Club Fair 2014 Washtenaw International High School

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Welcome, potential new members and students of Washtenaw International High School! I hope that you have been able to find yourself amongst these photos and continue to remain interested in attending meetings, which will be held on tuesdays (more information will be distributed via email). Every year, our chapter at this school outdoes itself, and this year is your own opportunity to be a part of a growing student movement founded in your school by doing hands on work that will help change the lives of many North Korean refugees.

Sincerely, President and Founder of the Everyone’s Free Organization

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2014 Everyone’s Free Young Scholars Program Awardees

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We are proud to announce our first winners of our new annual Everyone’s Free Young Scholars Program: Myung Hyang Choi, Eung Beung Lee, Kim Jee-Yong, Geum Hyuk Soen (from left to right). The awards were based on the students’ scholarship, citizenship, and leadership, which were meticulously quantified by the teachers of Kumkang School and Principal Myong Hua Ju.

Activism at Harvard Square – Courtesy of Harvard Farmer’s Market

We would like to thank both Harvard University’s Farmer’s Market for allowing our activism to continue at Cambridge and all that have donated to our booth: Harvard’s students, residents of Cambridge, and tourists from Venezuela, Canada, China, and more.

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Roommate and Volunteer Charlie Wang (On Left)

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Roommate and Volunteer Parker Jarman (On Left)

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Superior Township’s “Superior Day”

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Congressman John Dingell

With Congressman John Dingell as a guest, opportunities to raise awareness/fundraise, and good food, we could not pass off Superior Twp’s generous invitation to attend their Annual Superior Days. We truly had a wonderful time telling our story to many others and we hope that we have inspired them

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Etheridge Thomas and Marlene Carroll

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Ann McCaslin

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Cindy Simmons

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The Superior Township Fire Department

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Mary and Beth Chaignot

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Young Scholars Program by Everyone’s Free

Korean Dinner 2014 (47)

Today was a momentous day. Not only was it a fantastic, celebratory conclusion to a year of admirable hard work and commitment from all our members, but also the birth of the Everyone’s Free Young Scholars Program (poster coming soon). With a portion of the money that we have raised this year, we will award 4 outstanding students in Kumkang School for North Korean defector children with a scholarship to inspire and aid in the education of these bright, but financially disadvantaged, students. Korean Dinner 2014 (48)

2nd Annual Korean Dinner – Featuring Shin Dong-Hyuk

300+ guests watching North Korean Camp 14 Survivor Shin Dong-Hyuk Speak

Guests watching North Korean Camp 14 Survivor Shin Dong-Hyuk Speak

With over three hundred guests, this year’s Korean Dinner was our most successful event so far; however, the most amazing aspect of the Korean Dinner was that it was a work of extensive collaboration. We sincerely thank Shin Dong-Hyuk for accepting our humble invitation to the state of Michigan and speaking at our event, Debbie Dingell for supporting our organization and advocating for North Korean human rights, Hansori from Eastern Michigan University for their traditional Korean Samulnori percussion performances, D!VERSE for performing their songs on Korean unification and human rights, the Michigan Today Publication, all the restaurants and stores in Michigan that donated food to this event, and all other individuals that generously helped out during the event.

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From Left to Right: Kathryn Hoover, Washtenaw International High counselor; Jun-Sung Park, Everyone’s Free Org. Founder; William Garcia, Washtenaw International High IB Literature Teacher; Shin Dong-Hyuk, Humanitarian and North Korean Camp 14 Survivor; Debbie Dingell, wife of Congressman John Dingell; Megan Andrews; and Monica Choi

Shin Dong-Hyuk speaking about his escape from North Korea's notorious Camp 14

Shin Dong-Hyuk speaking about his escape from North Korea’s notorious Camp 14

Jun-Sung Park Translating for Mr. Shin Dong-Hyuk

Jun-Sung Park Translating for Mr. Shin Dong-Hyuk

Everyone's Free Org. Members serving fresh Korean Food

Everyone’s Free Org. Members serving fresh Korean Food

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Washtenaw International High School's Cafeteria quickly reaching its max capacity

