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2017-06-27 American high schoolers visit 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.

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2017-06-12 Harvard Global Networking Night

Brag, brag, brag, that’s what people were doing at last night’s Harvard Global Networking Night. It was great, we were able to tell some influential people about (TNKR) Teach North Korean Refugees. Best of all, some of them were already familiar with TNKR!

TNKR co-directors took a break from work to join Harvard Global Networking Night. It is great to join networking events where people are expected to talk about their activities. So I shamelessly introduced TNKR! I often encounter people who are afraid that others are bragging or having a good time, so it is was fun meeting with people who want to hear about what others are doing and also want to inform you about what they are doing.

It was delightful when we met some influential people who said they were already aware of our important activities.

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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.


TNKR presentation to Australian students

Two TNKR Ambassadors and TNKR co-founders Eunkoo Lee and Casey Lartigue spoke to a group of MBA students visiting from Australia. Here’s our group photo after the session.

Some venues have standing room only. Ours included sitting on the floor and standing. My math isn’t great, but 20 chairs, 24 visitors, 6 volunteers=not everyone will get a chair.


TNKR Special Ambassador Cherie Yang was the winner of our fifth English speech contest, so now expectations are higher every time she speaks. And she meets the challenge!


Eunhee has gone from being anonymous to a regular speaker with great confidence.

The students had many thoughtful questions and said they learned a lot.


We had a full house!

TV stations often have a “Green room” where guests wait for their chance to go on the show. The TNKR green room is a study/storage/waiting room.

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Standing with TNKR

Over the past few years, we have had almost 600 volunteer tutors and coaches volunteer with TNKR. An important thing for us is having volunteers commit to us long-term. Last year Youngmin Kwon joined us as a full-time volunteer, taking on various roles (assistant academic adviser, project manager of the Bring My Father Home project, translator, office manager). More recently, Dave Fry has joined us as Assistant Director of Publicity and Professor Tony Docan-Morgan has joined TNKR as a Senior Fellow of Communication and Advocacy. The Professor evaluates speeches by TNKR ambassadors and speakers and gives them specific feedback. He has been teaching communications for 15 years, he is so good that I have been recruiting him to become my speech coach. He has conducted three 1:1 feedback session for refugees who participated in our speech contest in February. We want the speech contest to be a learning opportunity in addition to the other benefits.

The Professor going line by line with Cherie Yang over her prize-winning speech.

Feedback session 2 with another refugee who has competed in TNKR speech contests. After the session, he declared, “I learned so much, I think I can win next time!”

Speech feedback session 3: She said aspects of public speaking that she had never considered, that she will be able to use the techniques in her classes. She doesn’t show her face, but she said she has gained confidence in giving a public speech even though her English isn’t that strong.


TNKR discussion about our upcoming brainstorming session. Anna Martinson (seated) and Dave Fry (arms folded) will be leading the session. Spencer has joined TNKR as a fundraising intern and Chansook is a South Korean fan of TNKR who dropped by to volunteer for a few hours.


TNKR Assistant Director Dave Fry is a tutor, fundraiser, donor, motivator and office comedian who is helping us develop long-term strategy.


One of the important developments about TNKR is that refugees in the program have been standing by our side. The ultimate test of a program is: Do the people who are benefiting from the program have a connection to what you are doing? Are they willing to stand by your side?

TNKR Special Ambassador Cherie Yang has taken on a leadership role within TNKR. She is always ready to help, even shooting a promotional video for TNKR.

Joseph is one of the first refugees I met years ago. He brings us gifts and could eventually partner with us on a business project.

Support my fundraiser for TNKR



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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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2017-05-04 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.

This was unexpected! One of the refugees we recently met in the UK came to South Korea on a short visit. We had a feedback session with her to learn about her education needs. Here’s my Korea Times column about our trip to the UK.

She couldn’t stop laughing when I said I wanted to take a photo with her. Then when she realized how I was going to shield her face, yes, that’s her laughing as we take a photo.

Here are some college students who want to volunteer to help us with office management.

Jeeyeon has been volunteering with TNKR since August 2016. She was in this CSR video done for TNKR by one of our South Korean volunteers. you can see her from the 3:30 minute mark.

These college students would also like to volunteer in the office.

Expert volunteers! Anna and Spencer are both joining to help us with fundraising and outreach!

TNKR  Assistant Director Dave Fry tutoring TNKR Special Ambassador Cherie Yang.

One of the refugees in TNKR was shocked to see my name in yesterday’s Korea Times as she was reading it. She sent this screen-shot.

2017-03-02 A new focus on TNKR

TNKR’s co-directors had a super fantastic meeting today with Jang Jin-sung, a former poet propagandist to NK dictator Kim Jong-il. A few months ago, Mr. Jang featured TNKR in an interview (English) (Korean). After today’s meeting, he has a new focus on TNKR. He let us know how much he admires what we are doing and said he would like to help build up TNKR. He also gave us some direct advice about some changes we might want to make.

You also might want to check out his book Dear Leader.


That meeting with Mr. Jang was a great way to end the day, as we will be able to announce later. The meeting to start the day got things started in a beautiful way!

An adorable South Korean lady who attended the conference we spoke at last week at Pyeongtaek University dropped by. It turns out that she is a fan! She had already watched all of the podcasts that I did with Yeonmi Park back in 2014, read Yeonmi Park’s book, and had watched many of my speeches and read articles about TNKR. She was already well aware of TNKR before last week’s speech at Pyeongtaek. She is really trying to figure out how she can help TNKR.

As I’ve said many times before, TNKR won’t grow until more South Koreans become aware of what we are doing and help with people power and donations. She offered to volunteer with us and also made a donation to TNKR.

She suprised us with a donation.

She is a Yeonmi Park fan, she had already watched our podcasts before meeing me last week.


Chatting time!

TNKR Special Ambassador Cherie Yang studying with tutor Dave Fry. He is focused on helping her improve her writing ability.

TNKR Assistant Academic Adviser Youngmin Kwon tutoring a new student.

Introductory interview with a new student.

The Princess AKA Cherie Yang.

I knew there was some mischief going on, but posed for the photo anyway.

Support TNKR:

Tutoring sessions

How to Help North Koreans project

General Fund

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2017-02-28 Don’t Even Think About… Taking My Photo

TNKR volunteer tutor Arrooj Nawaz was teaching her student the phrase “Don’t even think about…”

As usual, they showed the enthusiasm of military draftees when I said it was photo time. So I taught the student the phrase: “Don’t even think about taking my photo.” I think such ‘Live English” helps students remember key phrases. 🙂

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2017-02-27 Amazing Feedback about TNKR

iTNKR National Director Eunkoo Lee just wrapped up a fascinating feedback session with a refugee. This refugee is older than the other participants in our program, she has an adult son. Their escape story is amazing. She is now studying English for a specific reason related to her career. She is a basic level speaker who never had the courage to speak English before joining TNKR, even when she studied in hakwons.

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2017-02-22 Waking up the dead (Pyongtaek conference)

I was delighted to be one of the four speakers at a conference hosted by the Pyungtaek Social Welfare Foundation.

The theme: “Multiculture and Global Social Welfare Forum.”

The reality: “Can you endure?”

I asked one of the attendees what was memorable about the conference. Without hesitating, he said, “You woke up the room. People were chit-chatting, not paying attention.” Well, I was in and out of the room networking, chatting, taking photos, so I don’t know what the other speakers were saying. 🙂

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