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2017-06-19 TNKR featured in Neon Magazine (Germany)

Jun Michael Park posted on Facebook: SEOULMATES, NEON Magazine, 07/17.

A story on how the NGO (TNKR) Teach North Korean Refugees is teaching English to North Korean refugees and enabling them to reach higher and achieve more. cc: Sharon Jang Casey Lartigue Jr. Eunkoo Lee
Text: Jurek Skrobala
Photos: Jun Michael Park
Special thanks to Amélie Schneider and Frauke Schnoor.


2017-06-18 Noblish speech #3

Winston Churchill supposedly said: “A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.” That is definitely true with me.

I was one of the featured speakers at a Noblish event. The start-up organization was founded by Sunny Eunhwa Kim. Sunny is an energetic and lovely lady, she is so busy that she makes me feel like I am sitting at my desk all of the time. Roger Fusselman was the other featured speaker, he gave a great talk about creativity. He is a skilled speaker, so I was able to give the audience advice about making great presentations based on his.

My topic was “Making Effective English Presentations.” Of course, I also talked about TNKR.

Two of the South Koreans at the event pledged to make small donations to TNKR. Another lady called me an angel, which of course I disputed.

Read more


2017-06-17/18 Weekend tutoring

It is Saturday, but I’ve been at work today because of some deadlines coming up. Two study pairs also came by today. I’m always delighted to see Amy. She was studying today with Ive. A lot of laughs, but Ive also kept the focus on making sure Amy learned. Amy has improved so much since she joined us in September 2015, TNKR is tailor-made for a student like her. She is so busy with many projects and activities, so studying at a hakwon is out of the question. She can’t attend those classes regularly. But she has tutors who are really patient and flexible, changing up the days, times and places to meet with her.

The other student who came by today has also had an interesting path with us. She studied in the Matching program in our early days. She returned recently to In-house tutoring (transition program), then rejoined the main part of Track 1. Improving her English has become really important, and she has shown it by focusing on learning. In our early days, we had few rules and expectations, but she is one of the students who can really see the difference between now and 2013.

She is studying with Josef, a young man who joined us last week. He energetically informed me that he received his first donation to TNKR!

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Is this what grassroots looks like?

Thanks to volunteers coming together to raise money, TNKR can pay its rent and cover basic necessities! One day we may even be a sustainable organization, we have been building a community of support around NK refugees. Recognizing our unconventional approach of focusing on 1:1 tutoring rather than workshops or glamorous fact-finding trips abroad, we realized that we must rely on our volunteers and others who support our work, not big companies or goverment.

So far this year, 95 tutors and 60 refugees have joined TNKR. We strongly recommend that all tutors set up a fundraiser on our new crowd-funding website. We now have 4 months of results.

Based on entry into TNKR, here’s how our volunteers and fans have done at fundraising this year:

Read more

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2017-06-15 TV podcast, TNKR presentation

Yesterday began with TNKR co-founder Casey Lartigue being interviewed for a new TV podcast.

In the afternoon, two TNKR refugees gave speeches to a group of high school students visiting from the USA.

And around all of that, tutoring sessions for refugees, Eunkoo Lee having feedback sessions with refugees to get an understanding about their experience in TNKR.

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2017-06-12 Harvard Global Networking Night

Brag, brag, brag, that’s what people were doing at last night’s Harvard Global Networking Night. It was great, we were able to tell some influential people about (TNKR) Teach North Korean Refugees. Best of all, some of them were already familiar with TNKR!

TNKR co-directors took a break from work to join Harvard Global Networking Night. It is great to join networking events where people are expected to talk about their activities. So I shamelessly introduced TNKR! I often encounter people who are afraid that others are bragging or having a good time, so it is was fun meeting with people who want to hear about what others are doing and also want to inform you about what they are doing.

It was delightful when we met some influential people who said they were already aware of our important activities.

Read more

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2017-06-11 “I appreciate that volunteers help North Korean refugees” (TNKR Matching session 58)

Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR) started in March 2013 as a hobby for TNKR co-founders Eunkoo Lee and Casey Lartigue Jr.. Although it is still operating with a small budget–$18,000 in 2015, $40,000 in 2016–it has become an internationally known NGO that has been featured in major domestic and international media.

Earlier today we held Language Matching session number 58. The attention is naturally on the refugees, but I think it is easy to forget that today we had 8 new volunteers sign up with the agreement that they will tutor refugees twice a month for a minimum of three months for 90 minutes each session. With tutors on average accepting two refugees, it means they will be tutoring at least once a week for free.

For Eunkoo and Casey, it is all so beautiful to see that after four years we still have many volunteers coming to TNKR to help refugees. Many organizations fail or go bankrupt after three years, but we have held on, have a solid reputation, and are continuing to grow with new supporters finding us. We never get tired of it despite the struggles in building an organization from nothing into something. We now have some volunteer staffers who are seeing all of this for the first time. One began crying as he was making a presentation, getting choked up as he discussed tutoring students. Two other new volunteers attending their first Matching session also said they got choked up listening to the refugees discuss why they needed English and they were impressed with volunteer tutors explaining why they wanted to help.


Overall, about 55 percent of students in TNKR are college students, but today was an exception, 80 percent of the refugees joining today are working.

