2016-10-01 Matching 50: “Getting Serious”

There was a wide range of emotions at today’s TNKR 50th Language session.

* Serious: One refugee mentioned that she almost committed suicide because of a personal setback (long deep story). Looking at the beautiful volunteers in the room ready to help her made her realize what a mistake it would have been if she had committed suicide, that she now has people eager to help her. She left the session with four new tutors who can understand her desperation for learning, not hanging out. She thanked us so many times before, during, and after the session, then made a donation on her way out.

* Breath-taken: she was so excited during my interview with her before the session that she could hardly remain seated. When she introduced herself during the session, she said “my heart is going boom-boom.” She is so eager, she said she has been in other English study programs, but this one is “special.” At dinner, she kept repeating that she is so thankful. She ran out of words, apparently she had reached her English quota for the day, she finished by telling the volunteers, “I’m so thankful thankful thankful so thanksful.”

* Expectations: one of the refugees wants to travel, study and live abroad. She wants to start getting prepared for job interviews. She has been memorizing vocabulary, but she lacks the confidence to speak English. She hopes through talking with tutors 1:1 that she will be confident to one day travel on her own.

* Inspiring: A refugee who studied in our in-house tutoring program was so happy to be joining the Matching program. She was the oldest refugee in the room, she had known about TNKR but didn’t consider herself as a student, but says that her world view changed when she saw a tv show about an elderly South Korean man who was learning English. She read everything she could about TNKR, she said “Casey and Eunkoo are doing great things for North Korean refugees.” She said she was impressed by the many volunteers, but based on the feedback from tutors, they were more inspired by her. At dinner, she concluded, “From the bottom of my heart, thank you to all of the teachers, thank you Casey and Eunkoo for everything you do, I will do my best.”

Desperation: she is returning to TNKR, two of her three tutors have left Korea. She will have two tutoring sessions tomorrow, because she will be having some important English interviews soon.

*Determination: This refugee is contemplating the future, not sure which road to take. He has known about TNKR for a while, but finally applied. He said “I will grab this great chance, I am so lucky and thankful to the tutors for volunteering.”

* Stressed: We were lucky that one of our special ambassadors, Ken Eom​, joined the session. He is in grad school now, studying, dealing with the reality of studying. Visiting this session was a chance for him to relax his mind! The tutors were impressed by his outgoing nature and great sense of humor.

* The tutors were clearly impressed by the refugees and their determination to study. As usually happens, most tell me during orientation that they think they can handle only one student, but after the refugees introduce themselves, I can see them mentally clearing things out of their schedules to make time for the refugees. During orientation, we instruct refugees not to beg the tutors because we know it is difficult to say no in such a situation.

For Eunkoo Lee​, during her closing statement, she added that meeting so many lovely volunteers reminded her why she couldn’t give up TNKR, even when we went through some tough times financially and dealt with other challenges that come with trying to start an NGO and trying to do it your own way rather than trying to fit the models of experts.

Today was great, we look forward to session #51.

Volunteer http://teachnorthkoreanrefugees.org/volunteer/
Donate: http://teachnorthkoreanrefugees.org/donate

* * *

(Donga newspaper translation) TKNR: A non profit organization run by Casey Lartigue

TKNR: A non profit organization run by Casey Lartigue

 “In here, students decide the style of classes or mentors. Our aim is to help North Korean refugees to be independent through freedom of choice.”

A Harvard University graduate, Casey spent years at the Cato institute, a renowned think tank, as an education policy analyst. He still receives ‘love calls‘ from universities or research institutes inviting him to return to the USA, but he decided to remain in Korea and has been running TNKR, the Teach North Korean Refugees Global Education Center.

TKNR is a non-profit organization teaching English for North Korean to refugees living in South Korea for free. One hundred percent of its budget is provided by private donations and all of the native mentors who teach English are volunteers. Some people are concerned about the practicality of its operation, however, so far 250 North Korean refugees have studied English and 440 foreign volunteers have participated since they opened the institute in March, 2013.

Mr. Lartigue, who I met at the TNKR office at Dokmakro, Mapogu, said “We have a waiting list of 90 refugees who want to get into the program. We have many volunteers, but with our limited budget and reliance on volunteers, we must limit the number of refugees who can join us each month.”

