All of the students of Kumkang School live and eat in the basement of the school’s building. While the younger students wake up to go to classes in the floor directly above them, the institution does not have the resources to provide education beyond the elementary level. So the older students must attend middle and high schools in the local area, but public education is not free in South Korea.
We continue the tradition of annually awarding scholarships to the students of Kumkang School so that they may continue their education and afford the textbooks and supplies they need. Below are this year’s awardees!
It’s that time of the year again, the Korean Dinner! Above you can see the fruits of our fourth attempt at the largest, and now traditional fundraiser of our chapter in Washtenaw International High School. Tonight was fun time for all of us, a time of sharing good Korean cuisine and live entertainment with friends and family, learning about refugees from North Korea and our work for them. For those of you who could not make it, we will be posting a highlights reel in the next two weeks of the event, so stay tuned!
For the past three years, Everyone’s Free has served us very well, but we have always wanted to have a name with a bit more significance.
We found that the bluebird was a common symbol of happiness throughout different societies and times, and it was also in the Belgian play, The Blue Bird, where two children seek out the magical bluebird of happiness only to find that is was in their backyard all along. We think that the name, Bluebird NK reflects our earnest desire to help North Korean defectors find happiness in their new lives. They have risked everything to escape oppression, and they deserve more than just the bare sustenance most have.
With our new name, we will to set a higher standard for ourselves as a non-profit organization, and dedicate ourselves fully to the educational development of North Korean defectors in both the US and South Korea.
John J.S. Park
Founder and President
The new t-shirts, above, are arriving January 13th!
We have heard from Kumkang School that they have three new students this year, and while we could not visit this year, we still wanted to give them a warm welcome to their new home. So for this holiday season, we got each child a winter coat and a pair of shoes:
On the far left is also Jee-Yong, who we helped defect just two years ago. He has grown so fast that he could not fit into the coat we sent him last year, and he has been doing so well in middle school that we couldn’t just leave him out.
And we couldn’t leave out the volunteer staff and teachers of Kumkang School either, who have worked tirelessly all year for the students. Hopefully with these gloves they will never come to Kumkang School with cold hands again. In return they sent us some wonderful christmas cards that you can see below:
What inspired you to start you work on matters involving N. Korea?
A: When I was covering Northeast Asia for the Washington Post between 2007-10, I was asked by my boss to focus on North Korea — and find something fresh. In the course of my work, I met and interviewed Shin Dong-hyuk, who was born in a North Korean labor camp and escaped. Later, I asked Shin to work with me on a book about his life. The book was, to my surprise, an international bestseller. Since then, I have written a second book about North Korea, The Great Leader and the Fighter Pilot (2015). It focuses on the founding of the country — and the dark legacy of Great Leader Kim Il Sung. Now, I am working on a third Korea-related book that examines American behavior in the Korean War and beyond.
What were your original intentions in writing Escape from Camp 14, as well as The Great Leader and the Fighter Pilot?
A: To explain for a mass audience how North Korea treats its people and why. I have tried to find accessible, exciting stories that grab the imagination of a general reader. The idea is to tell a tale that is so interesting that a reader doesn’t realize he or she is learning history, political science, and current affairs.
How did your books effect the international movement for N. Korean human rights?
A: Escape from Camp 14 was a significant factor in pushing the U.N. to investigate North Korea for crimes against humanity. The UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in 2014 to refer the Kim government to the International Criminal Court for prosecution. That vote was non-binding. A binding vote must be approved by the UN Security Council and it has not yet occurred. China and Russia have threatened to veto any such referral.
We are a non-profit organization run by students around the world, do you have any advice or message for the young people in the world who want to get involved in N. Korean human rights?
A: First, read some of the many great books that have appeared in recent years about North Korea. They include: Nothing to Envy, The Aquariums of Pyongyang, A Kim Jong Il Production, The Two Koreas, The Girl With Seven Names, and Under the Same Sky.
Then join forces or raise money for other organizations that help refugees and raise awareness. They include LiNK, Liberty in North Korea; and the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK).
(Blaine Harden and Shin Dong-Hyuk photo Source/link–http://www.ifiberone.com/news/grantcounty/moseslake/bestselling-author-shares-north-korean-escapee-s-experience/article_a442d386-98c9-11e2-b70e-001a4bcf6878.html?mode=image&photo=0)
On a summer day in Detroit, we chanced upon this youth education group brightening the city with their choir. We couldn’t miss the opportunity to spark some activism in these kids, as well as some great pictures.
We were recently awarded the Presidential Volunteer Service Award for over 1000 hrs of volunteer service as an organization. We thank the hard work of all our members as well as your support which allowed us to have this honorable distinction.
With our 3rd Korean Dinner, we hope to continue our pattern of annual growth with more food, guests, and entertainment for all. All of the funds we raise will be used to help our cause of improving the lives of North Korean defector children, and supporting their education with our scholarship program.
We owe our dinner entertainment to the generosity of Eun-Gyung Lee, who will perform solo traditional Korean dances; Hansori, Eastern Michigan University’s Korean Samul Nori percussion group; magician Jee-Il Han; and contemporary dancer Joo-Ri Jung.
Additionally, the Everyone’s Free Organization thanks all of the generous stores and restaurants (below) who have promised donations to make our third annual Korean Dinner at Washtenaw International High School possible.
We also thank Nagomi restaurant and the Soo Park Law Office (not shown above) for their generous donations.
For the Hong Kong Chapter of Everyone’s Free, an awareness-raising campaign was held with the enthusiastic support from the local team members and teachers. The campaign displayed pictures, posters and artworks showing the current situation of North Korean refugees, with the team members acting as narrators to provide more detailed explanations to the schoolmates. Participants also watched a few interesting clips from the recent comedy “The Interview”. In the end the chapter president Charlie Wang gave a speech on how students could contribute to helping the North Korean refugees. The participants all expressed that they have not only gained much more knowledge on North Korean refugees, but also had a great time.
This yeat, a few Everyone’s Free Greenhills chapter members spent their Christmas in Korea at Kumkang School for North Korean children. They brought the gifts for the school we have prepared and served as mentors and volunteer teachers for the students throughout their winter.