2018-03-18 Voices from the North: “Why do North Korean defectors learn English?”

Voices from the North: “Why do North Korean defectors learn English?


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2018-03-17 Matching 71: Recording breaking session!

Teach North Korean Refugees began as “English Matching” in March 2013. We didn’t have long term plans, but yesterday we held our 71st Language Matching session. We had 11 refugees and 19 tutors join the session, meaning we have now had 345 refugees and 744 volunteer tutors and coaches participate. This little “hobby” has grown into a leading organization providing practical support for refugees adjusting to living outside North Korea and building skills.

Session #71 set a number of records:

  • Early early bird registration! 1:15 a.m. signup. Yes, a refugee showed up 13 hours in advance to register.  The second refugee yesterday arrived at 9:35 a.m. He said that he had arrived in the area at 9 a.m., but didn’t believe that anyone would arrive that early so he waited before knocking on the door. Imagine his shock when I told him he was second.
  • His own faculty: One of the refugees chose 9 tutors. Yes, 9 tutors! There were 19 tutors in the room, so he selected 47.4% of them. Whereas universities and schools have ratios of 1 faculty member to 15 to 30 students, TNKR has a student-tutor ratio in the favor of students. In the case of that student, it is a 9 teacher to 1 student ratio! So he has own English teacher faculty. He called TNKR co-founder Eunkoo Lee to let her know that he still couldn’t imagine what we meant by refugees choosing, but after going through the session, he can’t believe TNKR isn’t the most famous refugee support organization in the world. He has been with other NK refugee support organizations, he said the others can’t compare to us.
  • Distance: Tutors are coming from all over Korea to tutor, including one tutor who has pledged to come to Seoul from Busan twice a month to tutor with us. That is more than 200 miles (325 KMs).
  • Fundraising: Of the 19 tutors at the session, 10 had set up fundraisers before joining the session. Seven more became monthly donors before joining the session. Only two of the 19 tutors neither became monthly donors nor set up fundraisers. Usually it is the opposite, that we have ony a handful of tutors helping us build the organization. I told them that we have never had a group show so much enthusiasm and energy.


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2018-03-08 Challenge Korea Global Award

I am so proud to be the recipient of the Challenge Korea Global Award. Today I attended the Awards Ceremony, held at the South Korean National Assembly. It is quite an honor. There are about 50 million people in South Korea, about 2 million of them are non-Koreans. Out of all of those people, I was one of the 10 people to receive an award today, and the recipient of the Global Award.

I’m not a celebrity, singer, actor, politician or rich man. I’m just a guy struggling to build an NGO in a foreign country helping North Korean refugees. These days, I rarely leave my office, so I’m not getting this kind of award because I’m out networking. It is the second year in the row for me to win an award and last month TNKR was honored as a finalist for the Asia Liberty Award. Incredibly, TNKR has received a lot of good press even though we don’t have anyone focused on reaching out to media. We get this kind of attention because of our good work. We have many refugees who are coming to us, eager to join our program even though there are other well-funded programs and institutes they could be studying in instead.

I’m not sure that I really deserve such an award, but they gave it to me, so I’m not giving it back!

At the awards ceremony, I spoke briefly, then invited our volunteers and fans to join me on stage. I gave two speeches this week, one with Q&A lasting 90 minutes, then a speech yesterday that lasted almost 2 hours with a few questions mixed in. So I was in no mood for another speech anyway!

Thanks so much to TNKR co-director Eunkoo Lee, TNKR project manager of the Bring My Father Home Project Youngmin Kwon, TNKR friend Han So Young, TNKR photographer Brian Klein, TNKR fan Shim Young for joining today to celebrate this award. Brian says that he has many photos to send, so I should be updating this a bit later.




Casey Lartigue, recipient of Challenge Korea (Global) Award

TNKR co-founder Casey Lartigue Jr. has been named the recipient of the 2017 Challenge Korea (Global) Award. He will be receiving the award at a ceremony at the National Assembly on March 8.



