This weekend my husband Charlie Appleton and I had the pleasure again of having a lengthy conversation with Ki Ho Kim, a classmate of Charlie’s many years ago at Peabody Demonstration School in Nashville.
Ki Ho is a North Korean Refugee who fled to South Korea during the Korean War. He was brought to America by an Army colonel. He graduated from Vanderbilt University in Engineering, having overcome many obstacles along the way.
By his own admission, Ki Ho has not kept in touch with many of his old classmates. As a minority Asian immigrant living in the South, he speaks of the predicament the African-American and American-Indian cultures find themselves in when facing their cultural differences here.
In a book he wrote many years ago, Ki Ho tells his story from a different perspective from that of many of the NK refugees today. He speaks of his only treasure at the time being his English-speaking dictionary. It was all he had to help him communicate in his new environment.
As is my usual conversation, I began to hold forth to him about the educational opportunities offered to NK refugees by TNKR (Teach North Korean Refugees) when teaching them English. Co-founders Casey Lartigue Jr. and Eunkoo Lee, have made TNKR their life’s work since 2013.
There is also Hyun S. Song, Director of No Chain in North America, and Jihyun Park, a famous Human Right’s activist in the UK. Their role in Human RIghts is not easy, I have heard. They all hope for a new day for the NK citizens.
Ki Ho listened in amazement to my story with an enthusiasm that I have never experienced in our many years of friendship. He spoke of the NK refugee’s bravery and courage.
In recent years, Ki Ho has returned to NK to search for his relatives at a time such entry was allowed by the Kim regime. At his age, I doubt that his relatives were alive and well.
There are many volunteers of the famous all-volunteer NGO, TNKR. The following cannot begin to include them all. A few are mentioned below:
Youngmin Kwon, Academic Advisor (and Project Manager) for the BringMyFatherHome campaign atTNKR, who formerly studied at Georgetown Univ. Law School and has also worked with Amnesty International; Hwang Cheol who works tirelessly to bring his father home from NK; Ken Eom, a NK refugee who was a soldier in the Kim regime; Peter Daley, a professor at a SK Women’s Univ. and a man with varied interests; and Steve Chai, a TNKR volunteer and Tutor. Dave Fry, Asst. Director and Tony Docan-Morgan who has not been with TNKR as long as the others, but is doing amazing work; Junha Kwon, a summer Intern, Tutor, and Translator; Karin Hanna who recently returned to Germany.
Ki Ho Kim wishes to acknowledge all of these selfless individuals and thank them for their continued work to offer “Freedom of Choice” to all of those people who have never known freedom in the “Hermit Kingdom” of North Korea.
Tomorrow will be a new day for TNKR, as it moves on to more important opportunities for the NK refugees to tell their own stories at its 6th NK Refugee Speech Contest on August 26th. They will be telling their stories as Ki Ho Kim did in his book many years ago.