Hyeonseo Lee, a North Korean defector, was recently reunited with the man who helped her through what she calls "one of the lowest points in [her] life."
Dick Stolp, an Australian backpacker, met Lee in 2009 and helped her family escape from North Korea. They hadn't seen each other since, but yesterday Australian broadcasting service SBS arranged for their reunion through its Insight: North Korea program.
Lee shared the story of how she met Stolp in a February TED talk.
Lee was 17 years old when she escaped North Korea and went to live with distant relatives in China. She spent more than a decade living abroad without her family before the North Korean government discovered some money that she had sent home, and her family was arrested and jailed.
In 2009, she went back at the border between China and North Korea to help her family escape. A tricky journey began through China and Laos to South Korea, but before they could reach the South Korean embassy, her family was detained in Laos' capital city.
Lee had spent all her money getting her family so far and could not afford their bail. "At that moment I heard one man's voice ask me, 'What's wrong?'" she said in the talk.
Stolp had been backpacking through Laos when he met Lee. With the help of a dictionary, she explained her situation to Stolp in broken English, and he immediately withdrew $1,000 to help free her family and two other North Koreans from the detention center.
According to SBS, Lee has always wanted to find Stolp and thank him for his incredible kindness, and this week, one of Insight's associate producers arranged for the pair to meet at SBS's Sydney studio.
Although Stolp knew of the meeting, Lee did not, and she was in for an emotional surprise.
“The kindness of strangers and the support of the international community are truly the rays of hope we North Korean people need,” Lee said at the end of her TED talk.