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President Bush Meets with North Korean Refugees

June 21, 2019
Escapees are Recipients of George W. Bush Institute’s North Korea Freedom Scholarship to Pursue Education Opportunities in U.S.

Dallas, Texas (June 21, 2019) – Today, President George W. Bush welcomed 10 North Korean refugees to the George W. Bush Presidential Center to learn about their journeys to America and their dreams for the future. The 10 escapees are current and past recipients of the North Korea Freedom Scholarship, part of the Bush Institute’s commitment to helping North Korean refugees succeed and build new lives in freedom.

During the conversation President Bush said, “this is one of my favorite programs at the Bush Center. The idea of welcoming people who have escaped tyranny is something very important to us…and should be important to the American people. And one way we can help is to take ambitious, smart young people and give them an opportunity to broaden their horizons.”

“You are pioneers. It really invigorates our nation’s soul to have people who know what the absence of freedom is like and then come and defend freedom when they find it is necessary for democracy to continue to renew itself.”

The Bush Institute also announced 13 recipients of the 2019 North Korea Freedom Scholarship. The annual award was established in 2017 and is administered by Communities Foundation of Texas. The scholarships, which together total $27,500, will help escapees pursue a range of educational opportunities at post-secondary institutions including traditional four-year universities, community colleges, cosmetology schools, and graduate programs.

The Bush Institute also pairs scholarship recipients with mentors who have expertise in their field of study and can help address students’ other needs.

2019 recipients include:   

  • Angela Kim— Studying cloud computing at East Coast Polytechnic Institute University
  • H.K.—Studying business in Washington
  • O.S.H.— Enrolled in a Master of Divinity program at an Illinois theological seminary
  • Danny Lee—Enrolled in Los Angeles City College studying political science and accounting
  • M.S.—Studying communications at a university in Los Angeles
  • J.K.— Studying to be an X-ray tech at a community college in California
  • Debby Kim—Enrolled in Wheaton College studying biochemistry
  • N.K.—Studying social work at a university in Illinois
  • A.J.—Finance major at a university in Florida
  • C.K—Enrolled in an electrical and computer engineering degree program at a university in Illinois
  • Peter Jung Young Oh—Enrolled in a Master of International Policy and Practice at George Washington University
  • Y.J—Studying graphic design at a college in Illinois
  • A.—Studying cosmetology at a cosmetology school in Illinois

Many North Korean escapees continue to live in fear, even after becoming permanent residents or citizens of the United States. Leaving North Korea without permission is a crime, and violators and their immediate relatives may face imprisonment or punishment. Thus, some scholarship recipients request that the Bush Institute withhold their identities and whereabouts. 

“President Bush is deeply concerned about the state of human rights in North Korea. That’s why he signed the North Korea Human Rights Act into law as President, and that’s why we work at the Bush Institute to expose the suffering of the North Korean people,” said Lindsay Lloyd, the Bradford M. Freeman Director of Human Freedom at the Bush Institute. “Through this scholarship and the recipients’ opportunity to meet President Bush, we hope we can ease their burden on their paths to success while increasing the odds that people in North Korea learn about the free world.”

The scholarship and event are part of the Bush Institute’s Freedom in North Korea program, which aims to raise awareness of the humanitarian crisis in North Korea, put North Koreans’ stories on the radar of policy makers and opinion leaders, and express the Bush Institute’s view that the United States should be a welcoming place to refugees. This work has included 2019 policy recommendations, call-to-action papers to define a new path forward in improving the human condition in North Korea, original research, and opinion polling of North Korean refugees who have resettled in America.

For more information about the scholarship and the Bush Institute’s efforts to support escapees and improve the human condition in North Korea, visit Freedom in North Korea.