Reaching out: School created to give hand to ethnic Koreans

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Reaching out: School created to give hand to ethnic Koreans

"When Han Deuk-soo needed help," Michael Nettrour said, "I didn't question why I should help him. I just did."

Mr. Nettrour is organizing a fundraiser for Saturday that will help out a new school that Mr. Han has opened in China near the North Korean border to help ethnic Koreans there.

Mr. Han opened the Tumen River Vocational School in May; his vision is to teach the students trades that they will be able to use in North Korea. The new school is a Christian school, but will focus on temporal subjects such as food science, agriculture, business and computers.

Tim Peters, a friend of Mr. Han's who organizes relief efforts for North Korean refugees, said, "We hope to transform the North Korean economy," So far, almost 100 students have enrolled.

The fundraiser in Seoul, to be held at the DL Gallery near the Samgakji subway station, will go from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Organizers are recommending that guests donate 25,000 won ($20) to the school.

The proceeds will go toward the installation of a computer server and a second computer room at the school. Mr. Nettrour, a computer specialist, has plenty of experience in donating his skills to not-for-profit computer projects.

Thomas Dembeck, one of the two partners who run DL Gallery, said, "Ideally, they need 40 computers."

The night's events will include raffle prizes and silent auctions of artworks, and music by Dwight Raymond and his sons, who play easy listening songs.

The efforts of the expatriates are part of a community initiative to help Korean charities.

Mr. Nettrour has lived in Asia for 20 years, and volunteered at orphanages when he was in Korea in the 1970s with the U.S. military.

Mr. Dembeck opened the not-for-profit DL Gallery -- named after him and his partner Lee Young-suk -- a year ago to raise money for charities. It's a small space with a wine bar, and is home to the Seoul International Visual Artists Society.

The exhibition on view Saturday was designed to commemorate the gallery's first year in operation. The gallery changes its exhibitions once a month, and has shown works of more than 50 international artists.

Mr. Nettrour and Mr. Han met through a couple of organizations dedicated to helping North Korean refugees, the Ton a Month Club and Helping Hands Korea. DL Gallery also donates to Helping Hands Korea.

Asked why he chose to help, Mr. Nettrour is succinct: "It's what I do."

For more information, call Michael Nettrour at 019-349-4175.

by Joe Yong-hee

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