A symposium designed to educate about the plight of North Korean refugees, and to influence public policy was held at the University of Minnesota. The event explored ways to provide for safe, welcoming and expedient resettlement in the U.S. for refugees who choose to make the U.S. (and especially Minnesota) their new home.
A portion of that symposium is recorded here.
The event, hosted by a coalition of Twin Cities academic and peace organizations, featured, the voices of people who have lived the experience. The day-long symposium included stories and points of view from Minnesota human rights advocates along with several South Korean government leaders, academics and popular media experts with expertise in this critical human rights issue.
The initiator of this event is Hyon Kim, a Twin Cities entrepreneur whose interest in this group of refugees comes out of her personal life story. Like many other Korean Americans, Kim comes from a family that was divided when Korea was divided in two. Separated from parents and siblings in 1951, she was brought up by an aunt in South Korea, and immigrated to Minnesota at age 24.
Since immigrating to Minnesota, Kim has been an entrepreneur and a community leader. She has also been a Regent of the University of Minnesota. She has worked as a volunteer with refugees from many countries in local outreach efforts, and would like Minnesota to one day become a welcoming home for North Korean refugees as well. The symposium is a first step toward that goal.
Dr. Eric Schwarz, Dean of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, whose expertise is in human rights policy, welcomed participants by Skype at the event. Jack Rendler, a human rights expert and the Amnesty International country specialist for North Korea, wasbe the keynote speaker. Congressman Keith Ellison (D-Fifth District) and Minnesota Senator Sandy Pappas also spoke.
The day also included testimonies from former North Korean refugees now living in South Korea, and will include the point of view of several South Korean speakers who have experience doing outreach to North Korean refugees who settle in South Korea.
One notable South Korean guest is film director Sang Hoon Lee, creator of the popular South Korean TV show Now On My Way To Meet You, which introduces the stories of North Korean defectors to the South Korean public.
Collaborating organizations in this effort include: The University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts, Metropolitan State University, Concordia University, the Minnesota International Center, World Without Genocide (at William Mitchell College of Law), Korean Quarterly newspaper, and others.
A subgroup of the collaborating organizations have formed a non-profit organization to carry this vision to the future, entitled Freedom for North Korean Refugees Minnesota. Please see the website for more background information, at freedomrefugeesmn.org