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2017-09-13 Accepting book donations!

A fan dropped by to donate some books to TNKR. He refused to take photos, but he can see here that one of the refugees joining TNKR is very happy to have gotten a book in English! Yes, you can also donate books to TNKR, although we have limited space.

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TNKR on Cable TV



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2017-06-05 Interview, in-house tutoring, meetings

So many things were going on today.

  • One of the refugees in TNKR was interviewed by a reporter from Canada. It was an extended interview. What I liked about this reporter is that he took his time–he interviewed me twice over the past few weeks, Hwang In-Cheol, a refugee, TNKR volunteers. That is unlike some recent bad experiences we have had with reporters, especially from NPR, Unreported World and some reporters not even worth mentioning.

Paul returned for more in-house tutoring with a refugee visiting Seoul, taking a study break to join TNKR. She lives way down south, but she learned about TNKR, contacted us to say she would be in Seoul. She has been studying with two tutors and will add a third soon.

The entire team was really busy today, planning upcoming events.

We have raised 70% of our matching donation challenge with 9 days to go! Yes, all donations to the fundraisers participating in the Matching challenge will be doubled!


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2017-05-25 In-house tutoring: 2+2=4

The last two days we have been visited by two ladies who had a big impact on TNKR. In early 2015, I received an email from a young lady in the USA who wanted to be a summer intern with TNKR.

TNKR wasn’t even an official organization at that point, we were operating out of the now-defunct Freedom Factory Co. I made sure to downplay her expectations, to let her know just how humble we were, I was sure there were bigger and more established organizations that could provide her with a quality experience.

But no, she wanted to join us. She was so polite, calling “Mr. Lartigue,” and studying TNKR to find her role. She even read my rants in the Korea Times.

Christine Kim was our first intern, and she set a very high standard. Translator, editor, tutor, administration, she did it all without ever complaining even though she was a teenager, and teenagers are experts at complaining at and about old folks. She certainly had her opinions and would add them to the conversation.

Near the end of her internship, I received a Facebook message from a North Korean refugee who had heard about our program. But she had realized that she had a wait a long time before she could start studying. So she appealed directly to me. I had dinner with her and Christine, to get an understanding of the refugee’s needs. During the conversation, I suddenly realized that 2+2=4. Christine was tutoring refugees in the Freedom Factory office. We were developing a waiting list of refugees. Why not have tutors help refugees on the waiting list? That way, they could get English while they waited to join a Matching session. In-house tutoring was born just as Christine was leaving.

We continued in-house tutoring, first with teaching machine Grace Lee, then we put aside some cash to rent a separate office within the Bitcoin Center so we would have a place for refugees to visit as an introduction to TNKR.


Christine is in town for a short visit, she came to visit us. The student who helped to inspire in-house tutoring happened to visit TNKR for a feedback session with TNKR National Director Eunkoo Lee.


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2017-04-13 Pushed out of our office

Yesterday was our first full day back at the TNKR office after the TNKR directors visited England for a week.

  • Tutoring sessions
  • Speech coaching
  • Visit to an event location
  • Planning meeting for Global Leadership Forum

It finally happened. We ran out of space, so the TNKR co-directors were pushed out of their own office.

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2017-03-21 TNKR featured by Koreana magazine

Teach North Korean Refugees has been featured in the Spring 2017 edition of Koreana magazine (Vol. 31 No. 1). The author of the article is journalist Kim Hak-soon, a Visiting Professor at the School of Media and Communication at Korea University.

Koreana (PDF)

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2017-03-12 Hottest Seat in Town (TNKR Matching 54)

At our speech contest on Feb 25, we squeezed 130 people into a room fit for 80, with some attendees at the back of the room having to stand. Yesterday at our Matching session, we squeezed 31 people into a room fit for 20. That means that the late-comers had to sit on the floor yesterday.

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2017-01-07 “I cannot have this opportunity anywhere else”

We had an orientation with refugees entering TNKR’s 52nd Language Course. Wow, it was a special session! So much love for TNKR, they can’t wait to meet the volunteer tutors. Read more


2017-01-04 Key Moments

TNKR started in March 2013 as “English Matching.” We didn’t have a long term plan, there were virtually no guidelines, we had no office, website, phone. A key moment is when we began to raise the level of expectations. Tutors began to take it more seriously and refugees began referring friends and they began returning. It was about our fifth or sixth session that every refugee had been referred or was returning to the program.

This morning I was visited by a refugee who studied with us shortly before she studied abroad. As she was returning, she contacted me to let me know that she would like to rejoin us!

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2016-12-21 “Better than Pagoda”

Story 1: We were visted today by an NK refugee with her daughter who has been studying in our  program. They brought gifts to us and the mother wanted us to know how much she appreciates what we are doing to help her daughter learn English. Her daughter studied at Pagoda, which she said was good, but she said that TNKR is even better.

Of course, some of our tutors have come to us from Pagoda, so I’m not sure they have any magic when they come to us.

Mom was stunned when she learned more about TNKR, she didn’t realize it was run completey by volunteers and that the tutors are all volunteers.

Then she was even more thankful.

The other in-house tutor students who visited also gave gifts for the office. One of the refugees wrote us all wonderful notes in English thaking us for helping her so much. I don’t know her story, but when she first came to us, she was a bit feisty, even suspicious. Now she has embraced the program and I can see that she looks forward to visiting. Her note to me was addressed to: “Representative.”

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2016-12-20 TNKR knows no season

We are just a few days from Christmas, but our office was non-stop busy today.

I was reminded today what a real reporter is like. She read many articles and watched videos about TNKR in advance. She had good sharp questions. Everything interested her. She talked to me, refugees, tutors, volunteers, everyone in the office.

I have had a couple of lousy reporters show up, look around, interview one or two people briefly, then do their show or article without any perspective. In some cases, it even seemed they had made up their minds before they talked with us.

The reporter who showed up today will be doing a feature article about TNKR sometime in January. She even read about my days when I was volunteering for the Mulmangcho School.

Welcome to TNKR! It was her first day tutoring-and she got interviewed by a reporter with a huge media outlet.

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