One way to know you are someone special? You’re in the audience, and two of the speakers highlight you in their introductions and speeches in an event at Oxford University.
I now include a mention of Cecilia O’Hare and Hwang In-Cheol in almost every public speech that I give as well as every orientation session with new volunteers joining TNKR. In some cases, their story doesn’t even fit into my speech, experts on public speaking would encourage me to cut it, but I mention them anyway so that no one I have ever met can say, “I didn’t know.”
Their father was taken from them when North Korea hijacked a South Korean airline in 1969. They were babies, and suddenly fatherless. Media occasionally stumbles across their story, but the campaign to have their father released from North Korea would be more successful if a K-pop singer could get involved in a scandal connected to it.
Last night, Cecilia and her husband drove a long way to hear us speak. Jihyun Park, a North Korean refugee, has spoken out about the case and arranged for media opportunities. She introduced Cecilia before giving her speech. In my case, I closed out my speech by referring to the case.
In my two decades of activism on various issues, I have had many people say incredible things about me. It is tough to top what Cecilia said about me, after witnessing my involvement in their case:
“You are the person who makes invisible people visible. You listen to people, find out what they need, and try to find people who can help them so their voices can be heard. I finally feel that I have the power for my voice to be heard.”
We could never promise that they would see their father again, but at least we would make the effort to raise awareness, to get more involved. Being an activist means that you will sometimes irritate friends, have to put up with trifling comments, and be willing to get banned from Facebook every once in a while.
Oxford was the latest opportunity to raise awareness, so even though most of the young people listening last night won’t ever take action about it, at least they won’t be able to say, “I didn’t know.”
On October 11, TNKR will be holding an Open House. Mr. Hwang In-Cheol will present for a few minutes about his campaign to have his father released from North Korea.