2017-08-23 Planning for the speech contest

Most of TNKR’s leadership team got together last night to discuss the agenda for Saturday’s speech contest. We checked out the room, confirmed some final details, and Eunkoo had a great idea about inviting a refugee to give a testimonial.

Four Hour Class!

Refugees entering TNKR go through an entrance interview with the co-founders. The newcomers often ask us if the tutors will accept them as students and if the tutors will get bored with teaching lower-level speakers and even some at the ABC level.

I tell them, based on feedback from refugees in TNKR now, that the tutors are really patient, even gentle. As long as the students are trying, then the tutors seem to go beyond our basic expectations. The times that I’ve seen tutors bothered is when students cancel classes at the last minute or are repeatedly late. So I tell the students: Be on time, try hard, then your tutors will love you and be patient.

Yesterday was an extreme case. One of our new tutors had a four hour session with a North Korean refugee who is new to English. This wasn’t chit-chat at a coffee shop with a refugee who can discuss a number of issues in English. This was repetition, correction, review. Then repeat process. As a reminder, this is volunteering.

They were both focused. As you can imagine, the refugee was really pleased. The only time they seemed to get bothered was when I came in to take photos.

2017-08-24 Individual Education Plans–We Learned and Laughed

Note: The text got lost during maintenance of the site. I will be writing it again a bit later.

2017-08-23 TNKR Outreach Coordinator Eben Appleton with Ki Ho Kim

This weekend my husband Charlie Appleton and I had the pleasure again of having a lengthy conversation with Ki Ho Kim, a classmate of Charlie’s many years ago at Peabody Demonstration School in Nashville.

Ki Ho is a North Korean Refugee who fled to South Korea during the Korean War. He was brought to America by an Army colonel. He graduated from Vanderbilt University in Engineering, having overcome many obstacles along the way.

By his own admission, Ki Ho has not kept in touch with many of his old classmates. As a minority Asian immigrant living in the South, he speaks of the predicament the African-American and American-Indian cultures find themselves in when facing their cultural differences here.

In a book he wrote many years ago, Ki Ho tells his story from a different perspective from that of many of the NK refugees today. He speaks of his only treasure at the time being his English-speaking dictionary. It was all he had to help him communicate in his new environment.

As is my usual conversation, I began to hold forth to him about the educational opportunities offered to NK refugees by TNKR (Teach North Korean Refugees) when teaching them English. Co-founders Casey Lartigue Jr. and Eunkoo Lee, have made TNKR their life’s work since 2013.

There is also Hyun S. Song, Director of No Chain in North America, and Jihyun Park, a famous Human Right’s activist in the UK. Their role in Human RIghts is not easy, I have heard. They all hope for a new day for the NK citizens.

Ki Ho listened in amazement to my story with an enthusiasm that I have never experienced in our many years of friendship. He spoke of the NK refugee’s bravery and courage.

In recent years, Ki Ho has returned to NK to search for his relatives at a time such entry was allowed by the Kim regime. At his age, I doubt that his relatives were alive and well.

There are many volunteers of the famous all-volunteer NGO, TNKR. The following cannot begin to include them all. A few are mentioned below:

Youngmin Kwon, Academic Advisor (and Project Manager) for the BringMyFatherHome campaign atTNKR, who formerly studied at Georgetown Univ. Law School and has also worked with Amnesty International; Hwang Cheol who works tirelessly to bring his father home from NK; Ken Eom, a NK refugee who was a soldier in the Kim regime; Peter Daley, a professor at a SK Women’s Univ. and a man with varied interests; and Steve Chai, a TNKR volunteer and Tutor. Dave Fry, Asst. Director and Tony Docan-Morgan who has not been with TNKR as long as the others, but is doing amazing work; Junha Kwon, a summer Intern, Tutor, and Translator; Karin Hanna who recently returned to Germany.

Ki Ho Kim wishes to acknowledge all of these selfless individuals and thank them for their continued work to offer “Freedom of Choice” to all of those people who have never known freedom in the “Hermit Kingdom” of North Korea.

Tomorrow will be a new day for TNKR, as it moves on to more important opportunities for the NK refugees to tell their own stories at its 6th NK Refugee Speech Contest on August 26th. They will be telling their stories as Ki Ho Kim did in his book many years ago.



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2017-08-18 ABC Interview with Eunhee Park

ABC News based in another country stopped by TNKR to do some interviews. They started off by focusing on North Korea, but after they learned more about Eunhee and TNKR, they shifted their questioning away from Kim Jong-Un, and instead about Eunhee and the wonderful things happening at TNKR.

PART 1: Interview with Eunhee


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2017-08-17 Media, tutoring, coaching, visitors

Interview with an international reporter

Tutoring and Coaching


Mark Bendul: TNKR tutor, coach, donor, fundraiser and cheerleader!


Youngmin Kwon: TNKR tutor, donor, fundraiser, Office Manager, Project Manager (Bring My Father Home)

Individual Study Plan

When refugees first join TNKR, we have an interview with them. TNKR National Director Eunkoo Lee starts with an individual that includes a scaled-down orientation. TNKR International Director Casey Lartigue then interviews them with the Individual Study Plan developed by Columbia University professor Bae YoungSeh.

Check my recent Korea Times column for more about this.

TNKR Visitors

We haven’t figured out how to work together yet, but Saerom is really an impressive young lady. She uses her brain, analyzes situations, then gives concrete suggestions.

These singers from the USA stopped by TNKR to learn a bit about what we are doing.



2017-08-15 Cycling ceremony

TNKR was one of the beneficiary organizations of the “Korea’s Rivers Cross Country Cycling Road Tour.” The riders raised 1 million won to be split between two organizations.

I had the honor of handing out awards to riders and being treated like a VIP.

It was such a busy day, I regret that I had to leave early to get to another event. I felt like a politician showing up, shaking hands, taking photos, then rushing off to another event…


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2017-08-15 TNKR at IGS Debate Society

I had a great time being a Special Guest Adviser to the IGS English Debate Society. The youngsters were discussing North Korea, so I had a chance to hear what young South Koreans have to say about it and to also give my input.

It is called a Debate society, but it was more like a Discussion Society. People exchanged ideas. Even when they disagreed, it was respectful disagreement.

Thank to 이정연 for inviting the TNKR co-directors to join the discussion.

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2017-08-13 TNKR Matching 62, Track 2 special

Teach North Korean Refugees began in March 2013 by matching several North Korean refugees who had been teachers in North Korea with volunteer tutors to help them improve their English. Yesterday TNKR held its 62nd Language Matching session. More than 300 refugees have chosen more than 620 tutors and coaches to study with. Some of the refugees have gone on to win scholarships, fellowships, to get jobs, accepted into college, give speeches and media interviews around the world, and to write books.

TNKR began as a chance for refugees to study English, but in late 2014, we divided the program in half to help refugees who were looking to tell their stories. Yesterday we held a session with five NK refugees joining Track 2 for the first time. Three of them are already in Track 1, and now feel they are ready to start speaking out. We had 10 coaches (including two who are already in Track 1) join the session (two had to cancel because of health and family issues)

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2017-08-14 Ken interview with international media

TNKR special ambassador Ken Eom was interviewed by another international reporter for a TV interview. Yesterday he was part of a panel on Al Jazeera.