Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR) began in 2013 as a hobby for Casey Lartigue and Eunkoo Lee. In July 2016, TNKR became an official organization.

Yesterday TNKR held its 86th Language Matching session. Almost 400 North Korean refugees have now chosen and studied with about 850 volunteer tutors and coaches.

In our early days, when we were still considered a fly-by-night organization, volunteers and refugees would routinely cancel or not show up.

Yesterday, all 8 refugees and all 15 volunteers showed up.

In our early days, we relied on other organizations allowing us to use their office space. That meant we often couldn’t show up at the meeting location more than 2 hours in advance.

With our own office, refugees can show up early, and they have! The earliest arrival yesterday showed up at our office at 9:10 am, almost five hours before the session was scheduled to start.

Our all-time champion showed up at 1:10 am, registering at 1:15 a.m. After that, we had to restrict refugees from showing up before 9 a.m. We have also had some refugees ask if could or threaten to sleep overnight at our office so they would be first in line to choose the tutors.

A bit about the refugees at the session yesterday.

Eight refugees all learned about TNKR from friends or students already studying in TNKR. We don’t advertise for students, we completely rely on word-of-mouth. They had wonderful things to say about TNKR and the tutors, including one saying, “You all are the best.”

One question we are often asked is when refugees escaped from North Korea and when they arrived in South Korea. We now ask refugees to mention this at the Matching sessions, then use that as an opportunity to remind tutors that we look forward, not back, and now that the refugees are in South Korea and have found us that we will focus on how to partner with them from now.

Escaped from North Korea

  • 1998 (1)
  • 2000 (1)
  • 2003 (1)
  • 2008 (1)
  • 2012 (3)
  • 2014 (1)

Arrived in South Korea

  • 2003 (1)
  • 2006 (1)
  • 2008 (1)
  • 2014 (4)
  • 2017 (1)

On average, the refugees chose 3.25 tutors

  • Two refugees chose five tutors.
  • Two refugees chose four tutors
  • Four refugees chose two tutors each.


The tutors have committed to tutor each refugee they were selected by a minimum of two times each for the next three months. The one downer is that 1 tutor was not selected.

Four of the 15 tutors have set up fundraisers.

Lee and Eli also made donations to TNKR, and several others have pledged to make donations or to set up fundraisers.

We also highlighted TNKR Representative Eben Appleton for her endless support and cheerleading for TNKR.

We also highlighted TNKR fan Mike Ashley for selling his comic books to donate the loot to TNKR.

And we let the volunteers and refugees know they inspired our Angel Fundraiser.

TNKR Academic Coordinator Janice Kim led the session and she is the one who managed the application process with tutors. TNKR co-founder Eunkoo Lee managed the entire process with refugees.

Youngmin Kwon, TNKR Project Manager of the Bring My Father Home Campaign, was in control of data input during the session and TNKR Development Manager Oliver Brown was the jack-of-all-trades helping out as needed.

TNKR co-founder Eunkoo Lee

We can now take a bit of a break with Track English tutoring, as we take a break in February to focus on the 9th English speech contest to be held on February 23.

Support TNKR: PayPal, Matching Donation Challenge,

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