The program of self-directed education is designed so students decide the style of classes and can even choose their own mentors. The program is based on self-study and responsibility, so the students state their learning goals and can decide which tutors are most appropriate for them. 

Mr. Lartigue explained the main purpose is to give them opportunities to choose educational programs by their own choice, not by the standards of large organizations.

In the late 1990’s, he first visited South Korea to teach English at a university and then he visited again at the start of this decade. At first, he volunteered with Korea International Volunteers to help low income South Koreans, and later became interested in North Korean refugees and North Korea after he read some documents about the reality of North Korea.

In 2012, when the Chinese authorities forcibly repatriated 31 North Koreans who had fled North Korea, he gathered foreigners and joined protests that lasted 77 days in front of the Chinese embassy in Seoul. 

Some question why he works for a small non-profit despite his elite university diplomas. But Mr. Lartigue said “The biggest reward is that my main focus–opportunity and freedom of choice–can benefit North Korean refugees. I have turned down some great opportunities to return to the USA, but this is much more rewarding and interesting for me,” he added.


Translated from Korean to English by Shin Myoungho

Original article:

새터민에게 무료 영어 가르치는 하버드大 출신 미국인


입력 2016-09-26 03:00:00 수정 2016-09-27 10:56:34

비영리 ‘TNKR’ 운영 라티그씨
“새터민이 멘토 등 수업 방식 결정… 자유로운 교육 통해 자립 도울것”


 미국 하버드대를 졸업하고 미국의 유명 싱크탱크인 ‘카토(CATO) 인스티튜트’에서 연구원을 지낸 교육 정책 전문가 케이시 라티그 씨(사진). 연구소나 대학 등에서도 계속해서 ‘러브 콜’이 오지만 그는 한국에 남아 ‘북한 이탈 주민 글로벌 교육센터(TNKR)’를 운영하고 있다.

‘TNKR’는 탈북 뒤 남한에 온 새터민들에게 영어를 무료로 가르쳐 주는 비영리 교육기관이다. 운영 자금은 100% 후원금으로 마련하고, 영어를 가르쳐 주는 원어민 멘토는 모두 자원봉사자다. 운영이 될까 싶지만 2013년 3월 처음 만들어진 후 지금까지 새터민 250여 명이 영어 교육을 받았고 외국인 자원봉사자도 440여 명이 참여했다. 최근 서울 마포구 독막로 TNKR 사무실에서 만난 라티그 씨는 “새터민은 계속 찾아오는데 자원봉사자가 부족해 지금도 새터민 90여 명 정도가 원어민 멘토 차례를 기다리고 있다”고 말했다.


 수업 방식은 모두 ‘학생’인 새터민이 결정한다. 새터민은 자기를 가르쳐 줄 원어민 멘토를 자기가 직접 정한다. 공부할 교재나 수업 방식도 ‘학생 새터민’이 직접 결정하고, 원어민 강사가 자신과 맞지 않다고 생각하면 강사를 교체할 수도 있다.

이 같은 운영 방식을 만든 라티그 씨는 “새터민들이 큰 기관의 교육 방침을 따라가지 않고 철저하게 자신의 의지로 선택할 수 있는 기회를 주겠다는 의도”라고 설명했다.  1990년대 후반에 대학교에서 영어를 가르치러 한국에 온 적이 있는 라티그 씨는 2010년 다시 한국을 찾았다. 처음엔 저소득층 교육에 관심을 두고 활동하다 북한의 실상을 담은 자료를 읽은 뒤부터 탈북자와 북한에 대해 관심을 가지게 됐다. 2012년 2월 탈북자 31명이 중국에서 체포된 뒤 북한으로 강제 송환됐을 때는 아는 외국인들을 불러 모아 주한 중국대사관 앞에서 77일 동안 강제 송환을 중단하라는 시위를 벌이기도 했다.

명문대 출신 외국인이 한국에서 소위 ‘돈벌이도 안 되는 일’을 하다 보니 일부에서는 그에게 의심 섞인 시선을 보내기도 한다. 하지만 라티그 씨는 “내 연구 분야인 ‘자유로운 교육’이 새터민들에게 실질적 도움이 되는 것을 보는 게 최고의 보람”이라며 “미국에서는 안정된 삶이 보장되겠지만 지금 이 일이 훨씬 재미있다”고 말했다.

