Hwang In-Cheol was the featured speaker at a National Assembly panel discussion on February 14 about the 1969 hijacking of a South Korean airplane to North Korea.

On February 14, 1970, North Korea returned 39 people, but kept 11, including Hwang-won, the father of Hwang In-Cheol.

On Thursday, 49 years later, several South Korean Congressmen issued strong statements in support of Hwang In-Cheol and demanded that the South Korean president do more to help with resolving this case.

I was one of the other speakers at the panel discussion. Behind-the-scenes, Youngmin Kwon was the coordinator dealing with multiple issues and also translated on Thursday.

Here’s the news coverage so far.

News articles

Photos posted on blogs and by news outlets

Photos taken by Team Hwang members.

Support Mr. Hwang’s campaign: https://give.lovetnkr.com/en/KAL1969

Amnesty International petition:



Earlier today TNKR held its first International Volunteer Leadership Academy General Meeting. This special TNKR project will give volunteers the opportunity to develop their skills while they help build TNKR internal capacity in terms of structure, know-how and finances.

The Academy’s first project is to work together on TNKR’s 9th English Speech Contest, to be held February 23, 2019. We have an even bigger challenge than in the past, because we have a larger room. Our host for the event, the Shin and Kim Law Office, moved to a different building.

Read more

We would like to thank sponsor BSRabbit for donating a lot of winter and sportswear to TNKR’s 9th English speech contest, to be held on February 23 from 2 pm.

The owner of BSRabbit is Song Eun Sun. Her clothing line seems to be fusion between snowboarding and hip-hop street fashion.

Sone Eun Sun (center), founder of BSRabbit, with TNKR co-founders Casey Lartigue and Eunkoo Lee.

Special thanks to Edward Kyungjun Mun for making the connection!

We asked for just a few items when we met her on Tuesday to be given as raffle prizes.

Today we received two huge boxes of donations from her, items that are sold anywhere from 15,000 to 180,000 won!

Check here for to have an idea about their clothing options.


Here’s an article about her company.

BSRABBIT (bsrabbit.co.kr), a street style brand, is accelerating its customer reach to a global scale in response to requests of fans outside Korea. The brand’s one-of-a-kind designs are now available to English-speaking customers through its English website.
BSRABBIT’s collection carries a range of street style items and snowboard clothing. All 50 pieces of the collection are designed and made in Korea. This aligns with BSRABBIT’s brand identity that emphasizes Korean style and production in Korea.
In 2010, BSRABBIT emerged as a rising star in the e-shopping industry. Self-taught designer and BSRABBIT founder, CEO Song Eun-Sun, jumped into the street fashion world with just two clothing styles that she made herself.
CEO Song said, “At the time, all I had was my dream to show the world my own designs and about 4,400 USD(5 million KRW) for opening an online specialty mall.” She explained, “Starting from a young age, I studied fashion illustrations and scoured the sewing and printing production lines at clothing factories,” and added, “I have come a long way since then – BSRABBIT is now working with a factory seasoned in the trade.”
CEO Song initially targeted customers in their 20s. But today, demand is also rising among a wider age group spanning from customers in their teens to 30s. Such acceptance has allowed the brand’s sales to leap two-fold every year.

SONG EUN SUN | 송은선서울시 강남구 강남대로 128길 70, 1층
1F, 70, Gangnam-daero 128-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, Republic of Korea

Tel : 070-8271-4697


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,

TNKR is getting ready today for Matching session #86. We began this little hobby back in 2013, became an official organization in 2016. We have 8 refugees signed up to choose among more than a dozen tutors.

The session starts at 2 pm.

The first student arrived at 9:10 am.

Yes, almost five hours in advance. That’s because students get to choose tutors based on the time the students arrive at our office to register the day of the Matching session. They have had an initial interview, orientation, and now it is Matching day!

The first student was thrilled when she learned that she was first!

Before we had our own office and were relying on others for meeting space, we typically could not show up more than 2 hours in advance. But after we got our own office, refugees could show up at any time. And they began to do so. One refugee called at midnight, asking if she could register early. So I met her at the TNKR office at 1:10 am, she signed in at 1:15 am. We have had some other students ask/threaten to stay at our office overnight so they can choose first.

We began telling refugees not to show up before 9 am!

We still call it “Matching,” which is a relic of the way we held our first session, with TNKR staff matching the refugees. Ever since then, it has been based on refugees choosing. The “match” these days refers to good matches–availability (day, time, place), refugees reasons for wanting to learn English to be matched with the preferred teaching interests of tutors.

Many many moons ago, when I was in graduate school at Harvard, I used to confidently tell my peers that programs need to be designed so that beneficiaries and participants have power to choose, that feedback mechanisms need to be set up on people’s actions, not their words! That’s true with TNKR, because refugees get to choose their tutors and they have the power to unchoose tutors if the matches aren’t good or tutors are more concerned with being buddies, hanging out, or doing research on them.

