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2014-02-14 Yeon-Mi Park`s debut

Yeonmi Park, February 14, 2014, making her debut!

Yesterday I was one of the speakers at a special session on North Korean refugees at the Canadian Maple International School. Wow, it was a wonderful time!

* Yeon-Mi Park delivered her first major speech in English. She was wonderful! She told her story (35 minute speech without notes), discussed different aspects of North Korea, and then handled questions from students for more than an hour. She did seem to be nervous at the beginning-she took a deep breath just as she started, looked at me, then told her story from her heart.

* Returning from the speech, I told Yeonmi that she had star potential. She told me that she didn't believe it, but I told her that the way she handled Q&A and told her story, I would be lucky to have her still returning my phone calls within a year.

* The students had many questions. They have been learning about North Korea. They are now reading "Escape from Camp 14" featuring Shin Dong-hyuk. So they were thrilled to actually meet someone born and raised in North Korea. If there had been an election held at the school yesterday, Yeonmi easily would have been elected as principal.

* It seemed that the teachers, staff and school leaders were even more thrilled than the students were!

* Oh, but it seems my reputation proceeds me. They warned in advance that the students could not be photographed with us without parental permission. Fine with me, I only want photos with people who want them with me! The students wanted photos with us, but I had to remind them that no photos were allowed with them. If they knew me, they would have known how funny it was that I was strictly enforcing the no-photo policy that day.

* I was the warm-up act to Yeon-Mi. In my speech, I challenged the students to go beyond the typical clothing and school supply collection drives. The thing that really helps organizations: Money. Hold a fund-raiser. After more than a decade of being on the boards of various organizations, I have witnessed many organizations quietly try to figure out what to do with donated items they couldn't really use, re-donating it to other organizations. But I have never witnessed them trashing or "re-donating" money because they didn't know what to do with it.

* I can understand Yeon-Mi's nervousness. As Winston Churchill once said: There are two things that scare a young man:1) Asking a beautiful woman out on a date. 2) Making a public speech.

Plus, she was giving a speech in English. 

* Also, thanks to Heesuk Seo for taking great high-rez photos!

Update: I was right! 8 months later, she gave a speech at One Young World.

She has remained a big fan of the work of FSI (formerly TNKR).

One of Yeonmi's fundraisers:

And my birthday video where she says I changed her life.

The teachers and staff members seemed to be even happier than the students.

She talked for 35 minutes--without notes, telling her story. Then, during Q&A, she handled the questions with ease. At that point, I made a note to myself that she was going to be a star.

I was the warm-up act, discussing ways the students could get involved in a practical way. I mainly talked about Mulmangcho because they are high school students, but at that point it had started to look like TNKR (now FSI) might survive so I would talk about it to adults.

I told them about the Mulmangcho School and how I had been inspired by Prof. Park Sun-young to get more deeply involved with NK refugees (to be a doer, not just a talker).

Yes, Michael Malice. I had received a copy of your book and mentioned it.

Q&A time...

Yes! She took a deep breath before starting her speech!!!

Posing for photos after the event.

The students had already read Shin Dong-hyuk's "Escape from Camp 14."

With Heesuk Seo of the school. She took the best photos here.

Yeonmi and Heesuk.

After the speech, Yeonmi and I joined another event. Joo Yang and Stephanie Choi (one of Yeonmi's TNKR tutors) were there.

with Tim Peters and Adam Malcolm (one of Yeonmi's TNKR tutors)

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