TNKR on tvN

Teach North Korean Refugees Global Education Center was featured on the show “Little Big Heroes” on the Korean cable channel tvN.




TNKR on tvN!!!

Here’s tvN’s preview clips:


tvN site 

If all goes according to schedule, then TNKR is scheduled to be featured on TvN on Monday September 12, 2016, starting around 7:40 a.m. You are invited to join us at the TNKR office to watch the TV show together. First preference will be given for those who were interviewed or helped in any way with the production of the show.

But don’t get mad at us if the TV team didn’t include you. 🙂


2016-08-18 “Korean reunification–at the dinner table”

North Korean refugee and restaurateur Lee Aeran says: “Reunification of our country starts at the table.”

On August 18, five North Korean refugee ambassadors of Teach North Korean refugees hosted a North Korean food night! They cooked enough food to feed 20 hungry people. They cooked for as long as six hours getting the food prepared.

South Korean food was prepared by the mother of a TNKR volunteer. Steve’s Mom, the official caterer of TNKR, returned to cook food so we could have food reunification.

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5 (27) 5 (28) 5 (29) 5 (30) Read more

2016-07-19 북한에 대한 무관심 (Apathy about North Korea)

북한에 대한 무관심

케이시 라티그 (Casey Lartigue Jr.)

최근 서울에서 열린 북한관련 국제회의에 참석 했을 당시 몇몇 사람들은 내게 물었다. 왜 3만명이나 되는 북한이탈주민들은 직접적으로 북한 개혁을 위한 모임들에 참여하지 않는가? 다른 몇몇은 왜 한국인(남한)들은 북한 사람들에 대해 관심을 갖지 않는 것인가? 그러나, 왜 한국에 거주하는 수많은 외국인들은 북한이탈주민을 돕는 것에 적극적으로 참여하는 것인가?

그러나, 마지막 질문에 대한 나의 대답은 북한과 관련된 개혁(북한이탈주민들을 돕는일)에 직접적인 관여를 하고 있는 외국인들은 그리 많지 않다는 것이다.

나는 몇 년 전부터 북한이탈주민들을 위해 많은 외국인 자원 봉사자들이 참여 할 수 있는 단체를 운영하고 있다. 외국인 자원 봉사자들 중 몇 명은 북한이탈주민들을 돕기 위해 지방에서 세 네 시간 동안 버스를 타고 서울까지 오기도 한다. 심지어 한 외국인 자원 봉사자는 한 달에 한번 제주도에서 서울까지의 거리를 감수 하며 북한이탈주민들을 돕기도 했었다. 다른 외국인 자원 봉사자들은 한번에 6시간 가까이 되는 북한이탈주민들을 위한 영어 수업을 진행하기도 했다. 현재 내가 공동대표로 있는 단체에서 북한이탈주민들과 외국인 자원 봉사자들이 주고 받은 감사와 격려의 쪽지들을 받기도 한다.

대부분의 외국인들은 단기간 동안 북한이탈주민들을 돕는 프로젝트에 참여한다. 그들이 이 프로젝트에 참여하는 이유는 다양하다. 북한이탈주민들을 돕기 위해, 대학원이나 직업을 위해, 좋은 이력서를 만들기 위해, 페이스북에 한 줄을 올리기 위해, 호기심 때문에, 자원봉사 활동을 좋아해서, 혹은 북한에 관심이 있기 때문에. 그러나 외국인이 북한관련 프로젝트에 장기적으로 참여하며, 리더가 되어 중요한 직책을 맡는 경우는 드물다. 나는 외국인 자원 봉사자들을 만나 이야기하면서 그들 중 한 두 명만이라도 6개월 뒤에도 여전히 우리와 함께 해준다면 행복할 것이라는 이야기를 종종 한다. 꾸준히 헌신적으로 북한이탈주민들을 위한 자원 봉사활동에 참여하는 외국인들은 사막의 꽃과 같다. 극소수이기 때문에 더욱 그 아름다움이 빛을 발하는 사막의 꽃 말이다.

