Both speakers, George Takei and Hyeonseo Lee, speak about the social cruelties that they have experienced as an Asian. Lee has been out of North Korea for twenty years, but she had to escape North Korea in order to get both herself and her family out. In contrast, Takei is an American citizen who was ostracized in his own country after the Pearl Harbor bombing. Everyone became suspicious of Japanese people, no matter if they were immigrants, or natural born citizens. Takei speaks of how the term “citizen” was even removed from the Japanese American population, calling them “non-alien” instead.
Both of these speakers have a love/hate relationship with their country: Lee questions whether she is North Korean or South Korean, and she is forced to pretend that she is Chinese, and Takei is American of Japanese descent, being born in California, just as his parents were born in California and married in California. Both of these speakers have experienced things that the average American public cannot believe has happened in such a recent history. Takei speaks of being rounded up after Roosevelt signed a bill to wrap up all the Japanese on the West Coast and put them in concentration camps in the 1940’s. Takei has memories as a child of his imprisonment. One of these memories is how he would have to cross the yard at night, and the guards would put a spotlight on him. He did not recognize this for the invasion of his freedom and privacy, but that he was happy that they were lighting the way for him to pee. However, as Takei grows older and wiser, he has difficulty reconciling these memories with the American ideal of All Men Are Equal. His father tells him that democracy is a good thing, and that it went horribly wrong when people go horribly wrong. Takei learned to not begrudge America for its mistake, but to love it for its promise. It seems that Lee is hopeful that North Koreans will become an outspoken voice in the years to come, as more will follow in her path to escape the darkness of the North Korean government.
For Lee, she had to nearly go back to North Korea to help her family travel through China to escape the brutality of the suffering in her country. As recently as in the mid-1990’s people were starving to death in North Korea, and Lee remembers seeing public executions, and seeing dead people in the river, or strikingly, a dead mother with the child looking on. For Takei, forgiveness and support of the American army in battle is evidence that he is not the only Japanese American who loves the freedom of democracy. For Lee, even after getting her family to safety, they were imprisoned. It was the kindness of a stranger to pay her family’s bribe that eventually freed them. As Lee says in the beginning of her speech, she never thought it would be fourteen years until her family would all be together again.
- Lee, Hyeonseo. “My Escape From North Korea”. TED Talks, 2013, www.ted.com/talks/hyeonseo_lee_my_escape_from_north_korea?language=en. Accessed 02 Nov. 2016.
- Takei. George. “Why I Love A Country That Once Betrayed Me”. TED Talks, 2014, www.ted.com/talks/george_takei_why_i_love_a_country_that_once_betrayed_me. Accessed 02 Nov. 2016.