Reasons students stated for joining: Read more

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Atlas Network, “Making the Most of Freedom for North Korean Refugees” 탈북민에게 최대한의 자유를

탈북민에게 최대한의 자유를

2017년 5월 30일

TNKR 공동대표 이은구(좌), 케이시 라티그(우) ; 한사랑 농촌문화상 시상식

TNKR의 케이시 라티그는 아틀라스 리더십 아카데미 수료생이다. 그는 텍사스 출신의 흑인 하버드대학교 졸업생이자 자유주의자로서는 탈북민에게 그들의 이야기를 어떻게 전달해야 할지 가르치는데에 삶을 바친 유일한 사람일 것이다. 현재 한국에는 총 30,000명 가량의 탈북민들이 거주하고 있는데  라티그씨는 한국인 이은구씨와 함께 탈북민들이 새로운 환경에 적응하도록 돕기 위한  비영리단체인 TNKR(Teach North Korean Refugees)을 설립하였다.

라티그씨와 이은구씨는 영어를 배우는 일이 탈북민들에게 초기적응에 주요 어려움인것을 알고 공식적으로 2016년 북한이탈주민글로벌교육센터(TNKR Global Education Center)를 설립하였고 라티그씨는  탈북민에게 영어를 배우고 말하는 기회와 멘토링을 제공함으로 그들의 사회 통합에 기여한 점이 인정되어  한사랑 농촌 사회공헌 특별상을 수상하였다.

라티그씨는 “제가 한 번도 들어본 적 없는 단체에서 저를 수상후보로 지명했을 때에 영광으로 여겼고, 제가 최종 수상하게되었다는 것을 알게되었을 때에는 놀랐습니다”라며 “이 상을 600명에 이르는 자원봉사자들과 이 영광을 나누고 싶습니다. 그들은 정말 많은 시간을 내어 탈북민들이 새로운 사회에 적응하는데 도움을 주었습니다. 또한 TNKR의 많은 학생들은 공공연하게 주변친구들이나, 언론에 TNKR이 그들을 실제적으로 돕고 있다는것을 홍보하였고, 또한 자신의 이야기를 통해 자유를 알리고 싶은 주변 탈북민들에게 저희기관을 추천하기도 하였습니다. TNKR의 학생들이 없었다면 저희도 없었을 것입니다” 라고 수상소감을 밝혔다.

번역 노다해

감수 이은구



May 30, 2017

TNKR co-director Eunkoo Lee with Casey Lartigue at the Hansarang Rural Cultural Foundation Award ceremony.

Casey Lartigue Jr., Atlas Leadership Academy alumnus from Teach North Korean Refugees (TKNR), may be the only Harvard-educated black Texan libertarian who has dedicated his life to teaching North Korean refugees how to tell their stories. In 2013, Lartigue and South Korean Eunkoo Lee co-founded the nonprofit TKNR to help the 30,000 refugees living in South Korea integrate into their new environment.

Realizing that learning English is one of the primary barriers faced by North Korean refugees, Lartigue and Lee established the TNKR Global Education Center in 2016, for which Lartigue serves as international director. Lartigue was recently honored as a Hansarang Rural Cultural Foundation Award recipient for contributing to the social integration of North Korean refugees by providing free English learning, speaking, and mentorship opportunities.

“I was honored to be nominated by an organization that I had never heard of, then shocked when I learned that I had won,” said Lartigue. “This award has validated the hard work of the almost 600 volunteers who have given so much of their time to help North Korean refugees adjust to living outside of North Korea. It would not have been possible without the many students within TNKR praising us publicly in the media and recommending us to other refugees seeking ways to improve themselves and to tell stories of how they struggled to escape North Korea so they could live as free people.”

Original Atlas Network link

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2017 Report on TNKR tutor reports

Based on reports sent by TNKR’s volunteer tutors in 2017. Numbers are subject to change based on when additional reports are received.

2017 Tutors Refugees Sessions Minutes Hours Classes per day (Overall) Classes per refugee (monthly) Classes per tutor (monthly) At 50,000 won per class ($43.62 US), free tutoring
Jan 61 39 154 13,137 236 5.0 3.9 2.5 11.8 million won ($10,294)
Feb 67 45 210 19,475 324.5 7.2 4.4 3..0 16.2 million won ($14,154)
March 65 55 221 21,905 365 7.1 4.0 3.4 18.25 million won ($15,921)
April  64  60 187 18,011  300  6.2  3.1 2.9  15 million won ($13,392)


Notes: The increase in refugees is due to more studying in in-house tutoring as they transition into the regular study program.

  • Slight bump in classes in Feb and March because of the speech contest.
  • April was mid-term exam time so there were fewer classes.

Support TNKR so it can keep TNKR tuition-free for refugees!




2017-06-04 Sunday afternoon studying with Amy

Amy joined TNKR in September 2015, at that time she was at the DEF level. That is, she was beyond ABC, but not by much! When she first introduced herself, she did it all in Korean. She has returned to TNKR, and each time she introduced herself in English and also showed that she had learned a lot of English. She is now a TNKR Ambassador, she has donated to the organization, and she is running a fundraiser for TNKR.

Last year, she had 62 one-to-one sessions with her tutors. She is busy with many activities, so English is one of the many things she is doing these days. She had to change her schedule so her tutors Ive and Spencer both adjusted, agreeing to meet her Sunday afternoon at the TNKR office.