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2019-10-18 Small Group Discussion 3, "I am from North Korea"

Tonight we wrapped up our "I am from North Korea" Small Group Discussion series with three North Korean refugees giving speeches in English. They all joined TNKR at different levels.

One was a basic level speaker, joining us in 2013. At that time, she didn't show her face and for years we had to censor every photo with her in it. Another speaker joined us at a high level in 2015. And another speaker joined us nearly fluent in 2018.

They all gave great speeches tonight while barely checking their notes, and one speaker didn't bring any notes at all.

These small group discussions are a great chance for speakers to improve their public speaking ability, gain confidence, and hear the types of questions people are asking about North Korea, North Koreans, and North Korean refugees. They can do so in a non-pressure environment with an audience that is eager to hear from them.

We never rush any refugees to the stage, we want them to go at their own speed, or no speed at all if they decide public speaking isn't for them. I do remind people that not all North Korean refugees are like this, we have had 429 refugees study in TNKR since 2013, but only about 50 or so have studied in Track 2.

I realize that some people would like me to do a play-by-play description of these events, but I don't want to overexpose speakers. Some people think they have "got" a refugee's story based on hearing it once, but they don't realize that refugees continue developing their speeches, based on practicing and studying, such speaking opportunities, hearing questions that are asked at such events, along with their own self-development and time to analyze their own lives. A speaker who gives a talk right after being released from Hanawon (a time that most reporters and researchers want to get them) will be different from a speaker who has had several years of living outside of North Korea and has some perspective.

Q & A

Then it was time for Q&A. Of course the speeches were all great, but the best time is Q&A. You can never be sure what the audience will ask about. Tonight's questions:

* How can more people in North Korea get access to information?
* What do the North Korean people feel about regime change?
* When you were escaping in China, did you learn Mandarin?
* What do you mean that you weren't allowed to travel in North Korea without a permit?
* What can foreigners do to help North Korean refugees?
* North Koreans believe the Kims are Gods. How did that change when they died?
* What kind of impact do sanctions have on North Koreans?
* When you first arrived in South Korea, what were the biggest differences that you detected?
* What is your feeling about TNKR?

Each speaker made really moving remarks about TNKR and about how wonderful the organization is. One speaker said that TNKR is "amazing," that "it is hard to meet kind people like this. In so many cases, people try to use refugees, but TNKR is really focused on helping North Korean refugees."

Another speaker mentioned that "TNKR's education system is different. Other organizations are to-down, but here, students can choose the teachers, the textbooks, or whatever they want to study. In North Korea, people must live passively, but this kind of system is completely different. In giving public speeches like this, my self-confidence has really increased."

The third speaker discussed how the students learn more than just English, "that each volunteer has his or her own story, cultural things, style. It is a new way for North Koreans who could not travel in their own countries to meet people from around the world while learning English."

Photo Time

Because all three speakers are public, photo time was easy! When even one speaker is reluctant then we must control things so no one posts a photo of someone who doesn't want it.

After that, we talked, a few attendees expressed interest in becoming volunteers with TNKR.

Tutor with TNKR:
Mentor North Korean refugee youth, English speech contest

Korean translation by Youngjoo Yoo:

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