Washtenaw International High School’s Cafeteria quickly reaching its maximum capacity

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Multilingual Hip-Hop Duo D!VERSE; on the left, Everyone's Free member Alexander Wegrzyn

Multilingual Hip-Hop Duo D!VERSE; on the left, Everyone’s Free member Alexander Wegrzyn

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2nd Annual Korean Dinner Supporters

Below are some of our generous supporters that will make our 2nd Annual Korean Dinner possible. All the funds we raise from the Korean Dinner will go to support out cause to help save the lives of North Korean refugee children.

Supporters: The Law Office of Soo Park, Hyundai Market, Broadway Cafe, Galleria Market, BeWon Korean Restaurant, Sang Do Market, Manna Market, and Sweetwater Coffee and Tea.

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Kenneth Bae Sentenced to 15 Years in Labor Camp

Image from www.cnn.com

Image from www.cnn.com

45 and suffering from a plethora of health issues: acute back and leg pain, kidney stones, loss of vision, an enlarged hearth, and liver problems Kenneth Bae has been sentenced to 15 years in a North Korean labor camp

Kenneth Bae, an American citizen and Christian Missionary, has been accused by the North Korean government of attempting to “topple the DPRK government” according to the North Korean Supreme court. Far from a revolutionary, Kenneth Bae organized tour groups (15 total) made up of Americans and Canadians to North Korea. According to Bae’s sister, Terri Chung, Bae believed in, “showing compassion to the North Korean people by contributing to their economy in the form of tourism” through his tours.

Bae’s health is undeniably failing, and every day Bae must endure 8 hours of hard labor. It is clear that Bae has now been turned into another one of North Korea’s bargaining chips, just like American Journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling, and Aijalon Mahli Gomes, an American teacher. Euna Lee and Laura Ling were released after a visit to Pyongyang by former president Bill Clinton in 2009 and Aijalon Mahli Gomes released after a visit by former president Jimmy Carter in 2010. All of these Americans were sentenced to 8-12 years of hard labor. This may be a pattern, and it just might take another former president to free Bae.

 

 

The Arduous Hero, Shin Dong-Hyuk

photo from www.ned.org

photo from www.ned.org

Shin Dong-Hyuk is the only person to have ever escaped from Camp 14, one of North Korea’s most notorious prison camps. Dong-Hyuk was born in Camp 14, where he endured 23 years of hunger, punishments, and brainwashing.

Hunger was omnipresent in Camp 14 for its prisoners. Dong-Hyuk and the other prisoners were given very little food (a gruel of cornmeal and cabbage), and had to rely on insects and rats for sustenance. The guards explained this hunger by saying, “through hunger you will repent”. The “crime” that Dong-Hyuk was “repenting” for dates back to the Korean war, when two of his uncles defected to South Korea. The reason Dong-Hyuk received his punishment is Kim Il Sung idea of 3 generations of punishment, which Kim Il Sung hoped to use to eradicate the entire family of every political criminal. Post WWII, North Korea is the only country with such a practice. Many of the prisoners in Camp 14, including Dong-Hyuk, are sentenced to a life of harsh labor and punishment in the camp without any connection to the crime other than family relations with a political criminal. It is not uncommon for people to be born and to die in Camp 14.

In addition to hunger, Dong-Hyuk was educated since birth with a very strict code of rules. In school, Dong-Hyuk witnessed teachers beating children to death for even minor misdoings. Later in life Dong-Hyuk witnessed dozens of executions every year.Prisoners would be shot for trying to escape, planning to escape, and not reporting attempts to escape. Through these personal experiences of violence, Dong-Hyuk learned the code of rules by heart.