외국인들로부터 받는 도움은 굉장히 다양하지만 그 정도는 그리 깊지 않다. 그들은 가끔씩 북한에 관련된 행사에 참여하거나 봉사활동에 기여하지만, 대부분은 플래시몹 눈싸움이나 베게 싸움, 머드팩 행사나 그들이 하는 일 혹은 공부 사이에 잠깐 북한에 관련된 봉사활동에 참여하는 수준이다.

그들을 비판하는 것은 아니다. 많은 외국인들은 단기간 동안 한국생활을 하는데, 그들이 한국에 있는 짧은 기간 동안 우리와 함께 하는 것(북한이탈주민들을 돕는일)을 감사하게 생각한다. 그러나, 내가 말하고자 하는 것은 엘리베이터에 쉽게 타고 내릴 수 있는 사람들과 쉽게 떠날 수 없는 사람들을 비교한다는 것 은  힘들다는 것이다.

북한관련 개혁 활동에 동참하는 북한이탈주민들은 그들의 활동으로 인해 북한에 남아있는 가족들의 안전과 사생활에 참혹한 결과를 맞이할 수 있다는 사실을 알고 있다. 이는 북한이탈주민들은 그들의 가족들이 북한정권에 순종하지 않으면 잔인한 처벌을 받을 수 있다는 것을 의미한다. 그렇기 때문에 북한이탈주민들 몇몇 다른 사람들로부터 가족들에게서 도망쳐온 것에 대하여 이기적이다 라는 비난을 받기도 한다. 그럼에도 불구하고, 북한이탈주민들은 이 일들을 장기적으로 꾸준히 하고 있다. 그러나, 외국인들은 그들의 일상, 가족, 그리고 직업에 실질적인 영향을 받지 않고 언제든지 북한 관련된 개혁 활동을 그만 두고 언제든지 다시 참여 할 수도 있다.

그래서 나는 왜 더 많은 북한이탈주민들이 북한관련 개혁활동에 참여하지 않는 것 대해 질문하는 사람들에게 다시 “당신은 북한이탈주민들 혹은 한국인(남한)과 그러한 활동을 함께 어떻게 참여하고 있는지” 물어본다. 나는 주변에서 북한이탈주민들은 믿을만하지 못하거나, 지적이지 않거나, 세련되지 않다고 하는 이야기들을 종종 듣는다. 그러나 북한이탈주민들을 만큼 북한관련 개혁활동에 열심인 그룹 또한 없다.

한국에는 무려 50개이상의 북한 관련된 민간단체 등 다양한 단체들이 있는 것으로 알고 있다. (다른 사람들은 그 수가 더 많을 것이라 예상한다) 대부분이 한국인(남한) 혹은 북한사람들에 의해 설립되고 운영 되고 있다. 그러나 그 기관들은 일반적으로 재원이 부족하고, 인력이 부족하며, 제대로 보수를 받지 못하는 운영자들, 자원 봉사자들, 그리고 인턴들에 의존하고 있다. 따라서, 어느 그룹이 더 많은 활동을 하지 않는지에 관심을 같기 보다는 1) 도움을 주겠다는 마음가짐을 가지기 시작하는 것 2) 더 효과적인 방법으로 도움을 주는 방법을 고민하는 것이 북한이탈주민들을 도울 수 있는 시작점이 될 수 있을 것이다.

나는 종종 다음과 같은 질문을 한다: 현재 많은 북한이탈주민들과 한국인(남한)들이 북한관련 활동들에 관심을 가지고 있지 않다면, 좀 더 많은 사람들이 참여하게 하기 위해 어떻게 해야 할까? 만약, 현재 이러한 참여독려를 위한 전략들이 실패라면 어떠한 새로운 전략들을 고민해야 할까

대부분의 사람들이 정치문제에 관심이 없듯이, 독재정부로부터 목숨 걸고 탈출한 북한이탈주민들 또한 마찬가지일 수 있다. 북한이탈주민들도 북한 관련 개혁활동을 하는 대신 그들이 얻은 새로운 자유와 함께 플래시몹 베개 싸움, 머드팩 행사에 참여하거나, 영어공부만 하는 프로그램에 공부만 하는 자유를 누릴 권리가 있다.

Casey Lartigue Jr.: Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR)공동 창립자 (CJL@post.harvard.edu)

번역: 이민주

감수: 이은구

본문: Apathy about North Korea By. Casey Lartigue Jr.            http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2016/07/626_209687.html

Apathy about North Korea


By Casey Lartigue Jr.

