(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.

* * *

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.

‘인권 불빛 밝혀라’…납북자 송환 염원 촛불행사 열려

황인철 ‘1969년 KAL기 납치피해자가족회’ 대표 “北납치 전세계 공감…더 이상 혼자 아냐”
김성환 기자  |  2016-12-11 14:50
* Dec 23, first application deadline for TNKR Matching session 52 (apply)
* Dec 30, second application deadline for TNKR Matching session 52
* Jan 4, Private event
* Jan 7, TNKR Orientation for Matching session 52 (apply)
* Jan 7, TNKR fundraising brainstorming session
* Jan 7, Refugees submit videos to apply for contest
* Jan 9-13, orientation with speech contest coaches
* Jan 14, TNKR Matching session 52
* Jan 14, Coaches resumes due
* Jan 15, TNKR 1,000 won Book Sale
* Jan 15, TNKR/Korea Times Discussion Club 11 am
* Jan 16, Private event
* Jan 16, Contestants informed of status
* Jan 19, Coaches informed of selections
* Jan 27-30, Lunar New Year
* Jan 29, TNKR/Korea Times Discussion Club 5 pm
* Feb 4, Tutor follow-up meeting
* Feb 14, Press conference
* Feb 25, TNKR 5th English speech contest
Recent events
* Dec 12, Annoucement of TNKR 5th English speech contest (for learners)
* Dec 14, update TNKR FAQ
* Dec 14, Christmas party planning meeting
* Dec 17, TNKR Christmas Concert

A little while ago I had an “off-the-record, no photos allowed” conversation with an influential South Korean who told me that he doubted TNKR would be able to raise money in South Korea. He said that my academic background and professional career in the USA would impress many South Koreans, BUT:

  • TNKR lacks government connections. Most funding for NGOs comes from the government, not individual or company donations.
  • Companies will be afraid of us because we are dealing with NK refugees. Securing government funding would make us seem more stable.
  • South Koreans don’t donate their own money.
  • TNKR lacks an international or Korean celebrity.
  • And… ‘You’re a foreigner. Koreans think you will steal the money they donate and then run away to America.”

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“If you organize a planning meeting for 100 people, but only three people show up, then you know what? You’ve got three people to work with. Get started with them, don’t focus the meeting on the 97 people who aren’t there.”

Korea Times, April 2014, “Man in the mirror, not the magnifying glass”


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The TNKR tutoring machine returned. Today Grace tutored 6 refugees for nine hours, with only a short lunch break. This photo is from yesterday when one of the students canceled. She was hanging out, waiting for her next chance to tutor. Yesterday she tutored 4 refugees for 6 hours. I want her to do tutor reports, but I guess it would be unrealistic to expect her to remember details of each session.

A funny moment was when she politely suggested that I should test the refugees like I did last year at the end of each class. I would do that because they would be comfortable with her, so I wanted to break up the flow, to have the refugees explain what they had just learn as a way to reinforce. I could take Grace’s comment one of two ways:

1) That was great for the refugees or 2) You’re slacking off.


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Another good sign for TNKR is that a group we have worked with before would like to have another event with us. They are in town for other reasons, but met with me today to discuss another joint event. They had many questions about the way TNKR operates by truly putting refugees at the center of our activities.

Three things I really loved: 1) watched the TNKR videos 2) they had specific questions about TNKR 3) they weren’t embarrassed to pose with Mini-Me KC and his miniature co-director.

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I had a great time this morning on Arirang radio’s “Good Morning Seoul.”

A few random notes and observations:

* It was extra special because it was Park Eunhee’s first radio interview–and it was in English! So she was really nervous. Even after the interview was over, she was still nervous.

* I can say with completely confidence I will never give a live interview in Korean. I won’t even bother putting it on a bucket list.


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