We occasionally have larger organizations asking us to send refugees to them, to justify their big budgets and projects that refugees apparently don’t really want. I constantly have people recommending to me workshops and ideas that refugees don’t ask for. When we mention those ideas to refugees, we see that most aren’t really interested. So I suggest to people that they set up their own organizations, and see if refugees will show up hours in advance!

I should return for an alumni reunion so I can tell my former Harvard classmates: “Told ya so!”


PayPal is a great way to support TNKR.

TNKR is getting ready today for Matching session #86. We have 8 refugees signed up to choose among more than a dozen tutors.The session starts at 2 pm, the first student arrived at 9:10 am

Students from the TNKR Student Club at the Asia Pacific International School recently visited the TNKR office. They will be holding activities raising awareness, fundraising, and also volunteering in a special TNKR project.

To get things done, there often needs to be at least one person to make something happen. Even when there is a good idea, if there isn’t at least one person committed to making things happen, then the idea may die a quiet death. That’s one reason when I’m in meetings that I don’t allow people to say that an unnamed “someone” needs to get something done. I’ve learned that “somebody” becomes “nobody” when it is time to get work done.

That somebody at APIS is Clara Park, the founding president of the TNKR Club at APIS. I have been speaking at APIS and other international schools since 2013, but she is the first student to take up my challenge to get more deeply involved with TNKR.

On Tuesday I received a phone call from a North Korean refugee I don’t know. She doesn’t speak any English and was excited, exasperated, frustrated and excited all at the same time explaining to me in Korean that she wants to study English in TNKR.

Yes, that was on my personal cell phone.

Eunkoo received two calls directly to her personal cell phone from refugees eager to join TNKR. Other refugees have been messaging us asking if they can join–and then when we meet them, they want to know, “When can I start?

It seems that our phone numbers have been posted anywhere, the proverbial bathroom wall with the message, “For a good time learning English, call TNKR…”

We continue meeting with each refugee joining TNKR, each initial interview takes about an hour. In addition, we also meet with other refugees who have already joined us, sometimes for feedback, sometimes for counseling sessions, other times to discuss their involvement within TNKR.

Over the last few weeks we have had many orientation sessions with volunteer tutors to start the year, so many of them say our program is so organized. I wish we would have started like this, just about everything we do is based on trial-and-lots of errors.

It amazes some people that we don’t recruit refugees. As I quoted Leonard Read in one of my speeches, the test of your effectiveness is if people seek your counsel. If you can get to the point that people are seeking you out with you recruiting them, then it means you are doing quite well.

Of course, that is a bit different when it comes to volunteers, it is necessary to recruit people when WORK is involved! 🙂 In that spirit, I have been thinking about some changes we can make to our English tutoring project:

  • Evaluator: The goal would be to develop a better assessment system. We give the students an introductory test, but I think it is time for us to upgrade it. Some of our tutors are so kind that they forget to push the refugees sometimes. I would like to have some evaluators who aren’t trying to be buddies with refugees, but would be like third-party evaluators who want to give the refugees a realistic assessment of their English levels.
  • Senior tutors: These tutors wouldn’t be matched with particular refugees, but would come into our office to help refugees with particular needs.
  • Emergency tutors: Some refugees sometimes need emergency help before an exam, interview for college or a job, a presentation in school, or some other short-term task requiring English. Ideally, these would be tutors who have already been in TNKR for at least six months and aren’t looking to be buddies with refugees.
  • Material development: We have tried with a curriculum but refugees rejected it. I do believe it would be useful to develop some special English lessons and materials for some specific needs that arise out of our classes.
  • Office: Yes, it isn’t a teaching need, but we do need an office from July 2019.

What could we do without tutors giving their time to tutor North Korean refugees? One of our volunteer tutors, Caylin, is now tutoring as much as three hours a day in our office.

Support TNKR

TNKR is a small little non-profit NGO located in Seoul.

  • We rely on executive staff getting paid minimum wage to lead the organization.
  • We don’t have a sexy mission pretending to save the world.
  • Volunteers who can leave at any moment if they find a new hobby, have a change in their lives, or get upset by something I write, say or do (or fail to write, say or do).
  • We aren’t sure where our office will be later this year
  • Month-to-month we raise enough money to keep operations going while also expanding even before we know where the money will come from.
  • We don’t have anyone paid on staff designated to handle media, fundraising, strategy, accounting or many other basic things growing organizations need.
  • Our entire budget is less than the salaries of some of the people who support our activities.

Despite all of that, we have fans! Not K-pop crazy level fans, but we do have people who follow us and keep track of us. I’m always surprised when people contact me asking if they can come by, to meet us, ask how they can help. They include visitors from Germany, universities, businesses, schools, local Korean government.