Voices from the North: “Defectors speak out on Ivanka Trump calling off meeting with North Korea escapees”

Defectors speak out on Ivanka Trump calling off meeting with North Korea escapees

Casey Lartigue Jr., co-founder of the Teach North Korean Refugees Global Education Center, compiled these statements from interviews with the refugees.


1. What do you think about Vice President Pence meeting with North Korean refugees?

2. What do you think about Ivanka Trump’s decision not to meet NK refugees?

Responses from 4 refugees at the Korea Times site

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2018-02-11 Asia Liberty Award Finalist

TNKR at the Asia Liberty Forum
February 10-11, 2018
at Jakarta, Indonesia

  • TNKR was honored as a Asia Liberty Award Finalist on February 11, 2018, at the 2018 Asia Liberty Forum.
  • TNKR Ambassador Eunhee Park delivered a meaningful and thoughtful Cornerstone speech on February 10.
  • TNKR Co-Founder Casey Lartigue introduced TNKR’s main activities during a luncheon.

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2018-02-13 Human Rights Forum at the National Assembly–Media Roundup

2018-02-13 경기일보 (Gyeonggi Newspaper)

2018-02-14 United Press International





2018-02-04 “Defectors speak on freezing reality of North Korea’s winter” blog post

“Defectors speak on freezing reality of North Korea’s winter”


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2018-01-25 from refugees to defectors

One of the worst things one of our volunteers said a few years ago when one of the refugees had another speaking opportunity: “Oh, I’ve already heard that refugee’s speech, so I won’t be missing anything.”

She didn’t mean to be rude, I’m sure. It is mainly a misunderstanding about what we are trying to do with our Track 2 (public speaking) program. So many people look at refugee speakers in a snapshot, that when they hear a refugee speaker once, they’ve got that refugee’s story, and they are ready to move on to the next refugee. What they don’t know is that many refugees develop their speeches. We don’t expect them to be perfect or polished speakers when they first join TNKR, we expect they will develop.

There are many refugees who have no concept of public speaking with they first start with us. And even though many reporters and their editors want to hear from refugees who have just escaped from North Korea, the reality is that many newcomers don’t really have that much to stay.

When there is a debate about which term to use, refugee or defector, I make the point that some refugees become defectors because they learn a lot about North Korea after they arrive in South Korea. I have seen a few who have gotten angry when they learned more about the evil North Korean regime. For some of them, it just seemed to be a problem with local officials, that someone with power had targeted them, or a family member’s problems had made staying untenable. After escaping, they learned that it was a bigger problem, that the system was designed to strip them of their rights and humanity.

My point is that a speaker you see in 2015 will probably be different from the speaker you see in 2018 and beyond. We sometimes struggle with coaches because they want to take shortcuts, put words in the mouths of refugees, even want to write speeches for the refugees. Some get bothered by our restrictions, but we want the refugees to develop their speeches based on their own ideas and their own intellectual and personal development.

That has definitely been true of Ken Eom. When he first joined us in March 2015, I wasn’t sure that we should allow him to speak at another event. I won’t discuss the problems, but I did talk to his coaches to give them pointed feedback.

He has done a lot of reading about North Korea, sharpened his English, done a lot of thinking, and given many speeches. We now have a case of a man who was once loyal to the North Korean regime now giving stories denouncing it.

Ken is now studying policy analysis in grad school and already has many opinions, he can tell stories about his life, analysis about North Korea, and even dabble in public policy. I can tell that he is not interested in continuing to repeat the same stories about his life, like a musician who grows tired of singing his first hit and wants to expand to new music. Last week Ken did both, telling his escape story from North Korea but also mixing his analysis and commentary about North Korea.


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TNKR Resource List

TNKR Reading Resource List


TNKR Book Club: Study Guides by Dr. Tony Docan-Morgan

March Book Club Discussion of Yeonmi Park’s In Order to LIve 

January 20 Book Club Discussion of Sungju Lee’s Every Falling Star