Born in North Korea, Hyeonseo Lee left for China in 1997. Now living in South Korea, she has become an activist for fellow refugees.

Why you should listen

Hyeonseo Lee grew up in North Korea but escaped to China in 1997. In 2008, after more than 10 years there, 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.

What others say

“A brave & beautiful voice; a story which needs light and air.” — Tanya Michele on TED.com

Hyeonseo Lee’s TED talk

Hyeonseo Lee on the TED Blog
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Global Issues

TED Weekends says freedom is only half the battle

June 30, 2013

Hyeonseo Lee’s story is a tale bound to pull at your heartstrings. She’s a North Korean refugee — and while helping her family flee the country in 2009, Lee’s mother and brother were detained in a Laos prison.  At TED2013, Lee described how it was an enormously generous gift from a stranger that helped her […]

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News

Your weekend reading: The wrong kind of Caucasian, the graduate school question, and how the Internet ruined everything

April 26, 2013

A weekly round-up of interesting, weird and useful reads from around the interwebs. In “The wrong kind of Caucasian,” Sarah Kendzior critiques the media for its tendency to demonize an entire country based on the violent acts of a few individuals. [Al Jazeera] “The Internet: A Warning from History,” or how the Internet ruined everything. […]

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Quotes from Hyeonseo Lee

The kindness of strangers and the support of the international community are truly the rays of hope we North Korean people need.
Hyeonseo Lee
TED2013 • 3.6M views Mar 2013
Courageous, Inspiring