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Jiye Seong-Yu is a strategic advisor to the Human Rights Foundation, where she manages Flash Drives for Freedom. Flash Drives for Freedom collects USB thumb drives and fills them with outside information to be smuggled back into the DPRK; hopefully countering some of the state-led propaganda.
What inspired you to join the Human Rights Foundation? Is this an area you have always had a sense of interest in?
Jiye came from a family of activists. Both her parents were political activists in the 80s and her grandfather was an independence activist. Studying political science at university further solidified her interest in going into activism. She started her career as a translator and through a chance, became a translator for the HRF. This position eventually turned into a full term position; where she currently heads the Flash Drive for Freedom project.
As someone who has immersed themselves in a variety of cultures, geographical locations and fields, what would you say the benefits of which were? Why do you think it is important that the youth immerse themselves in a variety of experiences?
This started from my upbringing. I grew up in Auroville international village in South India which is made up of over 3000 ppl coming from 45 different countries. She believes that traveling and opening ourselves to new opportunities is critical in ensuring that to healthy development. She reasons that we will always meet people that are different from us and who disagree from us and we will still have to work with them.
What would you say are some of the most challenging aspects of your job? How do you think the youth can overcome similar problems if they ever face them?
When I started my job as a translator with the HRF. I volunteered as a translator for an event organized by them. During that event was the first time in my life where I had interacted with a North Korean. It was challenging for me as they were identical with me in the way they look, spoke etc but who grew up in a completely different environment. It’s a common misconception that when we face people that are similar to us, we automatically assume that they will have gone through similar things with us and done similar things; in the case of the North Koreans, that is obviously not true. Another challenge is my personal identity as a third culture kid based on my background and my frequent travels.
If you could leave the youth with one piece of advice, what would it be?
Jiye thinks that as the youth, we should always try and ask questions where we can. From personal experience, Jiye got her job because she was always interested in human rights, but didn’t think she could make a feasible career off it. So as she was working as an interpreter and translator, Jiye reached out to the Human Right Foundation and asked if she could attend one of their conferences and get a student discount. That was the first point of contact she made, which eventually led to her job at the organisation. Evidently showing that we should always try, not be afraid, and go for it.