North Korean Refugees Visit SHS
October 16, 2018
One of the most popular events of Scarsdale High School’s annual Global Citizenship Day was the Liberty in North Korea (LiNK) speech, given by a LiNK staff member, Ian McKay, and two North Korean refugees, Illyong Joo and Geum Hyok Kim. The event was included in three periods, attracting many SHS students.
Morgan Kim ’19, founder and president of the Scarsdale High School LiNK chapter, organized the entire event and started the preparations as early as May 2018 after she first listened to a speech given by a North Korean refugee. Interacting with the refugee, a physical representation of the people the LiNK organization provides freedom for, inspired Kim to request a speaker for Global Citizenship Day.
Since the club members expected a large turnout for their Global Citizenship Day event, the LiNK HQ provided two refugees and a staff member. SHS was the first high school that the LiNK organization has ever spoken at, so Kim and the other club members worked extremely hard to provide the smoothest experience as possible for the refugees. “My club members and I often FaceTimed LiNK staff members to talk about this event in advance. After five months of persuasion and planning, seeing the smiles on the refugees’ faces as they walked through the airport doors seeing the posters we made them reminded me that the hard work was all worth it,” explained Kim.
Illyong Joo, the first speaker, escaped from North Korea when he was 12 years old. He moved permanently to South Korea, where he lives with his father, mother, and sister. Joo attends Korea University and is studying law. Geum Hyok Kim, the second speaker, was from a wealthy background and grew up in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. During a study abroad program in China, he learned about the harsh realities of North Korea and realized that he had been brainwashed for his whole life. Geum Hyok Kim escaped to South Korea and is also currently a student at Korea University.
Aside from the speeches given at SHS, the LiNK club members were able to bond with the refugees outside of school. “We ate lunch together, hung out during free periods, and even had a team dinner. We talked about everything from school to our social lives, which allowed us to develop a real connection with the staff member and the refugees,” added Kim.
Overall, the event was a huge success. Many SHS listeners showed their interest during and after the speech. “We had an overload of questions at the end of each assembly, and some people even stayed after the assembly to talk to the refugees or to me about joining the club. People definitely wanted to know more about the refugees and the organization,” said Kim. Although she will be graduating this year, Kim urges her club members to continue this event or start similar ones.
To join the Scarsdale chapter of LiNK, contact Morgan Kim on Facebook. Or, stop by a meeting in room 222 (Ms. Palekar’s room) every Monday after school.