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2018-05-02 TNKR Media

I continue to be amazed that TNKR gets so much media attention even though:

  • We don’t have a media team or even anyone handling media relations.
  • The American co-founder is a former reporter and communications specialist who is more likely to fight with rather than reach out to media.

Despite those limitations, here we are again, being interviewed by a TV reporter who will be doing a 3-minute segment about TNKR. In TV time, that is eternal life.

Check out the TNKR Media Archive here, and look at how much media coverage we have gotten through April 30.

Support TNKR

TNKR Special Ambassador TNKR Ken Eom was interviewed about North Korea and his experience in TNKR. He’s a new father so you can support his online baby shower here. And here is his fundraiser for TNKR, he called TNKR a LIttle Big Hero.

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We had a tutoring session going on, so the reporter also observed that a little. The refugee is often on TV, but she is not the least bit interested being recorded speaking in English. Later, we expect that she will become an advocate for TNKR.

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The reporter also interviewed me. The interview was going to focus on me, but I suggested we expand beyond me. TNKR won’t grow if every interview is about me. Don’t get me wrong, I want to explain TNKR to the media, but I also know that people get tired of seeing one person focused upon.

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We wrapped up with a meeting with international students from the KAIST College of Business. They said some thoughtful things about ways that we can develop a business model.

Join TNKR’s Book Club.

 

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2018-04-26 TNKR around the world

TNKR Special Ambassador Ken Eom was a special interviewee today! Reporters have been calling us for interviews, but a lot of the refugees in TNKR who are usually ready to do interviews seemed to be busy this week (exam week) or not interested in discussing specifics about the summit. Ken answered the call today and had numerous media requests. So you can expect to see a few news reports in the next few days. He did three interviews today back-to-back-to-back before he had to rush off for a different appointment.
 
He’s a new father and also juggling grad school. Thanks to those of you who participated in his online baby shower. You can also send support for their baby adjustment time directly to Ken.
I also had a busy day–a speech in the morning at an international high school, an interview with an international reporter, and an in-studio interview with long-time radio host Henry Shinn.
And I’m proud to announce that TNKR will have its first student club!

I was out of the office most of today, here are the things that I know about:

More photos are below. Read more

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2018-02-03 TNKR in the LA Times

Los Angeles Times front page article: Koreas’ unified women’s hockey team has exposed a key difference between South and North — their language

Some immigrants from the North — who risk their lives to leave — face difficulty and discrimination in the South because they lack vocabulary or use differing dialects and accents. Others struggle with cultural assimilation that’s related to language, such as not understanding jokes or an unfamiliarity with pop culture references, said Lee Eunkoo, who co-founded an organization that helps defectors.

“One of the refugees we taught had the experience of being fired from her job at a bakery because she didn’t know the exact bread names, such as ‘baguette,’ ” said Lee, whose group is called Teach North Korean Refugees.

Three-quarters of the North Koreans said official terms in the South — like those for government, banking and medical interactions — were confusing.

“In the North, we try to use Korean in education and sports, whereas here they tend to just use the terms as they are,” said Ken Eom, a North Korean who defected to Seoul eight years ago.

LA Times Front Page_4 Feb (PDF)

LA Times page 4, mentions TNKR (PDF)

 

 

 

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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.

 

Read more

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2017-08-14 Ken interview with international media

TNKR special ambassador Ken Eom was interviewed by another international reporter for a TV interview. Yesterday he was part of a panel on Al Jazeera.

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2017-07-12 TNKR interviewed about volunteering

Researchers who usually contact us at TNKR want to talk to refugees studying with us. But today was a bit different:

  • According to the researchers who interviewed us today, TNKR is seen as a pioneer in the field of volunteering in South Korea. So they wanted to learn about our process, history, and development. They hope to highlight us so more South Koreans can know about what we are doing. Their focus isn’t on us helping refugees, but on our approach when it comes to volunteering. In many programs, volunteers just drop in, there is no real registration process, but we have high expectations for volunteers. As one of our previous volunteers said, “Volunteering doesn’t have to mean no standards.”
  • The researchers wanted to know about the volunteers. It went a step deeper than South Koreans surprised that foreigners are helping North Korean refugees. Their focus was more on what motivates people to volunteer when they come to South Korea. If South Koreans are more aware of what we are doing then they may be motivated to volunteer.
  • I also let them know that 25% of TNKR tutors also raise money for the organization.

So it was a nice interview!

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2017-06-27 TNKR loves Eunhee Park

We always look forward to Eunhee visiting TNKR. No matter how difficult it can be running an NGO, the office brightens up whenever Eunhee comes to visit.

She started the day by having an interview with a top media outlet.

We had a conversation about her future.

She and Ken Eom then gave speeches to high school students visiting Korea.

Then we had dinner.

She has really blossomed in the last two years, going from a refugee who didn’t use her name or show her face in photos. She is now a regular on TV, often gets interviewed by media, and shares her passion for life with everyone around her.

Support TNKR

Read more

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2017-06-27 American high schoolers visit TNKR

Support TNKR

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Some American high school students visiting South Korea stopped by TNKR to hear speeches from two TNKR Special Ambassadors. As co-founder of TNKR, it was another beautiful moment, seeing two speakers who came to us in 2015 blossoming the way they have.

  • One if now a graduate student, the other is an undergraduate.
  • They both have improved their English a lot.
  • They have both improved their ability to make speeches. Practicing many times and working with many tutors and coaches has definitely helped them improve.
  • And they thank us TNKR so many times for the impact that it has had on their lives. Not only do they say this when they are with us, but I have heard from others that they praise us.
  • They both even raise money for TNKR! Thank you Ken Eom and Eunhee Park.
  • The students said they learned so much. It is really a great opportunity for them to learn directly from North Korean refugees the reality of that country and the challenges that refugees have when they make it to South Korea.
  • TNKR will continue making a difference in the lives of refugees and volunteers who join us.

Read more

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2017-06-27 Overpopulation at TNKR

  • If TNKR were the Earth, then environmentalists would condemn us as being overpopulated. It finally happened that we had too many volunteers in the office at one time, so not everyone could get a seat.
  • People often ask us what we would do if we had more money. One thing: Get a bigger office! We have a number of volunteers who want to work at our office, many tutors and refugees want to study at our office. But we lack the capacity.
  • We were squeezed out of the big room because Eunhee Park was getting interviewed.
  • Sometimes I feel like I’m in a bar, because it seems that I am the only person in the office who knows how to whisper. It needs to become the TNKR library, because we need to keep it quiet for study pairs and occasional interviews.

Read more

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2017-06-04 Refugees join TNKR Matching Grant Challenge!

I’m proud to announce that 5 North Korean refugees in TNKR have joined our effort to secure a 4 million won matching grant gift! Our challenge? Raise 4 million (about $3,500) won by June 15, then we get the 4 million won gift. So every donation really counts.

They grew up in a country with virtually no such thing as civil society or NGOs engaged in fundraising. Now they are raising money for TNKR, learning the value of civil society.

Donate to the following fundraisers set up by TNKR students, the donations will be doubled!

Click the names below to view each refugee’s fundraiser (in Korean and English):

1) Cherie탈북민 영어교육프로그램 모금

2) Eunhee당신이 바로 탈북민들의 운명을 바꿀수도 있는 멋진 사람이란걸!

3) KenTNKR IS A LITTLE BIG HERO(작지만 큰 사람 TNKR)

4) 설향먼저 온 통일에게 꿈을 키워주세요

5) Jun, I Love TNKR