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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.


There have been a few news articles about it.




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


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!


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.”

2017-02-03 Interview about Korean reunification

I was interviewed by students doing a research project about reunification.

I warned them in advance: The interview should take less than five minutes, based on how little I know about the issue. But during the interviewe, I had a flashback to my days as a radio host in the USA, and talked a long time…

Reunification just isn’t my issue. As I wrote in the Korea Times in mid-2014, during a mini-speaking tour to the USA: “I enforced the same rule that I use in South Korea whenever I discuss North Korea: Only one question about reunification will be allowed during Q&A.”

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2017-02-01 Special TV Interview is Coming

Of course, I was fine with the interview request, they wanted to highlight me in a special TV feature. Luckily, we were able to convince Eunkoo, “a shy Korean lady,” to also join, it should make the feature even better. Because she is now with TNKR as a full-time volunteer, she can join all of our events–even when she doesn’t want to do so!

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What in the world is TNKR doing?








Recent media featuring TNKR

  • 2017-01-19, Korea Times, “NK refugees learn English to survive”
  • 2017-01-16, Korea Times, “Education of Lee Eun-koo”
  • 2017-01-10, Yonhap News Feature, “Free English tutoring program helps N.K. defectors adapt”
  • 2016-12-28, News1, “[카드뉴스] ‘탈북민’에 영어를 선물하는 파란눈의 선생님들”
  • 2016-12-26 Stars and Stripes, “Defectors tell of challenges before and after fleeing North Korea”
  • 2016-12-19, Korea Times, “Time and a dime”

2017-01-11 Korea Herald reprint of TNKR Yonhap article

Yonhap did a very nice feature on TNKR. It is difficult to be featured by Yonhap, they report on breaking news and choose selected features.

The Korea Herald reprinted the Yonhap article yesterday, but with fewer photos.

Yonhap also did a previous profile on TNKR co-founder Casey Lartigue (in Korean), in late 2015.


2016-12-21 TNKR greatly overestimated (magazine article forthcoming)

A university professor visited TNKR to interview the co-directors for a magazine article. He was prepared! Several pages of notes, he had read many articles about TNKR and even watched some of the videos in our YouTube channel.

People sometimes ask me: What is the benefit of media writing about TNKR?

1) It builds a track record for us. 2) It can inform people about us, occasionally causing new members to find us.

Definitely answer 1 is becoming more common these days, reporters and writers have no excuse showing up ignorant about our program.

Sometimes I have mixed feelings about interviews. TNKR looks much more powerful in the media than it is in reality. We rarely turn down interviews, but I also know that people also overestimate our capacity.

2017-01-09 update

A photographer from the magazine came to visit TNKR.

We were in the middle of several things–wrapping up an orientation session, saying goodbye to volunteer applicants, transitioning to another orientation. We had to stop for a few minutes to take a few photos.

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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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2016-12-14 Politic journal at Yale University (TNKR founder Lartigue quoted)

The Politic: The Yale College Journal of Politics is a monthly Yale University student publication that traces its roots to 1947. I am one of the people quoted in a feature story by Megan McQueen in The Politic about the struggles North Korean refugees have after they escape.

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Casey Lartigue Jr.​, a founder of the nonprofit (TNKR) Teach North Korean Refugees​, compared China’s repatriation to slavery in the American South.

“In the American South it was illegal to help slaves who were trying to escape, and it’s illegal in China to help North Korean refugees do the same,” said Lartigue in an interview with The Politic. “There were bonuses and awards given to people who helped catch American slaves. In the same way, in China people get rewards for catching or giving information to help catch refugees.”

“It was an outrage what happened in 19th century America. And it’s an outrage what’s happening today,” he said.

Lartigue’s nonprofit, Teach North Korean Refugees​, focuses on teaching refugees English skills, so they can more confidently enter the job market. Lartigue explained how he identified a need for educational programs after first becoming involved with the effort to help North Koreans.

“Look, the escape is just the beginning of the battle,” he said. “Getting out of North Korea is tough, but so is coming over to a brand new society.”

Some refugees have gone on to write memoirs, give speeches, and help others gain the confidence to lead meaningful lives in a new place. Yonmi Park, who left North Korea in 2007, authored In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom.

“One thing Yomni would say often is, ‘People need to stop treating the North Korea issue as some joke, where there’s a crazy dictator and brainwashed people. They turn it into a caricature. They need to realize that many people are struggling because of the dictators here. Our focus should be on helping them,’” Lartigue recalled.

Activists like Park, Lartigue, and Scholte all stressed the importance of reshaping the narrative of the North Korean issue from one focused on the Kim dictatorship to one focused on the people’s efforts to improve their lives after escape. Before they can achieve liberty for themselves and their country, North Korean refugees need those removed from the conflict to listen. The challenges in North Korea may be enormous, but they are not insurmountable.

Quoted in the article:
* Kim Jeong-ah, Suzanne Scholte, Hwang Hyun-Jeong, Greg Scarlatoiu​, Casey Lartigue Jr., Dr. Go Myung-hyung, Sokeel J. Park​.