2017-12-20 Daejin knows TNKR

So much love! On December 20, I was the guest speaker at a girl’s high school in Seoul. They welcomed me like I was a movie star.

During my speech, none of them fell asleep. Some of them were even nodding their heads “yes” when I made important points.

During Q&A, they had good questions. They had read many articles about TNKR and watched some of my interviews.

The topic was volunteerism in a global age. Some of the students say they want to volunteer with TNKR. What is clear is that these know what TNKR is and they are much more aware about issues related to NK refugees.

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I was at the center of attention, they treated me like a star!

The teachers seemed to love my speech, but they may want to clarify or explain my point that those high schoolers are usually too young to be useful volunteers. 🙂

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2017-12-24 Refugee Transition Adjustment Transformation Integration Process

Applicants and bilinguals who struggle with the TNKR pedagogical stratagem will be politely dislodged and ejected for an opposite transition process from TNKR.”

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2017-12-21 Who was more inspired!

How often do you have a meeting, with both sides declaring, “I’m so inspired by you!”

It happened last night, when I met Rola Brentlin (recommended to me by Nigel Ashford and Kerry Halferty Hardy) during her short trip to Korea. She posted on Facebook that she was inspired to learn about TNKR.  In my case, I was inspired that she took such an interest in TNKR, and then took that interest to the next level! She wants to help TNKR with funding! 

“Inspiring meeting with Casey Lartigue Jr. who runs an organisation helping North Korean refugees. I would very much like to help them with funding, any ideas for how we could raise some funds for this important work is welcome!”

We now have more than 60 volunteers and fans who have set up fundraisers. Recently we have had well-connected people express interest in helping us build up TNKR. That is always inspiring!

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Anyone have time to read this?

Years ago I read an article about a man who kept track of every detail of his life. The result is that he had boxes and boxes of diaries documenting every little detail. My question when I read the article: How in the world can he get anything done if he is busy writing every moment about what he is doing?
Few people have read his diaries and I don’t even remember his name now. That’s not surprising. After all, who wants to read about a guy using the bathroom at 7:40 am, then making a phone call 15 minutes later at 7:55, then checking the mail at 8:05, stubbing his foot in the door at 8:07, looking at the dog barking across at the street at 8:10 after he slammed his hand in the door as he was daydreaming about recording in his diary the exciting events of the past 30 minutes? 
Sometimes I fall behind in posting things about TNKR–because we are too busy DOING them. Here’s a wrap-up of some our recent activities. Clearly I’m smarter than the guy keeping all of those diaries. Instead of writing every detail, I take photos. But then, who in the world wants to look at all of our photos?
In this post:
Feedback and interviews with refugees
Youngmin Kwon, TNKR Academic Adviser
Interviews about TNKR
Visitors to TNKR
Leaving the TNKR Cave
Not in this post:
Matching session on December 9
Orientation on December 10
Bring My Father Home Press Conference
…and other stuff I can’t remember or no one took photos…
When refugees first join TNKR, Eunkoo Lee and I conduct separate interviews. We do this as an initial session before the orientation to get to know the refugees a bit, to make sure they understand that this is a low-budget self-study program, to lower their expectations, to make sure we have an understanding of why they are joining TNKR, and to make sure they are thinking ahead about how to use TNKR well.
So many are overjoyed–some want to take photos with us because they have heard about TNKR. Others are thankful they finally have a chance to study with us. The initial interviews are always great. The refugees who have come in recently range from recently arrivals referred to us by other refugees or government agencies to refugees who have been here for a decade or more but have failed to learn English. Too many wonderful and sad stories, but my conclusion: North Korea is a screwed up country that unnecessarily keeps many of its people ignorant about the world and then cruelly punishes those who seek to escape to the outside world.

