Joseph Kim


A North Korean refugee will be the keynote speak at Ammon Mayor Sean Coletti’s community service awards reception this year.

Joseph Kim, who wrote the memoir “Under the Same Sky,” will speak at the ceremony, which be held at 6 p.m. July 24 in the Thunder Ridge High School Performing Arts Center, 4941 1st St. Citizens Community Bank is sponsoring the event; the public is invited and light refreshments will be served.

Kim, who is an assistant on the Human Freedom Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute in Dallas, was born in North Korea. When he was a child, his homeland was wracked by a famine that killed hundreds of thousands or perhaps even 2 to 3 million people. (Estimates vary widely.) When Kim was 12, his father died of starvation. His sister and mother left for China to find food, and his sister was sold to a Chinese man. Kim was orphaned and homeless, survived for three years by begging and escaped to China in 2006 at age 15. There, he connected with the nonprofit Liberty in North Korea, and a year later he left China for the U.S. and claimed refugee status under the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004. He is now a U.S. citizen and lives in the New York City area.

This is the second year Coletti has given out community service awards. Ann Rydalch will receive the Citizen of the Year award. She is being recognized “for her lifetime of service to and love for the Ammon community in many different capacities, and for her service to Bonneville County and the state of Idaho,” according to a news release.

Jordan Stone, who helped many young men get their Eagle Scout award, will receive a Mayor’s Community Service Award. So will Hillcrest High School teacher Shauna Crabtree and basketball coach Dave Austin.

Leisle Rose will get a community service award “for her determined efforts in the local community in the fight against cancer.” Tom Hunsaker will get an award for his work on Ammon Planning and Zoning and for representing Ammon on the county Planning and Zoning Board. Scott and Tia Southwick will be honored “for their tireless dedication to the youth of our community through their martial arts studio and other endeavors.”

Reporter Nathan Brown can be reached at 208-542-6757. Follow him on Twitter: @NateBrownNews.