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In order to graduate (Park 2)

16 0 22
Casey Lartigue Jr. and Eunmi Park
By Casey Lartigue Jr.

Yeonmi Park was already on the way to becoming a fluent English learner and public speaker when her sister Eunmi Park joined her at the Teach North Korean Refugees Global Education Center (TNKR) in May 2014. I had heard about Eunmi so many times I felt I was meeting a mythical figure.

Eunmi started at the ABC level, but clearly she was not going to stay there. If she had fears or doubts about learning English, she only had to look at her sister freely conversing and giving speeches in English.

One night the three of us met, Yeonmi and I were discussing an upcoming podcast. Eunmi was memorizing English words. As I was always happy to do, I recorded Eunmi's vocabulary list and sentence patterns for her to study later. I was organizing an event at which Yeonmi would be one of the featured speakers. I forgot how it happened, but suddenly Eunmi was going to join as a speaker. We did not announce it publicly.

Eunmi gave a speech in Korean in July 2014, the first of two speeches she gave at events I organized. She had a great time, but a short time later she informed us that she was not interested in becoming a speaker. I never asked why and she did not seek my opinion, so that was the end of it.

Eunmi seemed delighted with the attention that Yeonmi was receiving, but she had already decided that she wanted to become a teacher. Yeonmi's star began rising even more, with book and even movie offers. Her 2014 speech at Dublin had gone viral. Even friends and relatives who barely paid attention to North Korea were asking me if I knew the little North Korean girl who had given that great speech. Some were incredulous when I said that I had been her mentor for almost a year and that if they had been paying attention to my Facebook page they would have already known about her.

Together at last, their paths diverged again,........

© The Korea Times