UPI: “New programs help defectors from North Korea adjust, shed stigma” by Elizabeth Shim

“New programs help defectors from North Korea adjust, shed stigma” by Elizabeth Shim of UPI

New programs help defectors from North Korea adjust, shed stigma

There are nearly 30,000 North Korean defectors in South Korea. Opening up about their identities helps them overcome difficulties.
By Elizabeth Shim Contact the Author   |   June 21, 2016 at 6:08 AM

Ken Eom, a 35-year-old former soldier who left North Korea in 2010, says his life in the South improved when he opened up about being a defector. “People around me became a source of help,” he said. Eom is currently raising money for tuition required to attend a university in the South. Photo courtesy of Ken Eom

SEOUL, June 21 (UPI) — When Ken Eom was a soldier in the Korean People’s Army, he would be deployed to build apartments in Pyongyang. In the winter, he and his fellow soldiers would be required to attend full-scale training exercises, braving bitterly cold temperatures as they practiced military maneuvers.

“We received anti-U.S. education almost every day and were instructed to praise the father Kim Il Sung and son Kim Jong Il,” Eom told UPI in a recent phone interview about a process that he compared to brainwashing.


Eom, 35, who now lives in South Korea, left the North in 2010. He arrived in the South after seeking asylum at the South Korean Embassy in Thailand.

But his problems were far from over.

North Korea is deeply impoverished and relatively isolated and North Korean defectors like Eom are materially better off in the South.

But even when food worries no longer haunt defectors in the wealthier Korea, new issues emerge.

Some of the challenges defectors face can be attributed to the unfamiliar setting of the South, and a lack of South Korean familiarity with North Koreans. South Koreans still have a tendency to look down on defectors, and the society’s networks are difficult to penetrate for outsiders.

“Prejudice is most difficult to cope with. In South Korea news, there’s a stereotype of North Korea associated with violence or communist totalitarianism,” Eom said, describing how the media affects local perceptions of his birthplace.

Bouncing back after suffering in silence

Other problems persist because defectors new to the South lack knowledge of the basic workings of a capitalist society and struggle with English, which has been adapted to the South Korean vernacular.

These and other setbacks result in a loss of confidence among defectors who become resigned to feelings of inferiority and try to hide their identity, Eom said.

But the former North Korean soldier said he resolved common problems by stepping out of the fear zone and seeking help with everyday issues.

“When I began telling people I’m from North Korea and opening up, people around me became a source of help,” Eom said.

The kind of help defectors need is growing with increased public awareness of human rights issues, and as more North Korean refugees, now approaching 30,000, resettle in the South.

Casey Lartigue, an American in Seoul who co-founded Teach North Korean Refugees, matches North Korean defectors with volunteer English teachers in Seoul.

Since 2013, Lartigue said there hasn’t been a shortage of interest from defectors in his organization.

“We have a waiting list of about 65 refugees,” Lartigue said.

Some North Koreans who knew Lartigue from a previous volunteering project learned about TNKR through Facebook photos. They were immediately interested, he said, and the group has had more than 230 refugees participate in the program, taking lessons from about 420 volunteer teachers.

But it’s not just help with English that draws defectors struggling with their new environment. A separate program allows some participants to speak out about North Korea and overcome the stigma of their identity.

“We help refugees find their way and tell their story,” Lartigue said. So far less than 20 defectors have taken to the stage to speak in public, most famously Yeonmi Park, a 22-year-old defector who became globally known after speaking at the One Young World 2014 Summit in Dublin, Ireland, and at the Oslo Freedom Forum.

Dealing with being a ‘different’ Korean

It’s never easy, though, for North Koreans to speak out after living under an authoritarian regime.

“Some of them have never given a public speech. In North Korea they just repeat what the dictator wants them to say and in China they’re not looking for an opportunity to speak out,” Lartigue said.

That avoidance of the limelight continues in South Korea, where defectors don’t feel motivated to attract attention.

Eom said defectors encounter uncomfortable questions about their origins.

South Koreans ask, “Are they starving in North Korea? Do they have leisure activities, like [karaoke] up there?” Eom said.

