Eunhee Park, a TNKR Special Ambassador and a member of TNKR’s Refugee Leadership Team, is celebrating her birthday today! Unfortunately, she “celebrated” with a difficult exam at the end of her freshman year in college.

I am always inspired by her passion for life and joy of freedom. She is still the only refugee in TNKR history to go from Track 1 only (for English study) to Track 2 (public speaking). Here’s the column I wrote a few months ago about her incredible transformation.

When I first met Eunhee in April 2015, she didn’t use her real name and she didn’t show her face in photos. She joined TNKR so she could study English. In the group photo in the bottom right corner, she even refused to join the group photo.

 

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 Track 1 was designed for refugees like Eunhee. Even though many volunteers, researchers and others who come to us want to probe refugees, we try to create space for refugees in our program to find their own way. What we have found is that giving them space to study, without the pressure of being refugees, that they gain confidence in themselves. Even if South Korean society is indifferent or even hostile, we have created an island where they can just be themselves, not refugee representatives. Eunhee would come to us sometimes to talk about her life, her future. Mainly, we listened.

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Then an amazing thing happened–she felt that she was ready to talk about North Korea. We had some reservations about it, we don’t want any students to feel pressured to speak out. She said the positive reinforcement she received from everyone in TNKR had helped her gain confidence in herself. She decided that she wanted to give public speaking a try. Her first speech was on February 2 to the American Women’s Club in Seoul.

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Over the next few months, she began to open up. I remember after we (at last) opened our own office that she came by with donations, and later she even arranged for one of her friends to make a donation, leading to TNKR having its own refrigerator. 🙂

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Eunkoo and I were planning the next speech contest when Eunhee said she was ready to try. She had given a speech in a controlled environment with the American Women’s Club, but there would be more pressure and it would be more public at a speech contest. She was applying after the deadline, but then another refugee speaker canceled at the last minute, so Eunhee joined. I wrote about this in my column linked above.

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She continued studying hard, returning to another Matching session to meet tutors. This time, she didn’t hide her face. Before she started at her university, she would drop by the office sometimes to study. Yes, for the people who wonder what we would do with the money, one thing would be to have more study rooms and classrooms for students to use.

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She has given more speeches–audiences enjoy it every time! She is thoughtful and funny.

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We have now done media together several times, including the TvN special in September 2016. She also had her first live radio interview in December 2016–and it was in English.

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Of course, nothing will top doing “On My Way to Meet You (이만갑).” I could have never imagined that when I first met her that two years later we would be on a popular TV show together.

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She is making the most of her freedom! She loves life and the people around her love her!

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I feel so lucky that we were able to meet and happy that she is also a great friend. TNKR doesn’t have friendship as a goal, we focus on having a learning atmosphere, but of course many of us build lifetime bonds.

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Her name is Eunhee Park, and today is her birthday!!!

She also believes in TNKR. She is one of four refugees to raise money for TNKR.

In her fundraiser she wrote:

TNkR을 만나기전까지 저의 이름은 박은빈이었고 항상 사진속의 저의 얼굴은 무언가에 가려져 있었습니다. 북한사람으로 살아가는것이 가끔은 원망스러웠고 한국정착을 하는데 걸림돌이 되기도 했으니까요. 누군가가 나에게 가장 오래오래 기억하고 싶은 순간이 있냐고 묻는다면 이 단체를 만나서 세상의 아름다움을 보았다고 말할것입니다.
Before I found TNKR, my name was Eun-bin Park, and my face was always hidden in photos. I sometimes hated the fact that I was a North Korean, and it was often an obstacle to adapting to the South Korean society. If someone asks me what is the moment that I will cherish the most as long as I live, I would say it is the time I found TNKR and saw the beauty of this world.

TNKR은 탈북민들에게 영어를 가르쳐줄뿐 아니라 우리가 진정한 정체성을 가지고 당당하게 한국사회에서 자신감을 가지고 살아갈 수 있도록 새로운 삶의 기회를 열어주는곳입니다. TNKR을 통해 저의 부모님이 지워주신 진짜 이름을 말할 수 있게 되었고 북한사람으로서 대한민국에서 당당하게 살아갈 수 있었습니다.
TNKR does not simply teach English to North Koreans; it opens up new lives for them, lives where they can live as who they really are in South Korea. Thanks to TNKR, I was able to say the name given to me by my parents, and to live without a shred of embarrassment at my North Korean origin.

저와 같이 많은 북한사람들의 세상의 아름다운 빛을 볼 수 있도록 당신의 도움이 필요합니다.

We need your support, so that more North Koreans can see the beautiful light of this world.

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Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] imagine how shocking it is to see talking away about high level political issues. You can see her metamorphosis here. She’s a passionate advocate of TNKR, read for yourself in her fundraiser for […]

  2. […] Here’s my Korea Times column about her evolution and a blog post with photos. […]

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