Becoming a Human Rights Activist

2019-10-15 16:05

Becoming a Human Rights Activist

A Report by a Past NAUH (Now Action & Unity for Human rights) Intern


I was in sophomore year of college. I wanted to go beyond classrooms and books and do real practical work. I was interested in social issues and international issues since I was young. I had a vague dream of working at an NGO or an international organization. In my senior year in high school, I became interested in North Korean human rights. I went to look for an opportunity to intern at a North Korean human rights related organization. An internship at NAUH was a gift for me.

I started with translating documents at NAUH on February 2016. Afterwards, I did tasks such as helping with the leadership camp and participating in street campaigns. I started to meet more and more North Korean defectors. I interpreted Ji Seong-ho’s story at the Philippines conference and raised awareness about North Korean human rights. I used to be a student who cried watching Ji Seong-ho speak at the Oslo Forum. Now, I was a NUAH member.

At the end of June 2016, I finished my internship at NAUH. In August, I returned to the university. I made up my mind about my future career. I wanted to participate in a North Korean human rights club to improve North Korean human rights. Moreover, I wanted to research and learn how a country like South Korea, with a strong nationalism, can change to become a multiracial, multinational, and multicultural country. I got interested in this area because I compared the United States that emphasizes diversity and South Korea that focuses on homogeneity. South Korea will be filled with more and more North Korean defectors, migrant workers and foreigners. So I was concerned about how South Korea could accommodate these population without pushing them away.

Ultimately, I wondered what policies, institutions, and educational systems would be needed to build a society where people from different ethnic backgrounds could live together harmoniously. Although I chose an abstract major, it was difficult to choose a job I wanted to do. I ultimately narrowed it down to a more concrete one, which was ‘refugee and immigrant advocacy.’

Through the time at NAUH and the people I met through NAUH, I have built myself as an activist and experienced a larger society. This subject of study is not mainstream, so sometimes, I felt doubtful about studying about human rights and multiculturalism. In those times, I reminded myself of the internship days and teamwork at NAUH to revive my passion. Finally, I graduated and started to work at a company. I still feel uncertain about my future. Nevertheless, I will continue to trust myself and follow the footsteps of those I admire and respect.


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