Some of them are surprised to see we have such a humble office, the media has made us look much bigger than we are in reality.

When it is photo time, some of them are prepared. Others are shocked that I am asking, despite my infamous reputation for taking photos with everyone I meet. Some are thrilled and ask if they can take photos with their cameras too. Some ask if they can cover their faces the way we allow the refugees to do.

It is always great welcoming fans. When Eunkoo and I started these activities in early 2013, we had no idea that we would build something that could even have fans. We wanted to make sure we did something practical.

Of course, before our fans and visitors leave, I advise all them to donate. Support TNKR: https://www.paypal.me/loveTNKR

Most people love marking anniversaries. 1st, 5th, 10th, 20th, 25th and 50th anniversaries are special. There are even celebrations of 1 month or 100 days.

However, when you are engaged in a social cause with someone missing or abducted, then anniversary dates aren’t real celebrations.

In the case of Hwang In-Cheol, this year marks the 50th anniversary of his father being abducted to North Korea. For the last 15 years or so, he has been lobbying and trying to raise awareness about his father’s abduction. He has had to overcome many things during that time–apathy from the general society, the passage of time, the struggle of raising his own family, carrying on this case while other issues and cases get more attention, concerns that his father may have already passed away, South Korean government officials preferring to deal with more pressing cases, and even that this case is “uncomfortable” whenever relations slightly warm up with North Korea.

This year marks the 50th anniversary, which means this is sure to be the last time the media pays attention to this case. Media likes those big anniversary dates, but when they pass, then the media moves on to the next case.

If you would like to join this campaign this year during this 50th anniversary, then contact project manager Youngmin Kwon (010 6800 2054 friendsofhwang@gmail.com).

TNKR is trying to build a team of people with various skills, from social media, graphic design, writing, strategy. Even if you don’t have any of those skills, then at the least you can be a bump on a log by attending his events. Having more people with him can show him and others that he is not alone. Please consider donating to this effort, Mr. Hwang hopes to travel to Geneva this year to testify about this campaign.

Here’s an in-depth article about this case.

Team Hwang is now planning an event at the Hidden Cellar on January 26, so please save that date, plan to join that evening.

Early last year I announced that TNKR was starting the Volunteer Leadership Academy.

The goal was to organize volunteers who come to TNKR into project teams who would work together. I mentioned this a few times, and also said, hint hint, that we needed someone who could lead up the project

A few months ago, TNKR volunteer tutor Karleta Peterson stepped forward! We met several times to discuss how we could work together and how the project could develop.

Then on January 6, we held the first formal session of the Volunteer Leadership Academy. Karleta showed off her organizational and leadership skills.

Want to join TNKR’s Volunteer Leadership Academy?

Step 1: Join an Orientation session

The next orientation session will be held on January 27, 2019 at the TNKR office, in advance of the first general meeting on February 9, 2019.

Step 2: Email Your Resume

  • You can submit a standard or your favorite resume to TNKR Co-Founder Casey Lartigue and VLA Coordinator Karleta Peterson.
  • Be sure to include up-to-date contact information (such as, an email address that you actually check).

Step 3: Apply

  • The online application is here.

Step 4: Set up a fundraiser

  • Have fun! Be creative! Put the “fun” in fundraiser! We have now had more than 200 fundraisers set up by volunteers. Members of our Volunteer Leadership Academy have the challenge of helping TNKR become a financially sustainable organization.

As Karleta wrote in the application:

Thank you for your interest in Teach North Korea Refugees’ Volunteer Leadership Academy (VLA)! Since 2013, Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR) has provided free, one on one tutoring to over 400 North Korean refugees residing in South Korea. However, in order to help our organization continue to grow and provide these services, we need the help of dedicated, non-instructional volunteers in a variety of areas including social media, fundraising, writing, editing, film, photography, design, events, media, and PR.

The Volunteer Leadership Academy follows a team model. Volunteers are expected to join a team and attend monthly meetings to discuss and execute projects and special events within the organization. This is an opportunity to build upon current skills or try a new field of interest while working on real projects with real impacts. We expect a 4 month minimum commitment from all volunteers.

To join the Volunteer Leadership Academy, you must (1) submit this online application, (2) set up a fundraiser at give.lovetnkr.com, and (3) attend our VLA open house on Sunday, January 27th at 2 PM at the TNKR Office. The application deadline is Sunday, January 20th at 11:59 pm.

If you have any questions about the program or application process, please reach out to Karleta Peterson, VLA Coordinator, at TNKR.VLA@gmail.com and TNKR co-founder Casey Lartigue at CJL@alumni.harvard.edu. Additionally, to learn more about TNKR and our work, visit teachnorthkoreanrefugees.org.

We look forward to reviewing your application!