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August 8, 2022

Seohyun Lee’s life as a member of North Korea’s elite was turned upside down when she was allowed to live and study abroad from the North Korean regime. Living in freedom, Seohyun had her basic beliefs challenged and then later saw the effects of guilt by association. Seohyun presents a first-hand account of facing the decision to live a life of certainty as part of a elite group, or escaping into the uncertainty of a free world that she had been groomed to fear.

Seohyun Lee was born and raised in central Pyongyang and received the most “prestigious” education in North Korea as a daughter of a high-level government official. In 2008 she enrolled at Kim Il Sung University and studied abroad at China Dongbei University of Economics and Finance. However, after experiencing a series of brutal purges by the Kim Jong Un regime, her family defected to South Korea and finally resettled in the United States in 2016.

She has immersed herself in North Korean human rights issues as a human rights advocate, commentator, and YouTube creator (PyongHattan). She was awarded the 2022 North Korea Freedom Scholarship from the Bush Foundation. She will begin her graduate studies in Fall 2022 at Columbia University’s School of Public Affairs (SIPA) with her ultimate goal of freeing the North Korean people. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at

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