trusting friendships through social events.
Keep an eye out for UNI SEED, Esther Eom, her colleagues, and for similar organizations. The power of a single individual truly cannot be underestimated!
Ji Seong-Ho walked 6,000 miles with just one leg and one arm on the crutches that his father made for him to defect North Korea for the second time to reach freedom in South Korea.
He was caught during his first attempt to escape North Korea, and was beaten severely by North Korean soldiers. When I met with him a few weeks ago in Seoul, he told me that the worst part of being punished by the soldiers was their fury they expressed at a “disabled freak” for bringing dishonor to their country. People like him were supposed to die in silence, not make a mockery of North Korea, they said.
He now runs an incredible organization titled “Now, Action, & Unity for Human Rights.” His organization is raising funds for him to move into a new office to continue the work his organization does: rescue North Korean children, raise global awareness about human rights violations in North Korea, and broadcast radio programs into North Korea for North Korean people to illicitly listen to. I watched him walk up the stairs to his tiny office on the fifth floor (no elevators) and thought, “my goodness. Humans are truly capable to overcoming any obstacle.”
I just made my contribution to his campaign on this site. Please check out the site and make your contribution today!
This frightening week in Boston started with bombings at the Boston Marathon. There was a fatal shooting at MIT last night, and (at the time of writing this post) there is an ongoing manhunt for a suspect who has been fleeing from the police after a shooting at 102 Garden Street (really close to my undergraduate dorm) and throwing out grenades from his hijacked car. Last night around midnight, police urged Cambridge and Boston residents to stay indoors. My friends and I went to sleep with police sirens going on for hours. We’re under citywide lockdown right now, but I snuck out for a minute and this is what the Harvard Square T-Stop looked like
For those who are unfamiliar with the significance of the Boston Marathon, it’s an annual event in April that draws over half a million people in from across the United States and around the world. It’s been held since 1897 and is the world’s oldest marathon. Spectators, friends, family, doctors, students, and volunteers come out to support the runners in this annual marathon that’s held on Patriots’ Day, the third Monday of April. Around 3PM on Monday, two bombs went off close to the finish line, killing 3 people and severely injuring close to 200 people. The youngest was 8-year-old Martin Richard. Other victims were Lingzi Lu, 23, and Krystle Campbell, 29.
As most of you did, I combed through online news, tweets, and commentaries that predicted the cowards’ motives, backgrounds, and political goals. This week’s tragedies sparked ongoing discussions centered on definitions of terrorism, cowardice, failing morality of the United States, and even immigration.
In the midst of all these conversations, I read numerous stories about the kindness that people showed towards Bostonians, some of which I want to highlight here. The lesson I learned from this week’s tragedies is: good will always prevail. Human beings are innately good, altruistic creatures, and good will always overpower thebad. The heart of a runner in Boston beats exactly in the same way as the heart of a runner in Belgrade does (see photo below of a Serbian runner). Mothers who lose their children to bombings in Boston experience the same gut-wrenching pain that Afghani mothers who experience the same loss do. The blood of a stranger can save another stranger’s life. We’re all the same.
And messages of love from friends around the world: