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TASMUN Keynote Speaker Ji Seong-ho
TASMUN Keynote Speaker Ji Seong-ho

The Taipei American School Model United Nations (TASMUN) is a junior level conference designed for aspiring delegates from Grades 7 to 10 who are new to Model United Nations. TASMUN has grown from a local conference consisting of less than a hundred people to 500 delegates from 26 schools located across Asia. In 2013, the TASMUN conference achieved "Highly Recommended" status from The Hague International Model United Nations (THIMUN) Advisory Board. This year's event took place on April 27 and 28 and the 10th annual conference included dozens of resolutions that connected students to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

This year's keynote speaker, Ji Seong-ho, is a North Korean refugee and prominent human rights activist who works tirelessly to save North Korean women from modern-day slavery. Growing up, he was told that North Korea was heaven and everyone was equal, but watching family members starve to death and work dangerous factory jobs without pay, he knew the propaganda was untrue. He survived by stealing coal from moving trains, but after a failed attempt where he lost consciousness from hunger and fell onto the train tracks, he suffered a painful amputation without anesthesia, antibiotics, or blood transfusions.

Following the accident, his mother crossed the border with China to find food and prosthetic limbs but was a victim of human trafficking like over 250,000 other North Korean women who never returned. When Ji Seong-ho was found with a small portion of rice he was arrested and tortured, even more so because of his disability. After six years, he managed to escape to South Korea by walking 10,000 km on crutches and traveling through China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and finally, flying into South Korea.

Once in South Korea, he completed his studies and became an activist by helping others in his situation and raising awareness of human rights violations in North Korea and other countries. He works to help women in China like his mother and sister, and to date, his organization has rescued over 400 people. You can read more about how to support his organization NAUH here.

As he said, "I learned that it is ordinary people like you and I that can achieve miracles." It was an honor to welcome Ji Seong-ho to Taipei American School.

Photo Credit: Dustin Rhoades

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