My journey from North Korea to Columbia University

My journey from North Korea to Columbia University

Lee Seo-hyun/ Courtesy of Casey Lartigue

By Lee Seo-hyun

I received an email from Columbia University on March 22nd.

Signed up and confirmed: Approved? My heart was pounding and my hands were sweating. I clicked “Show Updates” and closed my eyes.

When I opened my eyes, the first words I saw were, “Welcome to SIPA (Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs).” Yes, I passed the graduate school of my dreams. It’s one of the most exciting and happiest moments of my life. However, this happiness did not last long. I started to face the reality of high college tuition.

I never thought I would have such an opportunity in the United States, the “eternal enemy” of North Korea. Less than a decade later, I was still brainwashed by the North Korean regime.

I was born and raised in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. Even after I started questioning the system, I remained loyal to it. But when many of my friends and family members were executed and sent to political prison camps, my trust and hopes for the Kim regime were completely wiped out.

Witnessed a close friend who was loyal to the regime being dragged out. I still can’t forget the message I received from her saying, “I don’t think I can go back to school.” I realized how much my country needed change.

About a year later, I fled to South Korea and then moved to America. I started getting involved behind the scenes with various North Korean causes, particularly in the area of ​​human rights violations. I started getting involved. Over the past three years, I have started speaking out publicly to raise awareness of North Korea’s human rights abuses. Most recently, he spoke at TEDx UCLA.

In my last years as an activist, I have learned the need to consider the North Korean issue in a larger global context. When I first started working, the fundamental solution to all problems related to North Korea seemed simple. It is to change the Kim regime. However, the more I experienced it, the more I found it to be much more complicated. So, I decided to go to school in the United States to deepen my knowledge of international relations in order to deal effectively with the North Korean issue.

While reading Columbia University’s admission letter, I had this opportunity to help behind the scenes, disseminate information, speak out publicly, and guide a new phase of action towards the initiation of freedom in North Korea. I thought about how it happened.

Studied International Affairs at Columbia University (International Security Policy and International Financial and Economic Policy). I hope this formal training will give me a deeper knowledge of the North Korean issue. All with the aim of one day liberating the North Korean people from the hands of the dictator and bringing peace to the Korean peninsula and beyond.

With only one month left until classes start, I am currently enthusiastic from grants, grants, and other funding opportunities available (Bush Foundation, Freedom Speakers International, LiNK, SIPA Admissions, etc.) is raising funds for We also launched a GoFundMe.

Without your help, we cannot continue our journey to liberate North Korea from its oppressive regime. When the time comes, I will “pay in advance” and pass on the same love and support that you have shown me.

Casey Lartigue, co-founder along with Lee Eun-koo of Freedom Speakers International and co-author with Han Song-mi of Greenlight to Freedom, edited this text for publication.

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