Eom said that when he was invited to a Korean family’s home in Canada, where he briefly stayed to improve his English, the parent of the household introduced him to his children as a guest “from the North,” but added in jest, “See, his face isn’t red” and that they needn’t worry because there are “no horns on his head.”

It’s the constant reminders of being different that can chip away at the mental well-being of defectors, but Eom said that “too little confidence is not good,” and newly arrived North Koreans need to prioritize.

“Many defectors focus first on making money once they get here, and so they often go to factories to work,” Eom said. “But for defectors who are still relatively young, receiving valuable education or training should come first.”

Eom said his decision to go to Canada for six months to learn English helped him adjust to life in the South.

Overcoming old divisions

Eunkoo Lee, the South Korean co-founder of TNKR, said North Korean refugees are in a difficult situation because compared to the North the South offers “too many choices.”

Traveling from a society that offers little to no individual freedom to a place where too much freedom is around the corner can be overwhelming for defectors, Lee said.

Lack of South Korean familiarity with defectors can also result in employment discrimination in a job market where North Koreans are often compared to ethnic Koreans from China, who comprise a larger community of 750,000, according to a South Korean press estimate from 2015.

Discrimination surfaces when a defector speaks in a North Korean accent that can sound “strange” to an unprepared South Korean employer. Refugees subsequently hide their origins or find it hard to bring up the topic of their families, Lee said.

Discouraging stories of defector struggles, however, aren’t everything.

Lee said the defectors who take part in TNKR programs show commitment and take responsibility for their studies, the kind of success that “cannot be scored, but shows up in incremental results.” Some of the North Korean students are sometimes matched with South Korean tutors, who have had little to no exposure to defectors.

“The best way to resolve differences is for North and South Koreans to become friends, without prejudice,” Lee said. “I think defectors want to be seen, rather than as people from the North, as regular people, as friends, who live side by side with South Koreans.”

Ken Eom, standing on right, shared his story with U.S. Air Force servicemen at Osan Air Base, South Korea, in March. Casey Lartigue, left, says defectors struggle with speaking out or attracting attention. Photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Steffen/U.S. Air Force
Teach North Korean Refugees co-founder Casey Lartigue helps refugees who want to become teachers in South Korea. His co-founder Eunkoo Lee says defectors want to be seen as regular people by South Koreans. Photo courtesy of Casey Lartigue/Teach North Korean Refugees

Upcoming Teach North Korean Refugees activities

May 24, Open House (TNKR office at AOU): Teach North Korean Refugees cordially invites you to two Open House sessions for newcomers. from 10 am and 7 pm. Find out how you can get involved with helping North Korean refugees.
Date: May 24, 2016
Time: 10 am and 7 pm
Cost: Free
Venue: Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR) office in Insadong. #301 Namdo Building, 33 Insadong 7th Street, Jongro-gu, Seoul, Korea
DescriptionTeach North Korean Refugees cordially invites you to two Open House sessions for newcomers. from 10 am and 7 pm. Find out how you can get involved with helping North Korean refugees, as a tutor, coach, staffer or other ways.
May 26, TNKR forum (German School): “My escape from North Korea, and the way to freedom” forum is being held at the German School in Seoul. This event was organized by TNKR volunteer Karin Hanna. Check her for the video she posted with directions.
Date: May 26, 2016
Time: 7:30 pm
Cost: 20,000 won
Venue: German School Seoul
DescriptionThree ambassadors from (TNKR) Teach North Korean Refugees have been invited to give speeches on May 26 from 7:30 pm at the German School in the Yongsan area. They will be discussing their escapes from North Korea and their adjustment to life outside of North Korea.
Directions 123-6 Dokseodang-ro, Yongsan-gu

May 28: Yoga for TNKR (Hongdae): TNKR tutor and Yoga Project Manager Taylore Beatty will be hosting her third fundraiser for TNKR.Date: May 28, 2016

Time: 10:30-noon
Cost: 10,000 won donation
Venue: Yam Studio

Description: Come learn/practice a gentle and rejuvenating style of yoga while supporting the TNKR scholarship fund. There will be some yoga mats available to use at the studio if you do not have your own.
Info:  tayloreRbeatty@gmail.com
Directions: Yam Studio 마포구 연남동 567-47 지하 1층(B1) (홍대입구 exit 2) Mapo-gu Yeonnam-dong 567-47 Ji Ha first floor(B1) (Hongdae Ibgu exit 2)


May 29, KAFLA Walkathon (Jonggak Station line 1, exit 4): TNKR will be one of the recipient organizations of the proceeds, so please join us, get some exercise, meet some people. It is estimated that at least 1,000 people will participate! Register here. Thanks to TNKR volunteer Shauna Lee Sexsmith for making this happen!

