Hyeonseo Lee Seoul, South Korea

  • North Korean defector and refugee
  • Author, "The Girl With Seven Names" (2015)
  • Advocate for North Korean refugees and human rights


TED: My escape from North Korea (2013)
TED: My escape from North Korea (2013)
A North Korean Rescue Story - Oslo Freedom Forum (2014)
A North Korean Rescue Story - Oslo Freedom Forum (2014)
Stanford Graduate School of Business: My Escape from North Korea and Life Beyond (2015)
Stanford Graduate School of Business: My Escape from North Korea and Life Beyond (2015)


Hyeonseo Lee is a North Korean defector living in Seoul, South Korea. She has recently completed writing her memoir, “The Girl with Seven Names – A North Korean Defector’s Story,” which was published in July 2015 in more than 20 countries. Over 5 million people have viewed her TED Talk about her life in North Korea, her escape to China and struggle to bring her family to freedom.

Hyeonseo has given testimony about North Korean human rights in front of a special panel of the UN Security Council, and has discussed the issues with important world leaders such as UN Ambassador Samantha Powers. In 2015 Samantha Powers quoted to Glamour Magazine, “Hyeonseo Lee brought the human consequences of global inaction on North Korea to the world’s doorstep….Against all odds she escaped, survived, and had the courage to speak out.”

She recently completed her undergraduate studies in English and Chinese at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, and has been a Young Leader at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Hyeonseo spends much of her time speaking about North Korean human rights and North Korean refugee issues, including speeches at the Stanford University Global Speaker Series, Princeton University, New York University School of Law and at various venues throughout Europe. She has met public officials such as the former UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and the former South Korean Minister of Unification, Yu Woo-ik, to discuss these issues.

Hyeonseo has written articles for The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, the London School of Economics Big Ideas blog, and has worked as a student journalist for the South Korean Ministry of Unification. She has also been interviewed by the BBC, CNN, CBS, FOX, MSNBC, Glamour magazine and countless other television, newspaper and radio outlets throughout the world. She is currently writing her second book with other female North Koreans living in South Korea, and is planning to start an organisation to help promising North Korean refugees interact with the international community.

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