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Bush Institute Partners with CFT to Award North Korea Freedom Scholarships

July 14, 2020

$40,900 in funds awarded to 12 North Korean escapees to pursue higher education

DALLAS – Today, the George W. Bush Institute announced the 12 recipients of the 2020 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 $40,900, will be used for vocational school, community college, university, and graduate-level students who aspire to lead a variety of careers including as hair stylists, engineers, and nurses. To date, a total of $118,500 has been awarded in 43 scholarships.

2020 North Korea Freedom Scholarship recipients include:

  • Y.J.K., a recent high school graduate who will attend a university in Pennsylvania.
  • Grace Noh, who is studying Dental Hygiene at Northern Virginia Community College. She plans to work as a dental hygienist and serve in impoverished areas after she graduates from college.
  • Kaye, who is a community college student at Fullerton College. Kaye plans to pursue a degree in nursing.
  • Lim Lee, who is studying engineering at Cypress College in southern California.
  • H.Y.K., who is studying public relations at a community college.
  • Debby Kim, rising junior who is studying biochemistry at Elmhurst College in Illinois. She wants to become a doctor.
  • A.J., who is studying finance at the University of South Florida. Her goal is to become a financial advisor after she graduates from college.
  • Danny Lee, who is studying political science at Los Angeles City College. Danny plans to transfer to a university and aspires to become a diplomat.
  • Evelyn Jeong, is currently attending I.M. Beauty School of Cosmetology and wants to become a hair stylist, helping others find confidence in themselves through beauty.
  • C.K., who recently transferred to the University of Illinois at Chicago as an engineering major.
  • Mila, who is attending JCM Institute of Nursing and wants to become a surgeon’s assistant.
  • Yeonghee Kim, who will be transferring to University of California Berkeley as a nursing major.

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

“CFT is proud to partner with the Bush Institute by administering the North Korea Freedom Scholarship. This scholarship lifts up those who have escaped from North Korea, enabling them pursue higher education and impacting the recipients and their families now and in the future," said Katie Kuehl, Scholarships and Philanthropy Officer at Communities Foundation of Texas. "It is clear that each of the scholarship recipients has a special story to share and the desire to give back to others. The scholarship committee works diligently each year to review, discuss and select the scholarship recipients, each offering a unique viewpoint and genuine compassion throughout the review process. It’s always a pleasure work closely with the scholarship committee and the Bush Institute’s team of experts to make a difference in the lives of deserving scholarship recipients.”

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.

“From our research and the experience of the previous years of the scholarship, we know that most of the North Koreans who resettle here adapt quickly and well to life in the United States,” said Lindsay LloydBradford M. Freeman Director of the Human Freedom Initiative. “I’ve been so impressed not only by their stories of how they escaped, but also by their deep desire to give back to others. They’re eager to make their mark and we are proud to support them.”

There are currently approximately 500 North Koreans living in the U.S., including some 250 refugees.  Fifteen students applied for grants this year, and twelve were awarded scholarships of various amounts based on merit. A committee reviewed applications and recommend awards. 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 – Chief Operating Officer, Archegos Capital; New York, N.Y. 
  • Amanda Schnetzer – Chief Operating Officer, Pointe Bello; Dallas, Texas 
  • Sarah Cotton Nelson – Chief Philanthropy Officer, Communities Foundation of Texas; Dallas, Texas 
  • Michelle Rhyu – Partner, Cooley LLP; Palo Alto, Calif.
  • 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 2021.

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 www.cftexas.org.

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