Date: May 29, 2016

Time: 9 am-1 pm
Cost: 10,000 won
http://kafla.net/tab/register/walkathon_2016KAFLA Bank Account (Woori-Bank  1005-802-085346 :한국학원총연합회)
Host: The Korean Association of Foreign Language Academies (KAFLA) Social Contributions  (카플라 사회봉사단 주최)
Venue: Start : Jonggak Stn. Line1 Exit #4
Description: The Korean Association of Foreign Language Academies is hosting its sixth annual Charity Walkathon. Proceeds will be donating to building a school in Nepal and Teach North Korean Refugees in Seoul.
Directions: Jonggak Station line 1 exit 4. □ Route: Bosin-gak Plaza( A large bell pavilion on Jongno)->Cheonggycheon Stream-> Dong Dae Mun->Ihwa village-> Naksan Rampart(seoul City Wall)-> Nak San Park(6km)
□ Finish: Nak San Park

June 4 Prince Dance Party (Yongsan): Join us for an evening of dancing to the music of the late musician Prince. The Hidden Cellar in Yongsan is allowing us to have the party there, as a fundraiser for TNKR.

Date: June 4, 2016

Time: 7:00-11:30 pm
Cost: 10,000 won donation
Venue: The Hidden Cellar
Description: Prince has passed away, but his music lives on! Teach North Korean Refugees is holding its second Prince Dance Party, as a fundraiser. Come dance to Prince hit songs along with many of his unreleased songs.
Address: 5-84 yongsan dong 2 ga, yongsan gu Seoul

June 11, Orientation for Speech Contest Coaches (TNKR office): We will be holding an orientation for volunteers who would like to help with the speech contest, as coaches, organizers, assistants.

Date: June 11, 2016
Time: 2 pm
Cost: Free
Venue: Freedom Factory office, National Assembly subway exits 2 or 3, Seoul, Korea
Description: Join an orientation session to find out how you can get involved with preparing for the 4th TNKR English Speech Contest. Several North Korean refugees ambassadors in the TNKR program will be giving original speeches in English. You can join as a coach, organizer, assistant.
Directions to Saturday’s TNKR Orientation:
* National Assembly Station on subway line 9. 국회의사당역 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Assembly_Station
* From exit 3 or 2, make a U-turn.
* Then walk between the KB bank buildings.
* As you reach the street it will be the building slightly to the right, 성우빌딩 is the name of the building. Room 805
* 서울특별시 영등포구 국회대로66길 17, 805호(여의도동, 성우빌딩)
* Note: Please take the 일반 (regular) train and NOT the 급행 (express) train on Line 9. The Express train passes 국회의사당 station.
* It takes less than a minute from the subway to the office, so if you walk for five minutes, you should turn around, go back to the subway, and start again…
ff map
June 17, “Please help me bring my father from North Korea (Imjingak): More details coming
Date: June 17, 2016
Time: Meet at 9 am in Seoul, travel together to Imjingak)
Cost: Donations will be requested
Description: In 1969, Korea airline YS-11 was hijacked to North Korea. Fifty South Koreans on the airplane were abducted to North Korea. Eleven of them were never allowed to return. Hwang In-Cheol is the son of one of the people kept hostage in North Korea. He will be leading this event requesting that the North Korean government return his father.
Info: https://www.facebook.com/events/172603299801006/
Directions: Coming soon.


TNKR Open House sessions 2016-05-24

Teach North Korean Refugees Education Center at AOU cordially invites you to an Open House session to discuss specific ways you can get involved.

