Media coverage of Hansarang Rural Cultural Foundation awards ceremony

2017-03-16 You Can’t Have Everything…

I love it when TNKR tutors and students study together at TNKR’s humble office.

  • Tutors feel more connected to the program.
  • Refugees are more likely to give us feedback when they see us more often.
  • We have a better understanding of the needs of the students.
  • Tutors are also more likely to share concerns as well as successes.

Everything is great, except for the fact that we don’t have enough space. There’s an old saying, “You can’t have everything.” As comedian Steven Wright later added: “Where would you put it?”

We have more students and tutors coming to the office, but where will we put them?




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2017-03-09 My kind of meetings!

Eunkoo Lee is now volunteering at the TNKR office full-time. Sounds great, but I expected to have some conflicts. I’m a leaf floating in the wind, she likes structure. She had a couple of staff meetings, but I was so uncooperative and grumpy that she finally decided to cancel regularly scheduled staff meetings. I like meetings to get something done, not a meeting with a checklist of items that we will get done later. If we need to talk about something, then let’s talk about it! But not wait for the staff meeting at 1 pm on Monday.

Some dense people might conclude I’m saying I’m against meetings, but that’s not true. I’m against meetings for the sake of having meetings, and especially meetings that don’t get anything done except to develop great plans for future meetings.

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2017-02-23 “Please, make us pay”

How often do people say: Please, charge me money.

Three weeks ago, Eunkoo Lee quit her paid job in order to volunteer at TNKR full-time. That means that she now more time to counsel and meet with refugees. Before, she was holding down a full-time job while also trying to be co-director at TNKR. So she can get more feedback from refugees. One thing she has been hearing from many of them: We should charge refugees a membership fee.

They are aware of our failed strategy of attracting support from business, individuals, volunteers.


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2017-01-17 TNKR at the DMZ

The Asia Leadership Trek invited me to join for a trip to the DMZ. It was a surprising moment when the US military person giving us a special tour recognized me. He he loves the work that TNKR does. He also said that with the use of facial recognition, the North Korean soldiers may be able to identify me.

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2016-12-23: Five hours of interviews!

We had a lovely reporter visit the TNKR office to conduct more than five hours of interviews:

  • 2 tutors
  • 2 refugee ambassadors
  • 1 assistant academic adviser
  • 2 co-directors

Would you be surprised to learn that she is a great listener?

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2016-12-19 #BringMyFatherHome 47th anniversary (and counting)

Comment and video by Karin Hanna, TNKR board member and an executive member of a new organization being started by Hwang In-Cheol:

This month we had 3 events related to the ‘Bring my father home case’.

I had the pleasure to meet Mr. Hwang’s wonderful wife and one of his 3 lovely and talented daughters, who finished the event by playing the meaningful song 가고파 “ka go pa” on her violin. All I wish for this family is to find their peace and happiness and not having to stand alone to fight for justice.

Mr. Hwang had no help for many years, only his family stood with him. TNKR, which as an NGO has enough of its own challenges and struggles, however stood up and offered support through volunteers. We have become a strong team of friends all over the world!

Thanks for reading this, keep us in your minds and don’t turn your back to this just by saying it’s an “old story”. It is only old because it has been neglected for so many years! We also shouldn’t be afraid of speaking our minds! As WE are lucky to live in a free world!

Enjoy the short video of photo memories…and thanks to all my friends who also supported Mr. Hwang but aren’t tagged. He is happy and greatful about every single one of you.

2016-12-15 Eunkoo’s fundraising campaign

(TNKR) Teach North Korean Refugees Crowd-sourcing Manager Briana Reha-Klenske is suddenly getting busy!

* Eunkoo Lee has set up an online fundraiser, raising $160 in the first 24 hours!

*Two other tutors have expressed interest in doing so.

* According to a conference call I was on a few days ago, about 31 percent of all giving is done in the month of December.

* More than 60% of online giving is done after people see a friend or relative donate. It would be great to have more online fundraisers set up during the month of December. Check with me or Briana if you would like to set up an online fundraiser for TNKR.




2016-12-13 Charity concert to raise fund for NK defectors (Korea Times)

Charity concert to raise fund for NK defectors
by John Max Redmond​
The Korea Times​

An NGO supporting North Korean refugees is presenting a charity concert titled “2016 Hold Hands, Love Concert” at the Seocho Hanwoori Rehabilitation Center in southern Seoul, Saturday.

The concert run by (TNKR) Teach North Korean Refugees​ aims to raise funds and awareness for the education of North Korean refugees in the South. It features cellist BoumJun Bae​, gayageum (12-string zither) player Bae Ji-soo, orchestral music from the Hanwoori Eins Baum Chamber and musical actress Kim Na-hee (김나희​).

“We have been working more closely with refugees who are seeking to tell their stories to the world,” said Casey Lartigue Jr.​, co-founder of TNKR.

“Last August we had a matching session with several refugees who let me know they have things to say in English. In addition to engaging in more public speaking, three are hoping to pen memoirs.”

Most recently, Lartigue and several refugees addressed U.S. military members for the first time, as they discussed their escape from North Korea, adapting to life both here and in the U.S., life in the North Korea military and the poor state of healthcare in the North.

“We are also strengthening English language study options in our program,” Lartigue said.

TNKR’s tutors have been devising a curriculum for refugees seeking structured instruction, Lartigue said. Refugees can customize their own education programs according to their own needs, but will also soon have the option to follow a set curriculum.

“So far we have focused on preparing refugees for academic and employment opportunities,” Lartigue said. “Now we are organizing to connect them with those opportunities. They enjoy studying, but actual opportunities will motivate them even more.”

Since March 2013, TNKR has been organizing a community of volunteer tutors, staff, mentors, coaches and specialists to help North Korean refugees adjust to living in South Korea. More than 250 North Korean refugees have studied with and been mentored by more than 450 volunteers.

The group was established under the leadership of Lartigue and vice director Eunkoo Lee​.

The concert is from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. with entrance fees of 10,000 won for students, 20,000 won for TNKR volunteers and students and 30,000 won general admission.

TNKR will have guides from exit 4 of Nambu Bus Terminal Station on Line 3 ready to escort guests to the location.

Visit for more information.

2016-11-21 Help is on the way!

TNKR held its 51st Language Matching session this past Saturday. We have had more than 450 volunteer tutors participate in the program. In addition to tutoring, some have also helped in other ways with marketing, social media, fundraising, administrative tasks.

We have had many great groups of tutors–but it seems this course will be something special. So many ideas are coming from them, they apparently will get involved at a deeper level. My iPhone has been lit up like a Christmas tree the last week with so many messages coming through.

One of the volunteers visited the TNKR office last night to discuss ways she could get involved and she also made suggestions about ways we could upgrade the way we run Matching sessions. What I really like is that she is trying to understand how we operate, then making helpful suggestions that make sense for our limited capacity.

Thanks, Georgi, welcome to TNKR!