Press Release

The Bush Institute Announces Recipients of the 2021 North Korea Freedom Scholarship

$50,000 in funds awarded to five North Korean escapees to pursue higher education

DALLAS – Today, the George W. Bush Institute announced the five recipients of the 2021 North Korea Freedom Scholarship. Established in 2017, the North Korea Freedom Scholarship is designed to help North Korean escapees and their children pursue higher education and build productive, prosperous lives as new Americans.

Administered by Communities Foundation of Texas, the scholarships, which together total $50,000, will be used for community college and university students who aspire to lead a variety of careers across the areas of science, sociology, education, medicine, and more. To date, a total of $169,500 has been awarded in 48 scholarships, supporting a total of 26 refugees.

2021 North Korea Freedom Scholarship recipients include:

  • H.Y.K., who is studying sociology at the University of Southern California.
  • Y.J.K., who is studying science at Chatham University in Pennsylvania.
  • Grace Noh, who is studying education and communications at Northern Virginia Community College.
  • Debby Kim, who is studying biochemistry at Elmhurst College in Illinois. She wants to become a doctor.
  • Hyeon Mi Shin, who is studying communications at the University of Southern California.

Some North Korean refugees prefer not to reveal their backgrounds publicly to protect loved ones still living in North Korea.

The scholarship is part of the Bush Institute’s Freedom in North Korea program, which aims to expose the suffering of the North Korean people and put their stories on the radar of policy makers and opinion leaders. The work has included call-to-action papers to define a new path forward in improving the human condition in North Korea, as well as original research and opinion polling of North Korean refugees who have resettled in America.

“This [North Korea Freedom Scholarship] 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,” said President George W. Bush.

Five students applied for grants this year and all five were awarded scholarships ranging between $5,000 to $15,000 per person, based on both merit and need. The North Korea Freedom Scholarship Committee reviewed the applications and recommended awards. The Selection Committee members included:

  • Sheena Greitens — Associate Professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs; Austin, Texas
  • Dan Ha — Partner, Karani Asset Management LLC; New York, N.Y.
  • Jensen Ko — Portfolio Manager / Managing Partner, AriseN Partners; New York, N.Y.
  • Michelle Rhyu — Partner, Cooley LLP; Palo Alto, Calif.
  • Amanda Schnetzer — Co-Founder, FirstThen Inc., Dallas, Texas
  • Anne Wicks — Ann Kimball Johnson Director of the Education Reform Initiative, Bush Institute; Dallas, Texas

Next year’s scholarship application period will open in January 2022.

For more information about the scholarship and the Bush Institute’s efforts to support escapees and improve the human condition in North Korea, please visit our website. For more information about Communities Foundation of Texas, please visit