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2017-12-11 Bring My Father Home press conference

On 2017-12-11, TNKR combined with the 1969 KAL Abductees’ Families Association to hold a press conference on the 48th anniversary of a Korean Airline plane being hijacked to North Korea. Hwang In-Cheol, the son of one of the people abducted and held in North Korea, has been leading up the fight the past 15 years to have the victims released. He has combined with various NGOs and government agencies and organizations, but to no avail. We haven’t been successful, but we have done our best to stand with Mr. Hwang ever since we met him March 2016. We have helped him organize several events, but every event feels like one too many. NK needs to let the abductees go or at least, as Mr. Hwang is now asking, to have a chance to meet in a 3rd country.

The main organizer of the press conference was Youngmin Kwon, a TNKR volunteer who is the Project Manager of the Bring My Father Home campaign. As always, TNKR co-director Eunkoo Lee did 1001 things behind the scenes to make an event happen. Also helping out were TNKR volunteers and students Goeun Gil, Cody Smith, Paul Jennings, Andrea Sciurti and Chansook Kim.

TNKR Senior Fellow Tony Docan-Morgan opened the press conference by giving background information about the hijacking and he also mentioned TNKR role.

TNKR co-founder Casey Lartigue discussed Mr. Hwang’s strategy over the last 15 years, which he compared to Martin Luther King’s strategy of non-violence.

Kim Sokwoo, former Vice Minister of the Unification Ministry, was the first main speaker. He spoke strongly about Mr. Hwang’s campaign to have his father released.

Signe Poulsen of the UN office in Seoul then followed by discussing the UN’s support of his campaign.

NK refugee Hyeongsoo Kim, a student in TNKR and co-founder of Stepping Stones, denounced the NK regime for holding Mr. Hwang’s father and others against their will.

The event then wrapped up with a viewing of a documentary being put together to highlight this campaign.

Some major media covered the event and there should be more stories in the next week or so.

Yonhap, Daily NK, KBS World, Chosun Sports, Daum News.

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Hwang In-Cheol, still calling on North Korea to send his father home.

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2017-12-05 Speech to high school students visiting Korea

They did the DMZ tour. They heard a speech from a North Korean refugee. They even listened patiently to a long speech I gave, and they asked many questions, too. Incredibly, none of them went to sleep, despite waking up at 5 am and spending the day at the DMZ.

These kinds of events are always fun. When the host asked me how long I could speak, I responded, “About TNKR? I can talk until tomorrow.” I was going to say until the day after tomorrow, but I guess I am getting more humble.

The kids had many questions, but they did wait until the start of Q&A to ask any.

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2017-12-02 Harvard Alumni Dinner

I had a great time at the annual Harvard alumni dinner. Former UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon was the keynote speaker. Of course I told him about TNKR, but so many people were trying to tell him about their activities that he probably won’t remember. He did compliment me, as a foreigner, for doing so much to help NK refugees.

Park Jin, renaissance man. Former national assembly member, college professor, connected with so many important people. He says he is a fan of TNKR, he always asks how things are going.


She’s a former Miss Korea. I gave her my card, she said she was interested in my work and that she would message me soon.

2017-12-01 TNKR Little Big Hero at the UN

tvN regularly features “Little Big Heroes.” TNKR was featured last September. Another Little Big Hero is BoumJun Bae, a South Korean man who has become an accomplished Cello player despite having a learning disability.

He was one of the featured performers at TNKR’s  December 2016 “Hand Hands, Love” Concert. Despite having a learning disability, he has mastered the Cello. At our concert, he played the entire time with a smile on his face.


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2017-11-25 14th KOTESOL DCC Symposium and Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanks so much to Kotesol: Daejeon-Chungcheong Chapter for inviting TNKR to present at its annual symposium and Thanksgiving Dinner. Eunkoo Lee and I presented as the featured speakers at the Plenary session. Thanks so much to Mike Peacock, DCC Chapter President, for making it happen. I’m just sorry that because of our tight schedule that we couldn’t join earlier in the day.

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Media and interviews this week

  • BBC World News. TNKR’s co-founders were live on the radio last night discussing the return of 10 North Korean refugees back to China.
  • German TV station will be including a segment about TNKR in an upcoming show.
  • Special documentary about Hwang In-Cheol’s campaign to have his father freed from North Korea. Press conference on December 11.
  • Cherie Yang featured in a Voice of America broadcast about her TEDx Talk.

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