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2017-03-03 Hello, Konglish!

I’m pleased to announce that the next TNKR English speech contest will be held on August 26, 2017, from 2-5 pm. We had a meeting with our contact at the law firm of Shin and Kim. We discussed both the great and terrible things that happened at the most recent contest. We also had a visitor from the USA to talk shop and one study session at the office.

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2017-03-02 A new focus on TNKR

TNKR’s co-directors had a super fantastic meeting today with Jang Jin-sung, a former poet propagandist to NK dictator Kim Jong-il. A few months ago, Mr. Jang featured TNKR in an interview (English) (Korean). After today’s meeting, he has a new focus on TNKR. He let us know how much he admires what we are doing and said he would like to help build up TNKR. He also gave us some direct advice about some changes we might want to make.

You also might want to check out his book Dear Leader.


That meeting with Mr. Jang was a great way to end the day, as we will be able to announce later. The meeting to start the day got things started in a beautiful way!

An adorable South Korean lady who attended the conference we spoke at last week at Pyeongtaek University dropped by. It turns out that she is a fan! She had already watched all of the podcasts that I did with Yeonmi Park back in 2014, read Yeonmi Park’s book, and had watched many of my speeches and read articles about TNKR. She was already well aware of TNKR before last week’s speech at Pyeongtaek. She is really trying to figure out how she can help TNKR.

As I’ve said many times before, TNKR won’t grow until more South Koreans become aware of what we are doing and help with people power and donations. She offered to volunteer with us and also made a donation to TNKR.

She suprised us with a donation.

She is a Yeonmi Park fan, she had already watched our podcasts before meeing me last week.


Chatting time!

TNKR Special Ambassador Cherie Yang studying with tutor Dave Fry. He is focused on helping her improve her writing ability.

TNKR Assistant Academic Adviser Youngmin Kwon tutoring a new student.

Introductory interview with a new student.

The Princess AKA Cherie Yang.

I knew there was some mischief going on, but posed for the photo anyway.

Support TNKR:

Tutoring sessions

How to Help North Koreans project

General Fund

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2017-02-28 Don’t Even Think About… Taking My Photo

TNKR volunteer tutor Arrooj Nawaz was teaching her student the phrase “Don’t even think about…”

As usual, they showed the enthusiasm of military draftees when I said it was photo time. So I taught the student the phrase: “Don’t even think about taking my photo.” I think such ‘Live English” helps students remember key phrases. 🙂

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2017-02-27 Amazing Feedback about TNKR

iTNKR National Director Eunkoo Lee just wrapped up a fascinating feedback session with a refugee. This refugee is older than the other participants in our program, she has an adult son. Their escape story is amazing. She is now studying English for a specific reason related to her career. She is a basic level speaker who never had the courage to speak English before joining TNKR, even when she studied in hakwons.

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2017-02-26 On the 7th Day, TNKR still didn’t rest

We had an incredible speech contest yesterday! We should have taken the day off, but instead, we were back at the office today.

  1. Training session for the new TNKR curriculum
  2. Tutoring session
  3. Feedback sessions with refugees
  4. Storytelling by Michael Breen as part of the TNKR-Korea Times discussion.
  5. Nuclear-fire chicken fundraiser for TNKR!

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Cherie Yang: That Woman, That Moment

Congratulations to Cherie Yang for winning TNKR’s 5th English speech contest! The theme of the contest: “THAT Moment: My escape from North Korea.” Cherie definitely got prepared to seize the moment!

  • From January 26 to February 21, she had twelve 1:1 coaching sessions with TNKR volunteers.
  • Those sessions totaled 1,260 minutes, that’s a total of 21 hours.
  • The seven contestants had a total of 34 coaching sessions (based on the number of reports sent by TNKR speech coach mentors), meaning an average of 4.9 sessions per refugee. Cherie was the outlier with a total of 12. (Plus, I’m very sure that one of her coaches did not report an additional session).
  • Of her 12 sessions, 11 were at the TNKR office. That means that she was able to practice in a quiet office with privacy without having to worry about patrons at a coffee shop listening in to her practice and discuss her speech with others. I’m not saying it was an issue in this case, but I have gotten feedback from refugees that the coaches and tutors are more focused when they study together at our office compared to coffee shops. Our office at the moment can only handle a few students at a time, but only one room is large enough for a refugee and coach to comfortably study together and for the refugee to stand up practicing the speech.
  • Her average coaching session was 105 minutes, which far exceeds the minimum requirement of 60 minutes for speech coaching.
  • This was her third speech contest, so clearly she wasn’t being handed anything!


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2017-02-23 “Please, make us pay”

How often do people say: Please, charge me money.

Three weeks ago, Eunkoo Lee quit her paid job in order to volunteer at TNKR full-time. That means that she now more time to counsel and meet with refugees. Before, she was holding down a full-time job while also trying to be co-director at TNKR. So she can get more feedback from refugees. One thing she has been hearing from many of them: We should charge refugees a membership fee.

They are aware of our failed strategy of attracting support from business, individuals, volunteers.


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2017-02-23 Korea Times discussion

I had a great time at a Korea Times Roundtable discussion. I had planned on skipping it because it was a high-level policy discussion. But my boss, Oh Young-jin, Chief Editorial Writer at the Korea Times, gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse. I also didn’t plan on writing a column based on the discussion, but other columnists, especially Michael Breen and Don Kirk, encouraged me to do so.


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2017-02-22 Waking up the dead (Pyongtaek conference)

I was delighted to be one of the four speakers at a conference hosted by the Pyungtaek Social Welfare Foundation.

The theme: “Multiculture and Global Social Welfare Forum.”

The reality: “Can you endure?”

I asked one of the attendees what was memorable about the conference. Without hesitating, he said, “You woke up the room. People were chit-chatting, not paying attention.” Well, I was in and out of the room networking, chatting, taking photos, so I don’t know what the other speakers were saying. 🙂

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2017-02-21 Leaving the TNKR cave to meet the Mayor of Mapo-gu

A great thing about having an office? You have a place to invite guests to.

A bad thing about having an office? You don’t want to go out to meet other people.

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