North Korean Refugees to Speak at Duke

Two college-age men who fled North Korea will speak at Duke Friday

Two college-age refugees from North Korea will discuss their experiences Friday at Duke.

Jeongho Kim, 21, and Cheoljun Yang, 19, will speak at 6:30 p.m. at Schiciano Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.

Kim and Yang each graduated from high school in South Korea and are taking time off before starting college. Their talk will likely illustrate that the plight of the ordinary North Korean isn't that unusual, said Kelly Heo, a Duke undergrad helping organize the event.

"It appears that the average American's awareness of North Korea has been limited to the Kim regime and nuclear weapons," Heo said. "We have forgotten about the people or have reduced them to irrational followers of their leader. I believe, however, that these two speakers can remind us that the people of North Korea are like us in many ways and can enlighten us on the people's thoughts of their own home."

Still, their life tales are jarring, Heo acknowledged.

"They have lived the majority of their lives without many basic rights that we take for granted and have faced decisions we cannot even begin to imagine," she said. "But, if you met them on the street, you would think they're like any other Korean teenager and that's what people should find interesting."

The discussion will be translated by Cheehyung Kim, a North Korea scholar on Duke's faculty. It will be followed by a question-and-answer period. A reception will follow in the Fitzpatrick Center Lobby.

Event co-sponsors include: The Asian Pacific Studies Institute; the Asian & Middle Eastern Studies Department; the Duke Human Rights Center; the International Comparative Studies Department; The Kenan Institute of Ethics; the Religion Department; the Sanford School of Public Policy; and the Student Organization Funding Committee.