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Our cherished hopes

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By Michael P. Downey

One way that totalitarian governments control their population is by controlling what they say. Telling the truth is the enemy of totalitarianism and the lie is its fervent supporter.

As a volunteer English teacher and speech coach for Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR) I've found a great deal of meaning in my life for this very reason. TNKR is an NGO headquartered in Seoul that was founded to give a voice to North Korean refugees who have escaped and now live in South Korea. TNKR matches teachers with refugees for one-on-one tutoring in English.

Why English? It's a good question. Recently one of my students told me the following story. After escaping from North Korea and sojourning through China, she expected life in South Korea to be idyllic. On the contrary, she found it to be no bed of roses.

She was intently aware of her status as a refugee. She felt she was discriminated against because she spoke Korean with an accent. In the beginning she tried hard to remove her North Korean accent but it was not easy.

One day at her church she became aware of a group of people gathered around two young men at the door to the cafeteria. At first she thought they might be some sort of celebrities. She went closer to listen and she heard the folks praising the young men because they spoke English so well.

A light bulb went off in her........

© The Korea Times