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January 5, 2017! This is HILARIOUS! Former TNKR student Rachel Kim had a popular YouTube channel, she did a 5 minute interview with me one day to thank us for being so wonderful to her. I came across the video recently and decided to post it!

I am thinking about giving away copies of books signed by North Korean refugees, what type of conditions should I require? That eligible people subscribe to both my channel and the TNKR channel? A certain number of likes or comments?

KBS spent several hours at the TNKR office this week, interviewing the co-directors, students and volunteers. It was quite enjoyable. Interviews often are. But as I quote the late Shin Ae-Chun in one of my columns, “The interview is the honeymoon, publication is the divorce.”

KBS is one of the media outlets scheduled to cover TNKR’s 9th English speech contest tomorrow. They gave us permission to post photos from their visits this week.

The last two days I’ve been at an exclusive, invitation-only business conference. The big investment and financial companies were there, doing those things that business people do. So I anticipated being a fish out of water most of the time, the pathetic NGO leader hoping one of those business tycoons would take notice of our little organization.

At registration, I was greeted by two of my former students! I taught public speaking for the last three semesters at a graduate school, I was delighted to see them.

Later, over lunch, the lady who sat next to me along with her colleague suddenly asked if I was connected to North Korean refugees. It was like a fish had jumped onto her boat! She apologized for being so excited, it had been such a long time since she has been involved in activism, she is now in the world of money.

It turns out that she helped start one of the student organizations focused on North Korea at a university in Washington, DC. She wants to join our mailing list, she said it reminded her of her college days and that she would like to get involved again.

Then …. a TNKR volunteer! Yes, and not only that, but one of her colleagues who donated to her fundraiser for us was there. They were all saying it was a coincidence, but of course I disagree with that! But I digress.

I had a great time and learned some things that I will try to apply to TNKR.

Over dinner, the business people enjoyed learning about TNKR, some even expressed admiration for us. As a few told me, “You are making a real difference in the world, helping people directly. In comparison, we are just making money.”

I reminded them that making money is a great thing, and that we could use some of it too.

Thank you again for registering for TNKR’s 9th English Speech Contest, taking place at the Shin and Kim Law Office on February 23 from 2 pm to about 5 pm.

Our registration desk will be at B1 of the building. We encourage you to print your ticket or have it readily available on your mobile device to present upon registration at the contest.


Date: February 23, 2019
Time:  2:00-5:00 pm.

Location: Shin and Kim Law Office | 서울 종로구 종로3길 17 D Tower (23rd floor) | Seoul

Check here for details about the contest.

Step-by-step video directions from the Gwanghwamun subway (line 5, exit 4) to the Shin and Kim Law Office. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2b6-EM_plMc&t=0s&list=PL-6_xImxyTAJw3qeFJBXFv6fSCFEOb9eG&index=2


The speech contest is scheduled to start at 2 pm. Our volunteer team will start arriving from 12:20 pm, doors will be open to the public from 1:00. If you arrive early, please ignore the activity or join in to help!

We advise attendees to arrive from around 1:30 pm so we can process registration smoothly. We anticipate having at least 100 attendees, so we hope to avoid a traffic jam at the registration desk if many attendees arrive at 1:50 p.m. fumbling around for their confirmation email, then all trying to squeeze on the elevator to get up to the contest.


Thanks to those of you who will be bringing a guest with you. To properly process registration, send the name and email of the guest so I can generate a separate ticket for each guest. The registration team has been directed to check the ID of everyone who attends the contest.


Please join us in helping the speakers to feel comfortable, it isn’t easy for some of them to speak out publicly about sensitive topics. So, as a reminder:

  • Privacy: No recordings (video or audio) or photographs except by approved media and TNKR staff. Even then, a few of the contestants will speak on the condition that there will be no photographs or recordings, so we will clearly announce which speakers don’t want to be recorded or photographed at all by media.
  • Off-the-record: Several of the speakers will be discussing sensitive aspects of their stories that they have never discussed publicly. Therefore, several of them have also asked attendees not to write blog posts or articles about what they hear. So it will be a truly special event for those in attendance.
  • Contact info: Don’t ask the speakers for their contact information. You can meet them–by becoming a volunteer with TNKR or working with us to arrange future speech opportunities. Some people have ignored us at previous contests and events. We occasionally have pro-North Korea sympathizers join our events, and we don’t want the comfort of this contest to lull refugees into sharing their personal information with others.
  • 100% ID check: Don’t forget to bring your ID with you. Even if my own relatives show up to the event without state-level ID, I have instructed staff to turn them away. This is very serious. If you don’t show ID matching the name you registered under, you won’t be allowed in. Walk-ins also need to show an ID that matches the name they registered with. If you need to change the name you have registered with, no problem, just message me at CJL(@)alumni.harvard.edu .
  • Not an open forum: Some of the speakers are experiencing last-minute stress and anxiety. Some of them can’t wait to finish speaking.


