A university professor visited TNKR to interview the co-directors for a magazine article. He was prepared! Several pages of notes, he had read many articles about TNKR and even watched some of the videos in our YouTube channel.

People sometimes ask me: What is the benefit of media writing about TNKR?

1) It builds a track record for us. 2) It can inform people about us, occasionally causing new members to find us.

Definitely answer 1 is becoming more common these days, reporters and writers have no excuse showing up ignorant about our program.

Sometimes I have mixed feelings about interviews. TNKR looks much more powerful in the media than it is in reality. We rarely turn down interviews, but I also know that people also overestimate our capacity.

2017-01-09 update

A photographer from the magazine came to visit TNKR.

We were in the middle of several things–wrapping up an orientation session, saying goodbye to volunteer applicants, transitioning to another orientation. We had to stop for a few minutes to take a few photos.

The entertainers and organizers of TNKR’s Christmas party were all fantastic. It was a moving night seeing the entertainers perform at a charity concert.

Different entertainers stood out for different reasons. One that really touched me is Bae Boum-jun. He has a learning disability, but that hasn’t stopped him from mastering the cello.

At one point, before his performance, he was practicing English so he could speak to me. I could hear him saying, “Hello. What’s up. Nice to meet you.”

Whenever he greeted anyone, it was either with a peace sign or a heart. He played two songs, with a smile on his face almost the entire time.

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We are just a few days from Christmas, but our office was non-stop busy today.

I was reminded today what a real reporter is like. She read many articles and watched videos about TNKR in advance. She had good sharp questions. Everything interested her. She talked to me, refugees, tutors, volunteers, everyone in the office.

I have had a couple of lousy reporters show up, look around, interview one or two people briefly, then do their show or article without any perspective. In some cases, it even seemed they had made up their minds before they talked with us.

The reporter who showed up today will be doing a feature article about TNKR sometime in January. She even read about my days when I was volunteering for the Mulmangcho School.

Welcome to TNKR! It was her first day tutoring-and she got interviewed by a reporter with a huge media outlet.

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Thanks to TNKR special ambassador Ken Eom for visiting the TNKR office to make phone calls to some of our loyal supporters.

He is finishing up his first semester at Korea University, so he is under a lot of stress at the moment. I could see that he was inspired by the supporters being so happy to hear from him. Fewer people answer their phones these days, so he didn’t get to talk to everyone on the list.

One of the great things about having our own office is that we do more calling and outreach like this. Assuming that TNKR makes it December 2017, then I would like to have a month of calling in the entire month of December to thank our loyal supporters.

But I need to figure out how to separate between a “sure, call me” list and a “don’t bombard me” list. I have made calls for organizations when I was in the USA, but that was years ago, people now seem to treat phone calls as a home invasion.

Comment and video by Karin Hanna, TNKR board member and an executive member of a new organization being started by Hwang In-Cheol:

This month we had 3 events related to the ‘Bring my father home case’.

I had the pleasure to meet Mr. Hwang’s wonderful wife and one of his 3 lovely and talented daughters, who finished the event by playing the meaningful song 가고파 “ka go pa” on her violin. All I wish for this family is to find their peace and happiness and not having to stand alone to fight for justice.

Mr. Hwang had no help for many years, only his family stood with him. TNKR, which as an NGO has enough of its own challenges and struggles, however stood up and offered support through volunteers. We have become a strong team of friends all over the world!

Thanks for reading this, keep us in your minds and don’t turn your back to this just by saying it’s an “old story”. It is only old because it has been neglected for so many years! We also shouldn’t be afraid of speaking our minds! As WE are lucky to live in a free world!

Enjoy the short video of photo memories…and thanks to all my friends who also supported Mr. Hwang but aren’t tagged. He is happy and greatful about every single one of you.

TNKR co-founders Eunkoo Lee and Casey Lartigue at the “Little Big Heroes” party, hosted by the CJ Sharing Foundation.

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(TNKR) Teach North Korean Refugees Crowd-sourcing Manager Briana Reha-Klenske is suddenly getting busy!

* Eunkoo Lee has set up an online fundraiser, raising $160 in the first 24 hours!

*Two other tutors have expressed interest in doing so.

* According to a conference call I was on a few days ago, about 31 percent of all giving is done in the month of December.

* More than 60% of online giving is done after people see a friend or relative donate. It would be great to have more online fundraisers set up during the month of December. Check with me or Briana if you would like to set up an online fundraiser for TNKR.