The rules were so ingrained in Dong-Hyuk’s that he reported his mother and brother for attempts to escape hoping for food as a reward. Both his mother and brother were executed, but instead of a reward, Dong-Hyuk was hung upside down in an underground chamber and tortured with hot coals on his back. He still bears the scars of the burns today. Dong-Hyuk admits he did not feel any emotion when he saw his mother and brother get executed, and even felt that they deserved their punishments, but today his guilt is a major inspiration for his constant activism for human rights in North Korea.

After 23 years, Dong-Hyuk escaped from Camp 14 with Park, a political prisoner who was educated and has traveled outside of North Korea. From Park Dong-Hyuk learned about the outside world. Before meeting Park, Dong-Hyuk believed that life was no different outside Camp 14 and believed that his harsh life as prisoner was normal. Dong-Hyuk also did not know of the existence of other countries or even that the world was round. Interestingly, Dong-Hyuk’s main motivation to escape was Park’s stories of the assortment of foods that Park had eaten during his travels. One day, when Park and Dong-Hyuk were stationed to work near the electric fence to gather firewood, they crawled through the fence while the guards were not looking. Unfortunately, Park was electrocuted by the fence. Dong-Hyuk was only able to crawl through the fence because Park’s body acted an insulator from the electric current, but Dong-Hyuk also suffered sever burns on his shin and ankles when his leg touched the tip of the fence.

North Korea’s conditions, especially in rural civilian areas are very bad because of very severe famine and constant government oppression. Famine is so bad in these areas that there are reported cases of cannibalism. However, Dong-Hyuk described his first experience outside of Camp 14 in a rural town as “heaven”, which puts into perspective how bad conditions really are in North Korean Prison Camps. Dong-Hyuk was able to escape from North Korea to China and made his way to a South Korean Consulate in Shanghai. After his escape, Dong-Hyuk lived in South Korea and California and has American foster parents in Ohio.

Dong-Hyuk is an inspirational individual, not only for his escape against many odds and enduring of personal tragedies, but also for his activism after his escape. He spends much of his time working with North Korean Human Rights Organizations and raising awareness of North Korean prison camps. Dong-Hyuk says that while he gets to eat all he wants and earns money, he is only momentarily happy, because he is always worried about the people that are still suffering in prison camps. For Dong-Hyuk’s dedication to North Korean Human Rights and also his remarkable enduring of hardships, Dong-Hyuk has been awarded the United Nation’s 2013 Moral Courage Award.

 

 

 

Gratitude from Kumkang School

Letters from Kumkang School Students

Letters from Kumkang School Students

The students at Kumkang School were delighted to receive their winter coats, and to show their appreciation, many of the students wrote endearing letters to us ^see above.

Jee-Yong, now a student at Kumkang School, personally wrote a letter to me as well. Here is a translation:

“Dear Big Brother Park,

Thank you for bringing me to South Korea. In Korea I promise to study hard in Korea. I am here all because of your work.

Thank you very much,

Jee-Yong”.

The principal of Kumkang School, Ju Myong Hua, also sent us a plaque of appreciation, it will be displayed at Washtenaw International High School along with all the letters the students wrote for us.

Letter from Jee-Yong, the first child our organization saved

Letter from Jee-Yong, the first child our organization saved

Plaque of appreciation from Kumkang School

Plaque of appreciation from Kumkang School

Helping North Korean Defector Children Stay Warm This Winter – Arrival

Our members have arrived at Kumkang School for North Korean Children with all the coats and letters we have prepared for the students. Like this summmer, the members will be volunteer teachers for the students at the school. Thanks to your help and support, the students at Kumkang School have Christmas gifts that they can all wear and keep warm all winter in.
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Helping North Korean Defector Children Stay Warm This Winter

Happy Holidays!
Winter is almost here, and the kids at Kumkang School for North Korean Defectors don’t have coats to keep them warm. After launching our fundraiser to get winter coats for them we were able to buy 30 coats in total!
In the pictures below we are packaging the coats and writing letters to each of the students at Kumkang School, this will be our Christmas gift this year.

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