September 26, 2017 Print

Contest winner Young-mi at center with the three judges, from left: Shin & Kim lawyer Yun Jeong-min, director-actor Sean Richard Dulake, and The Korea Times Deputy Managing Editor Park Yoon-bae. TNKR co-founder Casey Lartigue Jr. is third from right and TNKR co-founder Lee Eun-koo at far right. / Courtesy of John Redmond / Photo and caption from The Korea Times.

An Atlas Network partner based out of South Korea, Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR), hosted its sixth English Speech Contest on August 26, 2017. “It’s not just a contest, but a celebration of the speakers having the courage to speak out and having the freedom to do so,” said TNKR co-founder Casey Lartigue, about the event.

Each contestant was allotted 10 minutes to present his or her speech about this year’s theme: “A Woman is a Flower.”

"The theme was inspired by a well-known song in North Korea that praises women," continued Lartigue. "The reality of women in North Korea is quite different from the song, as they are abused there and then have guns pointed at their backs after they escape to China. The seven contestants (five females, two males) presented seven different perspectives, proving again that North Korean refugees are not a monolith."

TNKR hosts events like this to help demonstrate the need to promote a respect of individual rights and free and open societies, and offers a support network and education to people who have lived in such an oppressive state. 

"I had no idea about abuse,” said contest winner Young-mi. “It's only when I arrived in South Korea did I realize it is wrong. We were abused from a young age. There is no education about rights in the North."

Another contestant said that she would never forget the experience, because she “was able to share something that was deep inside of me but there was never an appropriate time for me to do so.”

The event was hosted by the Shin & Kim law firm in Myeong-dong. The Korea Times sponsored the event.

The winner of last year’s English Speech Contest, Cherie Yang, will be presenting a TEDx Talk in London on Oct. 28, 2017. Click here for further information.