Tuesday May 24
Session 1, from 10 am
Session 2, from 7 pm


* May 26 German School speech
* May 28 Yoga fundraiser
* May 29 Walkathon
* June 4, Prince Party
* June 11, Speech contest orientation
* June 17, rally at Imjingak
* August 20, English speech contest

TNKR YouTube channel



2016-05-11 KAFLA Charity Walkathon 2016

TNKR Walkathon Flyer-page-0


KAFLA Charity Walkathon 2016


(Seoul City Wall Walking Festival)


EVERYONE is welcome!


To help support Teach North Korean Refugees(TNKR)


Our world is one.


This charity event will be riotously fun! Your participation will be aiding the contribution to support TNKR programs that seek to teach language and skills training programs to North Korean refugees.


Education is the only pathway to development and opportunity.


Please come out and support this event while having tons of fun! A special part of this event will be: K-National Taekwondo demonstration, K-POP show, B-Boy performance, and Ken Eom, TNKR Special Ambassador from North Korea.


Date: Sunday, May 29th, 2016 Time: 9:00am-1:00pm

Start: DDP(Dongdaemun Design Plaza)

Line 2, 4, 5 @ Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Stn. Exit #1

Finish: Nak San Park

Featuring: Scavenger Hunt, Photo Contest

Route: DDP>Dongdae Mun>Ihwa Village>Naksan Rampart>Haehwa Mun>Naksan Park(4km) Entertainment: B-Boys, Taekwondo, K-POP performance

Provided: Mokgulli(Korean Rice WIne)

Entrance Fee: 10,000 Won(all proceeds going to charity)

Registration: www.kafla.net

Contact: 02-792-6122

Sponsored by: KAFLA Social Contributions, 10 Asia

World Education Foundation Partners With Teach North Korean Refugees

2016-05-09, “World Education Foundation partners with Teach North Korean Refugees,” Newswire, NewsChannel 10, ABC 7, WV Always, Koam TV, Tristate update, in French,  in German,  Digital Journal.

Former NFL Safety Marques Anderson, Founder of World Education Foundation (WEF) has partnered with Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR) to develop education and internship opportunities to assist North Korean refugees.

World Education Foundation (WEF), an international nonprofit that bridges the gap between academic/expert knowledge, and implementation within global communities, and Teach North Korean Refugees(TNKR) have announced collaboration on an innovative platform for education and skills training opportunities for North Korean refugees.

The new joint program will include language learning, skills training, and internship opportunities through the WE Foundation, BrainGain and Teach North Korean Refugees. These programs provide refugees with an unparalleled opportunity for comprehensive language, and skills learning, idea sharing, project management, and collaboration on a global scale.

“Collaboration is the essence of change,” stressed Shauna Sexsmith, International Program Manager and Consultant of WE. “Partnering in areas of common interest and responsibility will increase each organization’s ability to achieve its mission, and will increase the positive impact of our joint efforts to help refugees.”

“Refugees in TNKR have been improving their skills, thanks to more than 400 volunteer tutors and staff,” said Casey Lartigue, executive director and co-founder of TNKR with co-director Lee Eunkoo. “Our partnership with WE will create practical opportunities for refugees to use their improved skills and motivate them to study even harder.”

TNKR to date has successfully put 220+ refugees through their language program staffed by volunteers. The WE Foundation has run two pilot skills training programs in Syrian refugee camps in Northern Iraq, following the partnership between NYU’s Department of Global Affairs and MIT Media Lab. These pilot programs resulted in the development of WE:SOLVE LABS, open source areas where locals can learn how to identify local problems and craft solutions.

“WE are delighted to partner with TNKR while playing an active role in these global initiatives, which are designed to make language and skills training opportunities for refugees a reality,” said Marques Anderson, Founder of WEF. “This program will not only provide opportunities for North Korean refugees but create significant economic growth in communities within South Korea.”

