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2017-04-20 Visit to UN office, TV interview

  • Yesterday morning:
    • I was delighted to be part of an interview with one of the Big 3 networks in South Korea.
    • Part of it included another visit to the UN’s Seoul office.
  • Yesterday evening (my next post)
    • I was honored to win an award from a Korean foundation.

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Hwang Cheol was being interviewed about his campaign to have his father released from North Korea. The TV team interviewed a few of us to provide perspective to his campaign. We then wrapped up with a visit to the UN office.

Yes, they also interviewed me. I usually have a love-hate relationship with the media. As it has been said, “The interview is the honeymoon, publication is the divorce.”

The host who interviewed me is so lovely. She seemed to enjoy the interview and wasn’t the least bit shy when it was time to take photos! Sometimes I think I am in the wrong field, so many of the volunteers who collaborate with me run from the cameras. I remember one day that I received an email complaint from one guy whining that I’m always in the TNKR photos. That’s back when I used to answer critics, I politely informed him, “You idiot, if you had joined any of our sessions, you would know that most volunteers run from the cameras and our default with refugees is not to show their faces unless they make it clear they don’t mind.”

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2017-04-02 Track 2: Refugees taking charge

TNKR started in March 2013 as “English Matching.” It was a hobby for the co-founders, as they did this on the side. TNKR is now an emerging NGO with its own office. We still have no paid staff, but despite this, we have held 55 Language Matching sessions with about 270 refugees and more than 560 volunteer coaches and tutors. Yesterday’s session was special because it was a Track 2 Matching session. Whereas we hold at least one Track 1 session per month at which refugees choose tutors for English study, we only hold Track 2 sessions (public speaking and other communication) when enough refugees request it.

Yesterday 7 refugees chose among 9 coaches (3 had last minute scheduling and other problems so there were 9 instead of 12). TNKR is a self-study project, with the focus being on refugees finding their own way and telling their own stories. We connect them with volunteer tutors and coaches to help them with that. After having orientation and discussing their projects, the refugees are really eager to get started.

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Hansarang Rural Cultural Foundation honors TNKR co-founder with award

List of 11th Hansarang Rural Cultural Foundation Award Recipients (6 people)

  1. Category: Special Award – Social Contribution
  • Name: Casey Lartigue
  • Home Region: Seoul
  • Position: International Director, Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR) Global Education Center

Contributed to the social integration of North Korean refugees by providing free English learning opportunities

Casey Lartigue, an American, is the co-founder along with South Korean Eunkoo Lee of the Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR) Global Education Center, a non-profit that provides free one-on-one English learning opportunities to North Korean refugees and helps them discover their English voice. Lartigue serves as the organization’s International Director.

In the United States, Lartigue worked in various education-related positions as a policy analyst. It was while volunteering to help orphans and low-income children in Seoul that Lartigue became committed to helping North Korean refugees. Realizing that English is one of the primary barriers faced by North Koreans, Lartigue began focusing on helping them with their English language needs.

TNKR has created a system where volunteer English tutors help resettled North Korean refugees by teaching them English. More than 550 volunteers have assisted 266 North Korean refugees through one-on-one tutoring. The volunteer tutors act not only as English teachers but also as mentors for the refugees, by helping them find their own voices and becoming positive role models for other refugees.

For Lartigue, volunteerism is not simply a duty but a way to live his deeply-held principles. He hopes for a positive cycle whereby his North Korean refugee students, after successfully adapting to the South Korean society, will go on to live life as they choose, and that they will make the most out of their new found freedom..

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2017-03-25 “Hello, Konglish!” Hello, Jinhee Han!

The “steak” of Teach North Korean Refugees is our English tutoring project. The “sizzle” is when refugees in our public speaking project give public speeches. Yesterday, before a crowded room at Seoul KOTESOL, North Korean refugee Jinhee Han gave her first public speech in English. She was amazing, the crowd was really interested: She was an English teacher in North Korea before she escaped to South Korea.

