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Hansarang Rural Cultural Foundation honors TNKR co-founder with award

List of 11th Hansarang Rural Cultural Foundation Award Recipients (6 people)

  1. Category: Special Award – Social Contribution
  • Name: Casey Lartigue
  • Home Region: Seoul
  • Position: International Director, Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR) Global Education Center

Contributed to the social integration of North Korean refugees by providing free English learning opportunities

Casey Lartigue, an American, is the co-founder along with South Korean Eunkoo Lee of the Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR) Global Education Center, a non-profit that provides free one-on-one English learning opportunities to North Korean refugees and helps them discover their English voice. Lartigue serves as the organization’s International Director.

In the United States, Lartigue worked in various education-related positions as a policy analyst. It was while volunteering to help orphans and low-income children in Seoul that Lartigue became committed to helping North Korean refugees. Realizing that English is one of the primary barriers faced by North Koreans, Lartigue began focusing on helping them with their English language needs.

TNKR has created a system where volunteer English tutors help resettled North Korean refugees by teaching them English. More than 550 volunteers have assisted 266 North Korean refugees through one-on-one tutoring. The volunteer tutors act not only as English teachers but also as mentors for the refugees, by helping them find their own voices and becoming positive role models for other refugees.

For Lartigue, volunteerism is not simply a duty but a way to live his deeply-held principles. He hopes for a positive cycle whereby his North Korean refugee students, after successfully adapting to the South Korean society, will go on to live life as they choose, and that they will make the most out of their new found freedom..

  1. Category: Special Award – North Korean Refugee
  • Name: Kim Myeong-sup
  • Home Region: Yesan, South Chooncheong Province
  • Position: President, Cheonji Farm

North Korean refugee who overcome countless challenges to become a successful farmer

In 2007, Kim Myeong-sup escaped from his difficult life in North Korea to China. With the help of an acquaintance, Kim then moved to Thailand and ultimately reached South Korea. Having few job skills, Kim initially worked various odd day jobs until he decided to use the knowledge he had learned to begin his own cattle farm.

Kim Myeong-sup began with 15 cattles that he purchased on credit. Despite having encountered moments where he wanted to give up due to financial difficulties, Kim persevered by thinking it was either success or death. Kim’s business expanded, with 70 Korean and foreign cattles strong.

Kim Myeong-sup is someone who refused to give up in the face of countless challenges, choosing instead to face them head-on with dedication and due diligence. To expand even further, Kim acquired more farmlands and joined the cattle farmers’ union. Through the help of his fellow farmers whose respect he had earned, Kim’s business continued to rise over the past 8 years to reach its present successful state.

Dreaming of and preparing for a reunified Korea, Kim actively trains his fellow North Koreans the skills he has learned. His dream is to prepare for reunified Korean rural community by sharing his agricultural skills with his fellow North Koreans following the reunification.


  1. Category: Special Award – North Korean Refugee
  • Name: Park Eun-sook
  • Home Region: Gwangyang, South Jolla Province
  • President, Dawon Agricultural Association

North Korean refugee who successfully adapted by introducing Yongchae, a special agricultural product from North Korea

Park Eun-sook escaped from North Korea and moved to China to survive. After spending years evading the Chinese police, Park moved to South Korea. From the day she arrived in South Korea, Park endeavored to maintain a good interpersonal relationship with everyone, living actively and positively.

While thinking of ways to earn a living, Park Eun-sook thought of Yongchae kimchi, a special product from North Korea. Despite repeated failures, Park refused to give up researching ways to produce Youngchae in South Korea. Ultimately successful, she began selling Youngchae both directly and indirectly on the internet and started earning stable sales.

Although she has experienced difficulties relating to mass production and distribution, Park has capitalized on the scarcity of Youngchae to ensure stable sales. Her annual revenues have reached 50 million won. She plans to further expand by producing processed goods.

Park Eun-Sook firmly believes that the reason many North Korean refugees fail lies in inadequate efforts and pursuing unrealistic goals. Her weapon being her dedicated efforts, Park aspires to become the agricultural expert who trains her fellow North Korean refugees how to survive by earn a stable living in the rural sector.