I recently attended a United Nations conference in Seoul at which a couple of distinguished speakers asked: Why aren’t more of the almost 30,000 North Korean refugees directly involved in activism against North Korea? A few others at the conference asked: Why don’t South Koreans care more about their Northern brethren? And others asked: Why are so many expats in Korea interested in helping North Korean refugees?

To start with the last question, many people get surprised when I tell them that there are not many expats in Korea involved in North Korean issues, that people are mistaking a handful of changing foreign faces with a revolution.

To be clear, I have had the privilege the last few years of collaborating with some wonderful volunteers who have given a tremendous amount of time volunteering for North Korean refugees. Some travel three and four hours by bus each way to come to Seoul to tutor or mentor North Korean refugees. We even had one tutor who flew from Jeju to Seoul once a month to tutor back-to-back days. Other tutors have held extended study sessions lasting up to six hours. I get to read many of the lovely messages of thanks and congratulations that are shared by North Korean refugee learners and tutors in a project I co-founded.

As wonderful as they have been, most of the expats are involved short-term. There are a variety of reasons expats get involved: To make a difference, to help refugees, a nice line on a resume in preparation for graduate school or to build their careers, a neat anecdote to share on Facebook, out of curiosity, love volunteering, or because they are interested in North Korea. Rare is the expat who stays involved, becomes a leader, or develops a significant role. When I hold Open House sessions recruiting volunteers, I am thrilled if just one or two remain with us six months later. The few expats that remain committed are like flowers in a desert, even more beautiful because they are so rare.

The level of support from expats is a mile wide and an inch deep. They will attend occasional events and also volunteer, but in many cases, they are squeezing NK activities into their schedules, attending a speech or volunteering before rushing off to join flash mob snowball or pillow fights, mud wrestling festivals or their own lives of work or study. The most common question prospective volunteers ask me before an event or meeting: “How long will it last?”

This is not to criticize them, many people come to Korea short-term, we are lucky to have them join us during their time here. My point is that it doesn’t make sense to compare people jumping on-and-off an elevator with those who can’t easily exit.

North Korean refugees getting involved in activism about North Korea face serious consequences about the security and privacy of their families in North Korea. They can expect harsh attacks if they don’t remain both poor and pure. They even get blamed by some idiotic South Koreans accusing them of “selfishly” running away from their families. Expats can leave or rejoin at any time without real consequences to their lives, families or careers.

Instead of debating why more refugees don’t get involved, I ask the questioners: How are you collaborating with those who have already stepped forward? Based on human rights scuttlebutt I have heard, either refugees aren’t authentic, educated, or polished enough. The search continues for hypothetical refugees to replace the flawed ones who have already emerged.

It isn’t just North Korean refugees who are considered flawed by those calling for more to get involved. There are as many as 50 North Korean focused NGOs and schools that I am aware of that are operating in South Korea (others have higher estimates), with almost all of them being led and staffed by South Koreans. They are typically underfunded, understaffed, relying on underpaid staffers, volunteers, and interns. Working with them would be a great start, instead of hoping that people who have not gotten involved will a) suddenly get inspired and b) be more effective than those already helping.

I often turn the question around: If there aren’t enough refugees and South Koreans engaged now, then what are human rights leaders doing differently to attract more refugees? When your strategy is failing, then it may be time to adopt a new approach.

Most people don’t get involved in politics, and that includes North Korean refugees who have risked their lives to escape a brutal dictatorship. With their new freedom, they also have the freedom to join flash mob pillow fights, mud wrestling festivals or study in my project instead of making themselves targets by trying to topple the North Korean regime.

Casey Lartigue Jr. is the co-founder of Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR) in Seoul. He can be reached at CJL@post.harvard.edu.



Upcoming Teach North Korean Refugees activities

May 24, Open House (TNKR office at AOU): Teach North Korean Refugees cordially invites you to two Open House sessions for newcomers. from 10 am and 7 pm. Find out how you can get involved with helping North Korean refugees.

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꽃미남 KC (Pretty Flower Man)


I can’t begin to express how touched I am by the wonderful things this incredible lady said about me–even my own mother is probably doubting that I’m such an angel. 🙂


Prince Dance Party, TNKR fundraiser #2