  • Venue: Here’s an easy to follow, step-by-step directions.
    Step-by-step video from the Gwanghwamun subway (line 5, exit 4) to the Shin and Kim Law Office. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2b6-EM_plMc&t=0s&list=PL-6_xImxyTAJw3qeFJBXFv6fSCFEOb9eG&index=2
  • Check-in at reception at B1, whiz through registration with your ID and confirmation email, then they will direct you to the 23rd floor. Security is tight, do not attempt to get to the 23rd floor without them letting you through the turnstiles.
  • To expedite registration: Be sure to bring a print out of your ticket or have it ready on your favorite mobile device that you will turn off and hide during the event. Be ready to show an ID matching the name.
  • First-come, first seated: We can hold seats until 1:50 pm for those who registered and paid in advance, but after that, we will open up all seats to everyone present. We plan to start promptly at 2 pm, our volunteer team will be arriving from 12:20 pm to have things set up.
  • Mystery payment: One person sent a payment, but with no name. So if you can let us know the time you sent the donation or verify your payment in some other way, then we can add your name to the registration list.
  • Wrapping up: We plan to finish the contest by 5:00 pm. We would like to take a group photo, so please stick around for that so we can show how many people were in the room (the refugees will hide their faces then).
  • Raffle! After the contest has finished, we will then hold the raffle! It is the biggest in our history, thanks to BSRabbit for donating so many items. Several of our volunteers also donated items.
  • Following-up: After previous contests, we have had some volunteers who wanted to join. Check this link, get involved as a tutor or volunteer or join our International Volunteer Leadership Academy.
  • Payment for this contest: Yes, TNKR fundraisers can credit the money they paid for this contest to their fundraisers. Message me to remind me. CJL(@)alumni.harvard.edu


Yes, it is available. Please send your license plate number in advance, CJL@alumni.harvard.edu .


If there are any updates then they will be posted on this page and we will send out an email for anything really important.


Casey Lartigue Jr.

International Director, Teach North Korean Refugees

Join TNKR’s 2019 Matching Donation Challenge

Thanks to the new Editing and Writing team of the International Volunteer Leadership Academy for putting together this newsletter!

Jang Jin-sung, author of the book “Dear Leader,” will be delivering Welcoming Remarks at TNKR’s 9th English Speech Contest. When he was in North Korea, Mr. Jang was a Psychological Warfare Officer spreading propaganda within North Korea. He founded New Focus International and has advised numerous governments around the world about North Korea.

He is a TNKR fan who has spoken at events, published an interview with TNKR and also been interviewed by us, visited our office numerous times, and is also a member of TNKR’s Book Club.

TNKR Global Leadership Forum, June 2017

TNKR Donor Appreciation Night featuring Jang Jin-sung plus Kang Cheol-hwan, (summary by Michael Downey) June 2018

[INTERVIEW] Don’t be duped by double-faced North Korea October 2018

I interviewed Mr. Jang for my Korea Times blog “Voices from the North.” You can read his comments here.

Other visits to the TNKR office

July 2016 , March 2017, April 2017, December 2017,

From 11 am to 6 pm, we had students and fans visiting for interviews and meetings. It is so rewarding when the students thank us for starting the organization and our staff, volunteers and donors who keep helping it grow!

Tomorrow hopefully will be a bit slower, so we can focus on getting prepared for the speech contest.

We had two media interviews at the office today.

We also have some media outlets who will be covering our speech contest on Saturday, doing interviews before and after the contest.

The two interviews today were with an international media outlet and a prominent Korean one. As usual, the international media outlet didn’t want to commit to mentioning TNKR although they had promised that when they first contacted us. We found an interviewee for them, organized it, hosted the interview, and after all of that, they still aren’t sure they want to mention TNKR.

TNKR presented at four different events to students and staff at international schools, including two events at the TNKR office.

The students had many questions after hearing our speakers. And when Eunkoo and I were solo speakers at an international school outside of Seoul, the questions kept coming!

One of the schools has a huge campus, we could fit the entire TNKR office into just one corner.

Support TNKR: https://www.paypal.me/loveTNKR