Stay connected with WEF and their innovative power of servant leadership to educate, and empower onlineFacebook | Twitter | Website

To volunteer with or support activities of Teach North Korean Refugees: Facebook | Twitter | Website

Media Contacts: Shauna Sexsmith, World Education Foundation

1.917.500.8188 | shauna.sexsmith@gmail.com (English)

Eunkoo Lee, Teach North Korean Refugees

+82-10-4908-6730 | eunkoo21@hanmail.net (Korean)

Source: World Education Foundation


즉시 배포 부탁드립니다:


World Education Foundation(WEF)의 설립자 마르큐 앤더슨 (Marques Anderson,  전 NFL미식축구선수)와 Teach North Korean Refugees(TNKR)이 탈북자를 위한 교육과 인턴쉽 기회의 형성 및 지원을 위해 손을 잡았다.

대한민국, 서울 특별시/ 노르웨이, 오슬로 (May 9, 2016) 국제적 비영리 제단 World Education Foundation (WEF) 학문적 지식과 전문적 지식의 차이를 좁혀주고 이를 국제 사회로 이행 가능케 하는 단체로써, 혁신적인 교육/ 기술 플랫폼을 제공하기 위하여 Teach North Korean Refugees(TNKR) 협약을 맺었다. 

TNKR과 WEF의 새로운 공동 프로그램은 언어, 기술 트레이닝, 인턴쉽 기회 제공 (WE Foundation, BrainGain, TNKR제단을 통하여) 등이 포함된다. 이러한 프로그램은 탈북자들에게  통합적 언어 교육, 기술 배움, 아이디어 공유, 프로젝트 경영, 협동 등을 글로벌 관점에서 제공되게 된다.

“협동은 변화의 본질이다.” 국제 프로그램매니져 겸  WE의 컨설턴트 Shauna Sexsmith가 강조한 어구이다. “공통된 관심사와 책임감의 교류는 각 조직의 업무능력 향상에 도움을주고, 또한 우리의 난민(탈북자포함)도움을 위한 공통된 노력에 긍정적인 효과도 늘어날것이다.”

“400명이 넘는 자원 봉사자들과 스태프들 덕분에 TNKR 소속 탈북자들은 그들의 능력을 향상시킬수 있었습니다.”라고  TNKR의 부대표인 이은구와 함께 대표인 Casey Lartigue가 말하였다.

TNKR은 지금까지 성공적으로 220명 이상의 탈북자들은 외국인 자원봉사자들이 활동하는 언어프로그램에 참여하였다.WE 협회는 뉴욕대 세계정세부서와 MIT 언론 실험팀과의 교류를 통하여 2가지 시범 기술 훈련프로그램을 북이라크의 시리아난민촌에서  진행하였다. 이 시범 프로그램들은 WE:SOLVE LABS을 탄생시켰고, 지역주민들이 직접 지역문제와 기술에 대한 해답을 찾을수있는 오픈소스의 장이 되었다.

“WE는 TNKR와의 교류를 통하여 이러한 글로벌 계획들의 실천, 즉 언어와 기술들을 익힐수 있는 프로그램의 계획을 통하여 난민들이 이를 실제로 익히게 하는 역할에 대하여 기쁘게생각합니다.” 라고 WEF 창립자인 Marques Anderson 이 말하였다. 그는 덧 붙여 말하기를 “이 프로그램은 탈북자만을 위한 기회제공뿐만 아니라 대한민국 지역사회의 경제발전에도 큰 도움이될것입니다.” 라고 하였다.

WEF와 함께 봉사를 통한 리더쉽으로 많은 이들에게 교육과 희망을 제공해요: Facebook | Twitter | Website

Teach North Korean Refugees를 후원 또는 봉사를 하고 싶다면: Facebook | Twitter | Website

미디어 연락처: Shauna Sexsmith, World Education Foundation

1.917.500.8188 | shauna.sexsmith@gmail.com (영어)

이은구, Teach North Korean Refugees

+82-10-4908-6730 | eunkoo21@hanmail.net (한국어)

* * *

Translated by TNKR volunteer Annie Nam

<제4회 TNKR English Speech Contest>

제4회 TNKR(Teach North Korean Refugees) English Speech Contest에 여러분을 초대합니다. 현재 TNKR은 일반영어(회사, 공부, 여행 등) 공부를 할 수 있도록 기회를 제공하는 Track 1(Finding My Own Way)과 본인의 이야기를 영어로 이야기할 수 있도록 도움을 주는 대중강의 Track 2(Telling My Own Story) 를 진행하고 있습니다.

