We often have many North Korean refugees reaching out to us. But the last few days, our heads have been spinning with the number of phone calls, messages, visits, orientation sessions, applications, requests from and interviews with refugees studying, applying to or returning to TNKR.

Can you imagine our feelings when they praise us, come to visit us, or consider our rinky-dinky little project to be so valuable? I have heard that other programs must send constant reminders to refugees to join their meetings, conferences and workshops, but in our case, the refugees come looking for us.  There are larger, well-funded organizations that ask us to “send” refugees to them. We have developed a great program that has minimized socializing, dating and hanging out, and instead have volunteers who give their time to make sure that refugees learn. Refugees ran from North Korea, but they run to us!

Some people think I am exaggerating when I say such things, it apparently drives some people crazy, and others don’t believe me.

Last year I wrote about one of many insiders who have expressed doubts directly to me.

“At a recent party, I bumped into an influential South Korean colleague who insists she tried not to be prejudiced against refugees. She has heard from others working directly with refugees that they lie and cheat with impunity, don’t show up for classes or events, are always late, show no sense of responsibility, and are passive until they are pushed. She then told me that I must be having the same problems.

“She didn’t believe me. She had heard a little about our project and even checked a few of my email updates, but she said that I am the first person to work long-term with refugees who says they can be disciplined, thankful, and aggressive in a positive way. She said that her colleagues working with refugees have horror stories and social welfare workers routinely get their hearts broken.”

Does my heart look broken?

I’m not surprised by the failure of top-down programs with workshops and conferences that refugees aren’t really interested in to join fun camps and socializing opportunities mixed in to entertain but not necessarily assist them in reaching their goals.

There are other wonderful stories from refugees who came to visit us in the last week, but I can’t highlight them all. Yesterday we conducted four interviews with NK refugees who hope to join TNKR. We had five more refugees stop by to drop off their applications for a scholarship program we have with our partner organization Serpentem Scholarship Mission Foundation.

Help support TNKR, so doubters can see the light one day!

 

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A reporter visited the TNKR office, and stayed for about 9 hours. He conducted interviews with staff and refugees, analyzing from every possible angle. We set one hour limits for interviews with refugees, but the rest of us will talk all day long…

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“North Korean defectors must overcome big challenge once free: Learn English”

Thomas Maresca, Special to USA TODAY

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2017/12/30/north-korean-defectors-english-language/992510001/

PDF of tear sheets

2018-01-02 TNKR in USA Today (1)

2018-01-02 TNKR in USA Today (2)

That’s right, Jang Jinsung dropped by the TNKR office on Friday. When he was in North Korea, his job was to spread propaganda in South Korea. He did his job so well that he was named a favorite Poet Propagandist of Kim Jong-Il. He later escaped to South Korea, he has written several books including Dear Leader. He is one of the refugees connected with TNKR who has agreed to sign books as part of TNKR’s Book Club. He is now on TNKR’s Board of Directors, the first time he has served on a board of directors. He has governments and strategists about North Korea around the world seeking his advice, so we are honored that he is such a fan of our humble organization. Here’s his interview with TNKR last year, in English and Korean. He is one of the refugees who has issued strong public testimonials on our behalf.

 

Jang Jinsung signing a couple of copies of his book for TNKR donors.

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I first met Sharon Jang in early 2015. She has remained with TNKR constantly since then. Every meeting with her is lovely and inspiring. We are now working with her on a special project, it is all hands on deck with our staff in the office as well as a volunteer in the USA.

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We joined lovely Sharon Jang as the results were announced in an essay test. We were so delighted that she mentioned the impact TNKR has had on her!

She first joined TNKR in early 2015. Her English was at a basic level, she joined both Tracks 1 and 2. She had no fear. And if you know her story about working in a coal mine in North Korea, then you can understand why the thought of giving public speeches gave her no fear.

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So many great stories, wonderful people, fantastic feelings at yesterday’s 6th TNKR English speech contest.

The theme of the contest: “A Woman is a Flower: The Lives of North Korean Women.”

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Random moments and observations from the contest:

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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.

Lovely Sharon visited TNKR today to cheer us up. That may not have been her intention, but that’s what happens every time we see her! Lovely Sharon brought her lovely daughter.

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