Quiz by: ChezTeresaESL
I went to America without knowing a word of
English, yet my social worker told me that I
had to go to high school. Even in North Korea,
I was an F student. (Laughter) And I barely
finished elementary school. And I remember I
fought in school more than once a day.
Textbooks and the library were not my
playground. My father tried very hard to
motivate me into studying, but it didn't work.
At one point, my father gave up on me. He said,
"You're not my son anymore." I was only 11 or
12, but it hurt me deeply. But nevertheless, my
level of motivation still didn't change before
he died. So in America, it was kind of
ridiculous that they said I should go to high
school. I didn't even go to middle school. I
decided to go, just because they told me to,
without trying much.
But one day, I came home and my foster mother
had made chicken wings for dinner. And during
dinner, I wanted to have one more wing, but I
realized there were not enough for everyone, so
I decided against it. When I looked down at my
plate, I saw the last chicken wing, that my
foster father had given me his. I was so happy.
I looked at him sitting next to me. He just
looked back at me very warmly, but said no
words. Suddenly I remembered my biological
father. My foster father's small act of love
reminded me of my father, who would love to
share his food with me when he was hungry, even
if he was starving. I felt so suffocated that I
had so much food in America, yet my father died
of starvation. My only wish that night was to
cook a meal for him, and that night I also
thought of what else I could do to honor him.
And my answer was to promise to myself that I
would study hard and get the best education in
America to honor his sacrifice.
I took school seriously, and for the first time
ever in my life, I received an academic award
for excellence, and made dean's list from the
first semester in high school.
That chicken wing changed my life. (Laughter)
Hope is personal. Hope is something that no one
can give to you. You have to choose to believe
in hope. You have to make it yourself. In North
Korea, I made it myself. Hope brought me to
America. But in America, I didn't know what to
do, because I had this overwhelming freedom. My
foster father at that dinner gave me a
direction, and he motivated me and gave me a
purpose to live in America.
I did not come here by myself. I had hope, but
hope by itself is not enough. Many people
helped me along the way to get here. North
Koreans are fighting hard to survive. They have
to force themselves to survive, have hope to
survive, but they cannot make it without help.
This is my message to you. Have hope for
yourself, but also help each other. Life can be
hard for everyone, wherever you live. My foster
father didn't intend to change my life. In the
same way, you may also change someone's life
with even the smallest act of love. A piece of
bread can satisfy your hunger, and having the
hope will bring you bread to keep you alive.
But I confidently believe that your act of love
and caring can also save another Joseph's life
and change thousands of other Josephs who are
still having hope to survive.
This is a 4:58 clip of the TED Talk that Joseph
Kim gave in Edinburgh, Scotland in June, 2013.
It starts at 6:04 into the talk and ends at
Before this clip begins, Joseph Kim explains
that he was born and raised in North Korea. A
famine began in 1994 when he was four years
old. His father died of starvation. His mother
disappeared, and his sister left for China to
try to earn money. He was alone and homeless.
Three years after his sister left, he also
escaped to China. There, an activist helped him
to go to the United States as a refugee.
Listen to the entire talk here:
Listen to a May 2015 NPR interview with Joseph