People who learn about TNKR naturally are curious about the refugees who join our project. It is easy to forget that we have many volunteer tutors who give up a lot of time to help North Korean refugees with improving their English. We have had almost 400 North Korean refugees study in TNKR with almost 800 tutors and coaches since we began in 2013. And it is quite incredible because TNKR is not a “show up and teach” project without any preparation. After going our application process, tutors must be prepared for 1:1 classes with students who are eager to learn. Even “free talking” and conversation need to be structured, so that it isn’t just chit-chat. Students can go anywhere for that.

Numerous refugees in TNKR have studied with others, ranging from friends, language exchange partners, institutes, university classes, people they meet on the street, church or Internet. The difference they say is that the tutors they meet through TNKR embrace the TNKR philosophy of putting the students at the center. Our classes are always 1:1, students are expected to communicate to tutors what it is they want to study and it is reasonable for tutors to expect students to show up to class with something they want to learn (vocabulary, article, dialogue, questions, homework). As one refugee has been telling other refugees, “Don’t join TNKR until you are ready to study.”

We are currently recruiting volunteers to join us, for our final orientation and Matching sessions this summer.

  • Track 2 coaching, orientation sessions by appointment at the TNKR office until July 13, then July 16 offline Matching session.
  • Track 1 Skype tutoring, orientation session is July 15 at the TNKR office.
  • Track 1 tutoring, orientation session is July 21 at the TNKR office, the Matching session is July 28 at the TNKR office.

You can call the TNKR office July 11 with questions about any of these tutoring/coaching options, 02-6929-0942, ask for TNKR co-founder Casey Lartigue. You can get the process going by applying here.

Here’s my Korea Times column: “Why foreigners volunteer to help NK refugees


Rachel joined us last month. She meets this student at the TNKR once a week. They are laughing and joking so much that I had to check on them to make sure they were really studying. And they were!!! In addition to tutoring, Rachel has also set up a fundraiser for TNKR.

Michelle is an energetic tutor!! She takes command of her class, using various unique teaching techniques to help students learn from doing, not just hearing. She has set up a fundraiser in which she writes poems for people who donate to TNKR.

Caoimhe joined us earlier this year and has now been volunteer for four months. Her classes are serious, focused. She has one of the most successful fundraisers set up by a tutor who is not part of the TNKR staff.