***

Jinhee first joined TNKR in 2013, back when TNKR was “English Matching,” and still just a hobby for the co-founders. Jinhee has remained in touch, although she has been too busy with her life teaching North Korean refugees. Plus, she is embarrassed to be introduced as an English teacher from North Korea because people will have high expectations about her English. I think because of it that she has avoided talking with people about her background. Yesterday, she gave her first public speech in English, discussing her English teaching career in North Korea and also discussing English education in North Korea. The crowd was clearly moved by her speech. She still prefers to remain anonymous, but last night she let us know how much she enjoyed it, and that she is willing to do it again. She has watched TNKR and stayed in touch over the years. She said she was crying as she listened to our speeches, she could truly see the impact that TNKR has had on North Korean refugees, and she thanked the many volunteers who have given so much of their time to help NK refugees adjust. We have encouraged her over the years not to give up on studying English because of the expectations some have and that she should ignore the quick-to-judge people.

She said that she felt so encouraged seeing that so many foreigners were so interested in hearing about her experience as English teacher, she would have never believed this could happen.

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Who was the hardest-working man not affiliated with the conference organizing team? TNKR Assistant Director Dave Fry! The co-directors were able to relax, think about their speeches, and provide support rather than having to lead at every moment.

Dave has the right personality to be the official TNKR Greeter!

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After we wrapped up our panel, it was then photo time! We got a lot of great feedback. People were moved by Jinhee’s speech. They also loved hearing what TNKR co-director Eunkoo Lee had to say–it was also her first formal speech in English at a conference. I had to talk her into it, she is a shy lady, but she presented great insights about what refugees tell her about TNKR. In my case, I was amazed that several people told me that they came out to hear me speak, that some of them are regular readers of my Korea Times column. A few who have heard me speak say they learn something new every time, even though I am always talking about TNKR.

Some of the people we met promised they would get involved with TNKR, as a volunteer or fundraiser. One of the attendees even pledged to sell some of her artwork, and to donate the proceeds to TNKR!

Assistant Academic Adviser Youngmin Kwon is not pictured many times, that’s because he was the man behind the camera yesterday!

It was a team effort and an enjoyable time informing so many people about challenges North Korean refugees face and the role that TNKR has embraced in trying to give support to some of them.

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2017-03-21 TNKR featured by Koreana magazine

Teach North Korean Refugees has been featured in the Spring 2017 edition of Koreana magazine (Vol. 31 No. 1). The author of the article is journalist Kim Hak-soon, a Visiting Professor at the School of Media and Communication at Korea University.

Koreana (PDF)

 

 

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2017-03-18/19 Active, not busy

A bit earlier, a friend I haven’t seen since September asked me if I’m still busy. I said: “I’m not busy. I’m active!” That means that I’m doing many things, meeting many people. But I can always squeeze fun into my schedule, no matter how busy I may look to some people.

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TNKR’s upcoming schedule.

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2017-03-12 Hottest Seat in Town (TNKR Matching 54)

At our speech contest on Feb 25, we squeezed 130 people into a room fit for 80, with some attendees at the back of the room having to stand. Yesterday at our Matching session, we squeezed 31 people into a room fit for 20. That means that the late-comers had to sit on the floor yesterday.

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2017-03-08 Lovely Sharon visits TNKR

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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2017-03-04/06 All Quiet at TNKR… Except for the Baby Invasion…

It was kind of a slow weekend for us, just one tutoring session, one meeting with a documentary team, one mini-orientation… it was so quiet… except when Eunkoo’s sisters visited with their children. 🙂

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탈북민들, 북한 탈출하게 된 사연 영어로 나눠

탈북민들, 북한 탈출하게 된 사연 영어로 나눠

2017-02-27 : 19:21

지난 토요일, 서울 명동소재 법무법인 세종에서 열린 북한이탈주민 글로벌 교육센터(TNKR – Teach North Korean Refugees)의 제 5회 영어 말하기대회에서 우승한 탈북민 양세리씨(왼쪽 두 번째)가 존 슐츠 주한미국상공회의소 대표(왼쪽 첫 번째)와 케이시 라티그 TNKR 공동대표(왼쪽 세 번째)와 함께 포즈를 취하고 있다. 존 슐츠 대표는 이번 대회에서 3명의 심사위원 중 한 명으로 참여했다. / 사진제공: 존 레드몬드 기자

탈북민 양세리씨, 영어 말하기대회 우승 차지

글 | 존 레드몬드 기자

지난 토요일, 서울 명동소재 법무법인 세종에서 열린 북한이탈주민 글로벌 교육센터(TNKR – Teach North Korean Refugees)의 영어 말하기대회에서 7명의 탈북민들이 중국을 거쳐 북한을 탈출한 경험에 대해 이야기했다.

