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2017-07-19 Something is going on…

  • Many refugees have been applying for TNKR.
  • Major media (CNN, the Guardian) are finding me again.
  • Volunteers are contacting us, asking how they can help.

Something is going on…

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Several meetings today in three different locations across Seoul.

I started the day participating in a Roundtable discussion at the Korea Times office near Seoul Station.

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I then was interviewed by the Guardian. I usually like to do such interviews while I am sitting at my desk. But in this case, I did the interview in a taxi on the way to our shared office with Save NK. 

My quote has been featured by EuroNews.

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We then returned to the TNKR Study Center. We had two feedback sessions with refugees, two more orientations with tutors to make sure the refugees have enough choices at this weekend’s Matching session.

Support TNKR

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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.

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2017-06-19 TNKR featured in Neon Magazine (Germany)

Jun Michael Park posted on Facebook: SEOULMATES, NEON Magazine, 07/17.

A story on how the NGO (TNKR) Teach North Korean Refugees is teaching English to North Korean refugees and enabling them to reach higher and achieve more. cc: Sharon Jang Casey Lartigue Jr. Eunkoo Lee
Text: Jurek Skrobala
Photos: Jun Michael Park
Special thanks to Amélie Schneider and Frauke Schnoor.

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2017-06-15 TV podcast, TNKR presentation

Yesterday began with TNKR co-founder Casey Lartigue being interviewed for a new TV podcast.

In the afternoon, two TNKR refugees gave speeches to a group of high school students visiting from the USA.

And around all of that, tutoring sessions for refugees, Eunkoo Lee having feedback sessions with refugees to get an understanding about their experience in TNKR.

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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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2017-05-01 “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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TNKR student Joseph has designed a new TNKR bag (on the left). He is one of the first refugees I met, we lost contact a few years ago when I lost my flip phone, but he later found me on Facebook!

He said he likes our current TNKR bag, but he thought he could add our new logo to a bag that we could sell at events.

***

TNKR Special Ambassador Sharon Jang was interviewed yesterday by an international reporter visiting South Korea. Sharon has been with us for two years, it is always great to see her!

The reporter interviewed me also to find out about a bit about me.

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TNKR super volunteer Youngmin Kwon was at it again yesterday!

  • He arrived at 6:30 a.m.
  • He worked on Mr. Hwang’s “Bring My Father Home” campaign.
  • Translation work when we need it.
  • Plus, tutoring a student. In March, he and TNKR Assistant Director taught the most classes by any TNKR tutors and have raised the most money since we launched a new crowd-sourcing site.

 

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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.

Read more

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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.

 

 

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Eunkoo Lee captured my “Did I really win this?” moment.

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I was one of the six award winners. It was a great moment.

Then there were several photos of the award winners.

I also took some individual photos. The Hansarang Foundation had a professional photographer snapping away taking photos anytime we stopped to pose for photos.

I took photos with several of the VIPs in attendance. It was a wonderful night, one that I will never forget.

And… several TNKR volunteers, students and fans joined! I was so happy to share this moment with them.

They were cheering so loudly that even the announcer commented on the TNKR table!

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And of course, I would not have won it without TNKR co-director Eunkoo Lee!

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2017-04-20 Visit to UN office, TV interview

  • Yesterday morning:
    • I was delighted to be part of an interview with one of the Big 3 networks in South Korea.
    • Part of it included another visit to the UN’s Seoul office.
  • Yesterday evening (my next post)
    • I was honored to win an award from a Korean foundation.

***

Hwang Cheol was being interviewed about his campaign to have his father released from North Korea. The TV team interviewed a few of us to provide perspective to his campaign. We then wrapped up with a visit to the UN office.

Yes, they also interviewed me. I usually have a love-hate relationship with the media. As it has been said, “The interview is the honeymoon, publication is the divorce.”

The host who interviewed me is so lovely. She seemed to enjoy the interview and wasn’t the least bit shy when it was time to take photos! Sometimes I think I am in the wrong field, so many of the volunteers who collaborate with me run from the cameras. I remember one day that I received an email complaint from one guy whining that I’m always in the TNKR photos. That’s back when I used to answer critics, I politely informed him, “You idiot, if you had joined any of our sessions, you would know that most volunteers run from the cameras and our default with refugees is not to show their faces unless they make it clear they don’t mind.”