Hyeonseo Lee, North Korean Defector and Refugee

Hyeonseo Lee is a North Korean defector living in Seoul, South Korea. She recently finished writing her memoir, ‘The Girl with Seven Names – A North Korean Defector’s Story’ which was published in July 2015.

“I sometimes wonder how I overcame all those obstacles in my life with ups and downs like a rollercoaster.” – Hyeonseo Lee

Having received worldwide attention from her speech at TED Talk in 2013, Hyeonseo Lee’s ambition is to raise awareness of the happenings in North Korea, the struggles and to spread word on human rights.

Last night, Hyeonseo Lee did a talk in partnership with LSE SU Korea Future Forum – a unique opportunity to hear directly from a North Korean about her home country. (Tickets for the event sold out in 15 seconds!) With hardly enough information on the outside, Hyeonseo enlightened us by sharing her personal experiences, the common beliefs and the regime’s impact on the North Korean people.


“We’ve never tasted democracy, freedom, equal rights. The North Korean dictator lives everywhere. Now that I escaped, I know how horrible and stupid it is, but back then I thought Kim Il Sung was god. When he died, I couldn’t help asking how can a god die?” – Hyeonseo Lee

Those who are interested in Human Rights, North Korea and communism should definitely give ‘The Girl with Seven Names’ a read. Hyeonseo quite simply exposes her raw feelings every step of the way from living in and leaving North Korea, moving to China, feeling homesick and coping with the absence of her family, until she manages to finally seek asylum in South Korea and the struggles to identify with the world she had been closed up from.

“It took me so many years to learn what freedom is. You might think it is nothing, but in NK, I felt paralyzed, being watched constantly.” -Hyeonseo Lee

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Hyeonseo Lee at the book signing event

After meeting Hyeonseo Lee, we felt she is a truly humble and brave lady with a sad, yet powerful story. After listening to a snippet of her personal experience of survival, danger and hope, we feel this deeply meaningful story should be shared.

For those who missed it, the video of her speech is below:


– Inspire Me Korea Team


Diana Chan

CEO and chief magazine editor. An explorer, creator and do-er. Can easily be found marathon-ing a K-drama. No spoilers please.


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