This past Friday the organization LiNK (Liberty in North Korea) came to speak at my school. As a board member of Global Citizens Club, a club which focuses on human rights, our themefor this portion of the year is LiNK. Three representatives from LiNK, called Nomads, came to show students LiNK's newest film: Hiding. The movie documented what it was like for North Korean refugees as they ventured through China, in hiding, and through South East Asia until they finally found safety in either South Korea or the United States. Although short, the film and entire LiNK organization sends a powerful message. There is an incredible humanitarian crisis going on in North Korea. What are we doing about it?
Friday night I went out to dinner with the Heartland Nomads.
I had a great time talking to them about their involvement in LiNK, the crisis in North Korea, and just about their lives in general. The entire day really got me thinking. The situation in North Korea, regardless of how informed you are, is still very difficult to grasp. What is it like to eat boiled bark as your only source of food? What is it like to choose between a life of oppression and one as the victim of sex trafficking? What is it like to have to flee your homeland?
Fortunately, these are questions I don't have a first-hand answer to. But the information LiNK shared with me has certainly opened my eyes to the situation, ignited a spark of passion to help in any way I can, and led me to blog. As a blogger about identity construction, I can't help but wonder how being a refugee impacts one's identity.
I came across this article about a Pakistani refugee. The more information I read, the luckier I feel. It almost goes without saying, but a huge part of who we are links (no pun intended) back to where we come from and where we live. In a sense, we are our home. Even if that home is a place of heartache or struggles, that home shapes who we are. All of our basic needs are met, or in some instances cannot be met, at home. And, when there is reason to leave that home, what becomes of us?
I guess the closest I can come to relating to the need to flee one's country and seek refuge is the idea of moving out and going to college. Of course, my version of leaving home is far more luxurious, but some of the same sort of principles still apply. Next fall, for the first time in my entire life, I'm going to be living on my own. I won't come back to my house, my family, or my hometown on a daily basis anymore. This is both exciting and frightening. Who will I be without the concept of home to fall back on? Will I rely more on stories of home to define me? Will I try to reinvent myself without home tying me down? Will my perception of home change? Who will I be once I've left the only home I've ever known?
Once these questions are put in a more mainstream framework, I think they have additional value. Although most of my readers have never had to flee their country in order to seek refuge due to starvation or oppression, most people can relate to the fear, anxiety, and life-altering impact of leaving home. At this point I don't have the answers to the above question, however they are worth thinking about. What impact does leaving home have on our identity?