The Politic: The Yale College Journal of Politics is a monthly Yale University student publication that traces its roots to 1947. I am one of the people quoted in a feature story by Megan McQueen in The Politic about the struggles North Korean refugees have after they escape.

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Casey Lartigue Jr.​, a founder of the nonprofit (TNKR) Teach North Korean Refugees​, compared China’s repatriation to slavery in the American South.

“In the American South it was illegal to help slaves who were trying to escape, and it’s illegal in China to help North Korean refugees do the same,” said Lartigue in an interview with The Politic. “There were bonuses and awards given to people who helped catch American slaves. In the same way, in China people get rewards for catching or giving information to help catch refugees.”

“It was an outrage what happened in 19th century America. And it’s an outrage what’s happening today,” he said.

Lartigue’s nonprofit, Teach North Korean Refugees​, focuses on teaching refugees English skills, so they can more confidently enter the job market. Lartigue explained how he identified a need for educational programs after first becoming involved with the effort to help North Koreans.

“Look, the escape is just the beginning of the battle,” he said. “Getting out of North Korea is tough, but so is coming over to a brand new society.”

Some refugees have gone on to write memoirs, give speeches, and help others gain the confidence to lead meaningful lives in a new place. Yonmi Park, who left North Korea in 2007, authored In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom.

“One thing Yomni would say often is, ‘People need to stop treating the North Korea issue as some joke, where there’s a crazy dictator and brainwashed people. They turn it into a caricature. They need to realize that many people are struggling because of the dictators here. Our focus should be on helping them,’” Lartigue recalled.

Activists like Park, Lartigue, and Scholte all stressed the importance of reshaping the narrative of the North Korean issue from one focused on the Kim dictatorship to one focused on the people’s efforts to improve their lives after escape. Before they can achieve liberty for themselves and their country, North Korean refugees need those removed from the conflict to listen. The challenges in North Korea may be enormous, but they are not insurmountable.

Quoted in the article:
* Kim Jeong-ah, Suzanne Scholte, Hwang Hyun-Jeong, Greg Scarlatoiu​, Casey Lartigue Jr., Dr. Go Myung-hyung, Sokeel J. Park​.


Charity concert to raise fund for NK defectors
by John Max Redmond​
The Korea Times​

An NGO supporting North Korean refugees is presenting a charity concert titled “2016 Hold Hands, Love Concert” at the Seocho Hanwoori Rehabilitation Center in southern Seoul, Saturday.

The concert run by (TNKR) Teach North Korean Refugees​ aims to raise funds and awareness for the education of North Korean refugees in the South. It features cellist BoumJun Bae​, gayageum (12-string zither) player Bae Ji-soo, orchestral music from the Hanwoori Eins Baum Chamber and musical actress Kim Na-hee (김나희​).

“We have been working more closely with refugees who are seeking to tell their stories to the world,” said Casey Lartigue Jr.​, co-founder of TNKR.

“Last August we had a matching session with several refugees who let me know they have things to say in English. In addition to engaging in more public speaking, three are hoping to pen memoirs.”

Most recently, Lartigue and several refugees addressed U.S. military members for the first time, as they discussed their escape from North Korea, adapting to life both here and in the U.S., life in the North Korea military and the poor state of healthcare in the North.

“We are also strengthening English language study options in our program,” Lartigue said.

TNKR’s tutors have been devising a curriculum for refugees seeking structured instruction, Lartigue said. Refugees can customize their own education programs according to their own needs, but will also soon have the option to follow a set curriculum.

“So far we have focused on preparing refugees for academic and employment opportunities,” Lartigue said. “Now we are organizing to connect them with those opportunities. They enjoy studying, but actual opportunities will motivate them even more.”

Since March 2013, TNKR has been organizing a community of volunteer tutors, staff, mentors, coaches and specialists to help North Korean refugees adjust to living in South Korea. More than 250 North Korean refugees have studied with and been mentored by more than 450 volunteers.

The group was established under the leadership of Lartigue and vice director Eunkoo Lee​.

The concert is from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. with entrance fees of 10,000 won for students, 20,000 won for TNKR volunteers and students and 30,000 won general admission.

TNKR will have guides from exit 4 of Nambu Bus Terminal Station on Line 3 ready to escort guests to the location.

Visit teachnorthkoreanrefugees.org/event/tnkr-concert for more information.