Hyeonseo Lee is a North Korean defector living in Seoul, South Korea. She has recently completed writing her memoir, The Girl With Seven Names, which was published in July 2015 in more than 20 countries.
Over 5 million people have viewed her TED Talk about her life in North Korea, her escape to China and struggle to bring her family to freedom. Hyeonseo has given testimony about North Korean human rights in front of a special panel of the UN Security Council, and has discussed the issues with important leaders such as UN Ambassador Samantha Powers.
She recently completed her undergraduate studies in English and Chinese at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, and has been a Young Leader at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Hyeonseo spends much of her time speaking about North Korean human rights and North Korean refugee issues, including speeches at the Stanford University Global Speaker Series, Princeton University, New York University Law School, and at various venues throughout Europe. She has personally met public officials like UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and the South Korean Minister of Unification, Yu Woo-ik, to discuss these issues.
Hyeonseo has written articles for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal Korea Real-Time, the London School of Economics Big Ideas blog, and worked as a student journalist for the South Korean Ministry of Unification. She has also been interviewed by the BBC, CNN, CBS News and numerous other television, newspaper and radio outlets throughout the world.
She is currently writing another book with other female North Koreans living in South Korea, and is planning to start an organization to help promising North Korean refugees interact with the international community.
Hyeonseo left North Korea as a teenager and started a new life in China, a country that had always fascinated her growing up as she observed the stark contrast between the bright Chinese city lights and her dimly lit hometown.
She quickly learned, however, that life as a North Korean refugee in China was fraught with danger. After narrowly escaping repatriation, she eventually decided to experience life in South Korea.
Once again Hyeonseo initially struggled to adjust to her new environment, but by studying hard and rapidly learning English she has been able to engage people from around the world in her quest to help North Korean refugees and raise awareness about North Korean human rights issues.
North Korean refugees in China, South Korea and elsewhere face a plethora of problems, including human rights violations, social isolation, financial woes and insufficient opportunities to advance themselves. By raising awareness of these issues and connecting North Korean refugees with supportive members of the international community, we can all make a real difference.
Ultimately, Hyeonseo hopes to act as a bridge between North and South Koreans upon eventual reunification, which she firmly believes will happen in her lifetime.
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