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2017-05-30 TNKR at CSR International Conference

I’m usually a terrible conference forum attendee. I have actually attended conferences where I did not attend a single forum, only the keynote and luncheon speeches; instead, I was usually outside talking, networking, taking photos. Today, I attended a Corporate Social Responsibility conference in Seoul along with TNKR National Director Eunkoo Lee and Fundraising Manager Anna Martinson. Eunkoo focused on each speech. Anna took notes. I was waiting for the next break so I could talk and meet with people. A great thing about having a bigger staff is that I can be me.  I could be irresponsible while Eunkoo and Anna learned. I didn’t even even open the program book.

Kosri, the main event organizer, profiled me a few years ago. One of the organizers of the conference volunteered along me at the Mulmangcho School a few years ago with one of TNKR’s volunteers. I thought I recognized her but I wasn’t sure. We handed out plenty of our business cards.

We didn’t pick up any new donors, it was a conference where they were studying about CSR, not engaging in it. But you can support TNKR until they wise up.

 

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2017-05-18 TNKR presentation to Australian students

Thursday was one of those days we could really appreciate how much TNKR has grown. With very little money, we have created an NGO that provides practical learning opportunities for refugees and has gained respected internationally.

We have had more than 570 volunteer tutors, but just a handful have committed to us long-term. Of the 270 refugees who have joined us, the same is true, just a handful have stuck to us. Having people around us has taken a lot of pressure off us. And now a new thing is happening–we are no longer at the center of every activity.

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2017-05-13 “Hello Konglish!” TNKR at KOTESOL

TNKR presented “Hello Konglish!” at the National KOTESOL conference. TNKR International Director Casey Lartigue introduced the organization’s main activities, TNKR National Director Eunkoo Lee discussed her findings based on feedback sessions with refugees, refugee Jinhee Han discussed her experience as an English teacher in North Korea.

We also had an information table. We were delighted that Leonie Overbeek stopped by our table, she has donated art work to TNKR.

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2017-05-14 “A Woman is a Flower” TNKR Global Leadership Forum 2

TNKR held its second Global Leadership Forum on Sunday May 14, featuring speakers discussing the lives of North Korean women. The event was co-sponsored by the Working Group on North Korean Women.

Lee So-yeon kicked off the forum by discussing the brutality that she and other North Korean women suffered in the military, such as being raped by military leaders. It was another reminder about a brutal regime that does not respect the rights of individuals.

Eunsun Kim, author of A Thousand Miles to Freedom, then discussed her escape from North Korea. Many of the attendees began crying when she discussed the conversations she had with her mother when they thought they might starve to death.

Lee Juseong, author of Sunhee, wrapped up the forum by discussing specific statistics related to North Korean women and calling on the South Korean government to do more to rescue North Korean refugee women from China.

TNKR Speech Fellow Tony Docan-Morgan kicked off the event, TNKR co-directors Eunkoo Lee and Casey Lartigue briefly introduced TNKR, then after the speakers and Q&A, TNKR Assistant Director Dave Fry issued a call to action.

The room fit about 60, and we had about 70 or so in attendance, with a few latecomers having to stand.

 

 

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2017-05-04 New Volunteers, New Projects

Jenny stopped by the office to give us feedback about a new project idea. It is always delightful seeing us, she first joined TNKR in 2015 and comes back to us sometimes.

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2017-05-03 TNKR at CDS

How delightful!!! Students at the Cheongna Dalton held an art auction as a fundraiser for TNKR.

The whole thing was amazing.

  1. They decided to hold the art auction to raise money for us, but they didn’t even tell us about it!
  2. I was looking for an article about TNKR when I came across the information. I was shocked and amazed.
  3. I contacted the school, the teacher organizing the art auction told me that it was really real.
  4. I insisted that we would like to visit after the auction was over to thank them. It isn’t enough to just have them send us the money.
  5. It was technically a holiday, but because it is an international school they were available. TNKR National Director Eunkoo Lee and TNKR Ambassador Eunhee Park were available, so this is how we spent a large part of Wednesday.

Eunhee was at the center of attention!!!

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2017-05-01 “I can speak English now”

Yesterday at TNKR:

  • Feedback sessions with two refugees
  • International reporter visits TNKR
  • Refugee designs bag for TNKR
  • In-house tutoring
  • Children taking over TNKR

Feedback session 1:

One of the refugees who came by for a feedback session with TNKR National Director Eunkoo Lee talked how much confidence she has gained since studying in TNKR. She had previously studied at a language institute but she felt lost in the classes.

  • She never studied English when she was in North Korea.
  • In South Korea, she had taken English classes at language institutes, but felt lost. The South Koreans in the basic class clearly had studied English, whereas she was at the very beginning.
  • She studied on her own, but wasn’t really sure how to study.
  • Then, she saw Yeonmi Park’s One Young World speech. She thought about speaking out, but because of family still in NK, she decided against it, but continued cheering for Yeonmi.
  • She found out about TNKR, then she began chasing me, asking me to meet.

She joined TNKR a few months ago, she has been studying with three tutors since then. She has continued studying on her own, but feels she has some guidance after studying with native and fluent speakers. She says that her friends are amazed (“envy”) that she has three tutors who are helping her to improve her English.

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Feedback session 2:

When she first came to us, she only spoke Korean. She even seemed a bit suspicious of us at first. She hasn’t said it, but it seemed that she was wondering, “What’s the catch?” She began studying hard, then her tutor realized that he wasn’t helping her by speaking Korean to her. Then, a few few months later when their class was going to end because she was going to join the Matching program, she said the key thing for her was when her in-house tutor stopped using Korean to translate things for her. For the first time, she had to start thinking in English.

She says she is now active in her classes at school, that she has gained confidence her studying with two tutors.

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2017-04-28 “Dear Leader” author visits TNKR

We had a nice meeting then dinner with “Dear Leader” author Jang Jin-sung. He was a poet propagandist for NK dictator Kim Jong-il, his role was to convince South Koreans to support the NK regime. He later escaped to South Korea, he worked with a security agency connected to NIS, then later founded New Focus International.

He has made it clear that he is a fan of TNKR! He has proven it not only with his words, but his actions!

  1. Here’s a nice interview he did with TNKR’s co-founders a few months ago. (English, Korean)
  2. On June 24, he will be the featured speaker at TNKR’s third Global Leadership Forum. This will be a great chance to ask a question to a former member of North Korea’s elite and someone whose role it was to be sympathetic about North Korea.
  3. We will be announcing another update soon, TNKR’s Assistant Director Dave Fry is drafting the press release.

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2017-04-28 Not a drive-by reporter

Even though TNKR is for only adult students and volunteers, I have realized that we do need some toys for little people! Many of them can be distracted by videos or computer games, but some of them also like to explore the TNKR office.

A reporter who stopped by to interview me brought her children, including her daughter who seemed to be amazed that the man talking to her mother in the other room was also on the computer, so that bought us some time for the interview. Eventually she left with the last stuffed toy at the office, so next time, I can’t be sure what will happen when a little person shows up.

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2017-04-20 Hansarang Foundation Award ceremony

I remember the moment I was nominated for the special “Social Contribution” Prize awarded by the Hansarang Rural Cultural Foundation.

My response: “Hahaha. I know I won’t win, but it is nice to be nominated.”

Then later I heard that I was a finalist, that’s when I began to take it seriously. Then I was informed that I had won. So last night, it was a great feeling to be on the stage, accepting the award, still not quite believing that I had won.

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There have been a few news articles about it: Read more