  1. Category: Agriculture – Food Supply
  • Name: Kang Bo-ram
  • Home Region: Gimje, North Jolla Province
  • Position: President, Kang Bo-ram Sweet Potatoes

Young farmer producing high-quality sweet potatoes and expanding incomes in the farm sector through the “Kang Bo-ram Sweet Potato” brand

Kang Bo-ram majored in agricultural studies upon the advice of her parents who returned to the country-side. She is young female farmer who has acquired crucial theories and knowledge about various agricultural technologies with the goal of leading the next generation of farmers in South Korea.

Kang purposefully abandoned her parent’s methods of producing sweet potatoes in favor of new methods based on the newest theories and created high-quality products. Taking advantage of the internet and social media marketing, Kang successfully reduced retail margins and earned significant profits for her products.

Named the Agricultural Inheritor in 2014 and currently focusing her efforts on the development of South Korea’s farming industries, Kang has launched a new brand of sweet potatoes named after her (“Kang Bo-ram Sweet Potatoes”) and is contributing to the stable income streams in the agricultural sector.

Aspiring to become a rural entrepreneur armed with professionalism, Kang Bo-ram aims to create a neighborhood enterprise that provides jobs to the elderly in the countryside. She is a future leader with boundless potentials who does not shy away from taking on seemingly unbeatable challenges.

  1. Category: Agriculture – Horticulture / Livestock Breeding
  • Name: Kim Min-soo
  • Home Region: Hongcheon, Gangwon Province
  • Position: President, Cheongryang Mushroom Farm

Contributed to the Neutari mushroom business by developing new production methods, packaging, and improving designs

Kim Min-soo entered the mushroom business to help his parents’ farm that was undergoing financial challenges. He was trained in growing Neutari mushrooms and mastered smart farm techniques. Today, he has become the foremost expert in the field.

Never one to shy away from challenges, Kim perfected the techniques of growing Neutari mushrooms and gladly shared the techniques with neighboring farms, contributing to the overall group of the farming industry. Kim also introduced unique packaging methods and designs, and he developed a way to reuse 100% of previously abandoned farmlands. The sharing of this technique with neighboring farms has significantly reduced productions costs, thereby contributing to the overall growth in the Neutari mushroom business.

In his capacity as a board member of the Neutari Mushoom Association (which he himself founded), Kim spearheaded the joint purchase of subsidiary materials, an action that has significantly contributed to the reduction of production costs. Kim was decorated by South Korea’s Rural Development Administration in 2011 for his role.

  1. Category: Rural Sector Management & Volunteering
  • Name: Choi Young-joon
  • Home Region: Gangjin, South Jolla Province
  • Position: Agricultural Researcher, Gangjin Agricultural Technology Center

Contributed to creating high-income farming community by developing special products

Since earning his PhD (Horticulture) in 2006, Choi Young-joon has worked in the field of agricultural goods management. He introduced Goseol-style hydroponics to grow strawberries in Gangjin, which had no signature products of its own. His action expanded the number of farms from 5 to 30, earning an annual sale of 2 billion won. He also developed and successfully commercialized the “Heart Strawberries,” which has since become the signature product for Gangjin.

He has researched and developed products such as asparagus, yeoju, mini chestnuts, and heuk tomatoes, none of which were previously found in Gangjin. He successfully commercialized them, earning an annual sale of 5 billion won. He also conducted research on hudrangea, developing and introducing the Huimori brand to the farms and expanding its export. 140,000 out of the 400,000 produced were exported, which earned Park the grand award in the world agricultural technology award’s export category.

Engaging in research that goes beyond working simply as a public servant to actually expanding the income pool of the rural sector is very much in line with Park’s aspiration to create a rich rural sector.

(Translated by Youngmin Kwon)

4 replies
  1. Eben Appleton says:

    You certainly do deserve accolades for all that you have accomplished thru TNKR, but your many accomplishments in the past as well. So proud to be your friend on FB.

  2. Tony Docan-Morgan says:

    Congratulations, Casey! This is such wonderful and deserving news! I hope to celebrate with you all. 🙂


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