TNKR Englsih Speech Contest는 현재까지 3번 개최되었습니다. 그리고 2016년 8월 다시 한번 English speech Contest로 여러분을 만나고자 합니다. TNKR 프로그램을 통해 향상된 여러분의 영어실력을 발휘 할뿐 아니라, 영어에 대한 자신감을 얻는 기회가 되기를 바랍니다.

또한 콘테스트에 최종 참여하게 되는 학생들은 TNKR 에서 만난 코치선생님들과 함께 준비하게 될 것입니다.

이번 TNKR English Speech Contest 는 법무법인 세종과 공동주최로 개최됩니다.

관심 있는 많은 분들의 참여 기대합니다.

  • 참여대상자(Participators):

현재 한국에 거주하고 있고, TNKR 프로그램에 한번이라도 참여하였던 북한 분들 누구나

  • 일정(Schedule)
  • Step1

① 영어스피치 비디오 제출(5분) (1-2분 자기소개 포함)

『영어 스피치 주제: “I escaped from North Korea, what`s next? ”

**  주제설명: 현재 여러분은 “자유가 닫힌사회”에서 “자유를 누릴 수 있는 사회” 에 살고 있습니다. 자유가 주어진 사회에서 살고 있는 여러분의 다음계획은 무엇인지에 대한 질문입니다. – 단기계획, 중기계획, 장기계획 – 어떤 기간의 계획도 상관없습니다. **

비디오 제출마감일:  2016년 6월 4일(토요일) 오후 6시까지

③ 제출방법: eunkoo21@hanmail.netcjl@post.harvard.edu 이메일 제출

* 확실한 제출을 위해 위 두 개 메일에 모두제출 요망

  • Step 2

① 7명의 최종결선자 발표

1차 비디오 통과자 발표: 2016년 6월 8일(수), 개별연락

  • Step 3

English Speech Contest: 직접 영어로 말하기 (10분)

일시: 2016년 8월 20일(토) 14:00- 16:00

–장소: 법무세종(Shin& Kim) 강당


* TNKR English Speech Contest 관객들 앞에서 진행됩니다.


★ 1등(1명): 100만원 상금

★ 2등(1명): 50만원 상금

★ 3등(1명): 20만원 상금

★ 장려상(4명): 10만원 상금

•문의 (Contact)

– 궁금하신 분들은 Casey Lartigue (영어)/ Eunkoo Lee (한국어)

cjl@post.harvard.edu/ eunkoo21@hanmail.net

  • 심사기준(추후 1차 통과자들에게  한국어 심사기준표 공지 예정)
  • 심사항목 Memory

    :Notation and


    (20 points)

    Invention and


    : Idea and


    (20 points)




    (20 points)


    :Verbal Speech

    (20 points)

    Delivery Ⅱ

    :Body language

    (20 points)

    최고점수 기준 – Speaker displays a deep knowledge of the content, a strong memory, uses no apparent notes, and communicates directly, effectively and intuitively with the audience · – Clever, attention-grabbing introduction

    – Ideas demonstrate creativity,


    persuasiveness and/or wisdom

    · · Vocabulary, grammar and expression-use perfectly suit the topic and speech situation

    No apparent

    vocabulary or



    – Speech is readily understood by both native and non-native English speakers

    · – Intonation

    and pronunciation

    are native level

    and match well with the

    content of the


    – Non-native

    accent is not detectable in the speech

    · The speaker is making

    appropriate eye contact with the entire audience, which greatly enhances the judge/audiences understanding of the speech

    · Gestures, posture and movement are natural and fit perfectly with the content of the speech

    Audience focuses solely on the speaker and the speech

On the Ground article (French translation: Alexia Andrieux)

Casey Lartigue remplis la salle avec sa voix et sa sincérité au moment où nous nous asseyons pour notre interview. C’est rassurant d’entendre son anglais envahir la pièce après s’être frayé un chemin à travers le coréen depuis notre arrivé à Séoul, Corée du Sud –Actuelle maison de Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR), née de l’imagination de Lartigue.

Casey Lartigue

Casey Lartigue

Continue reading On the Ground article (French translation: Alexia Andrieux)