As a child growing up in North Korea, Hyeonseo Lee thoght her country was the "best on the planet." It wasn't until the famine of the 90s that she began to wonder. She escaped the country at 17-years-old to begin a life in hiding as a refugee in China. Hers is a harrowing, personal tale of survival and hope — and a powerful reminder of those who face constant danger, even when teh border is far behind.

Why you should listen

 

Hyeonseo Lee grew up in North Korea but escaped to China in 1997. In 2008, when she was 28-years-old, she came to Seoul, South Korea, where she struggled to adjust to life in the bustling city. North Korean defectors often have a hard time in South Korea, she noted in the Wall Street Journal: "We defectors have to start from scratch. Prejudice against North Koreans and icy stares were other obstacles that were hard to cope with."
 
Now a student at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, she has become an advocate for fellow refugees, even helping close relatives leave North Korea after they were targeted. Her dream? As she told the Korea Times, she'd like to work at the UN or an NGO that advocates for the human rights of North Koreans, including their right to be treated as political refugees.

She has a new book called The Girl with Seven Names.

What others say

“"The most riveting TED Talk ever." -- Oprah in Oprah Magazine "A brave & beautiful voice; a story which needs light and air." -- Tanya Michelle on TED.com” —

Hyeonseo Lee’s TED talk

Hyeonseo Lee on the TED Blog
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