주제는 “그 순간: 내가 탈북을 결심한 계기” (“That Moment: My Escape from North Korea”). 주어진 10분의 시간 동안 각 참가자는 자신이 탈북을 결심하게 된 계기 혹은 삶의 전환점에 대해 영어로 이야기했다.

많은 참가자들이 북한정권의 세뇌교육과 세상에 대해 전혀 알지 못하며 자란 사실을 언급했다. 한 참가자는 2012년 특별히 북한에서도 월드컵 경기를 방영해 주었는데, 그 경기들을 보면서 참가국가들의 이름을 전혀 알지 못한 일화를 소개했다.

익명을 요구한 상기 참가자는 “세계지도를 한번도 본 적이 없어서 호주라는 단어가 무엇을 뜻하는지 알 수 없었다”며 “내가 아는 나라는 북한, 한국, 중국, 미국이 전부였다”고 말했다.

탈북한 뒤 체포되는 것에 대한 두려움은 거의 모든 참가자들이 공통적으로 언급했다. 한 참가자는 기차에서 체포된 뒤 어머니와 함께 자살을 논의한 가슴 아픈 사연을 소개하기도 했다.

이번 대회 최우승의 영예는 친구의 집으로 피신하자 마자 북한 보위부에게 쫓기고 있다는 사실을 알게 되었다는 양세리씨에게 돌아갔다.

“며칠동안 논밭을 헤맨 끝에 친구집에 도착했어요. 그런데 친구가 보위부 사람들이 저를 찾고 있다는 거예요. 북한을 떠나지 않을 수 없었어요.”

제 5회 영어 말하기대회 준우승은 탈북민 엄영남씨가 차지했다.

이 날 많은 참가자들은 사진촬영을 할 수 없었다. 본인과 북에 남아있는 가족들의 안전에 대한 우려 때문이었다.

케이시 라티그 TNKR 공동대표는 “이번엔 보다 많은 참가자들이 북한정권의 위협을 심각하게 여기고 있다”면서 “내용 녹음도 하지 말아 달라고 부탁한 사람도 있어 내부토의를 거쳐 이번 대회는 비공개로 진행하기로 결정했다”고 말했다.

TNKR은 탈북민들에게 무료로 영어교육을 제공하는 서울시 비영리단체로서, 설립이후 264명의 탈북민들과 539명의 원어민 자원봉사자들을 연결해주었다.

지난 2013년, 라티그씨와 한국인 이은구씨가 공동으로 TNKR을 설립했다.

라티그 대표는 “자원봉사자 코치들이 탈북민들과 함께 연습하는 모습을 바라볼 때가 가장 멋진 순간”이라고 말한다. “1월 26일부터 총 18명의 자원봉사자 코치들이 7명의 탈북민 학생들과 연습해 왔다. 39회의 1:1 수업, 총 66시간 함께 연습했다.”

“이렇게 많은 전세계 자원봉사자들이 함께해 주어 얼마나 큰 행운인지 모른다. 탈북민들이 영어능력을 기르고, 학업과 취업준비를 하고, 나아가 자신들의 이야기를 세상과 나눌 수 있도록 그들은 기꺼이 시간과 노력을 할애한다.”

이번 행사는 TNKR과 법무법인 세종이 공동으로 주관했고, 코리아 타임즈와 한국 산업은행의 후원으로 진행되었다.

추가정보: TNKR 페이스북 (facebook.com/TeachNorthKoreanRefugees)

Translated by Youngmin Kwon, Proofed by Eunkoo Lee

http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2017/03/181_224795.html#

 

 

 

Defectors tell story of escape from North Korea

2017-02-27 : 19:21

North Korean refugee Cherie Yang, second from left, poses with American Chamber of Commerce in Korea President John Schuldt, left, and  Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR) co-founder Casey Lartigue, Jr., third from left, after winning the grand prize in TNKR’s fifth English speech contest at Shin & Kim law firm in Myeong-dong, downtown Seoul, Saturday. Schuldt served as one of three judges for the contest. / Courtesy of John Redmond


Cherie Yang wins English speech contest

By John Redmond

Seven North Korean refugees related their experiences of escaping North Korea via China in an English speech contest organized by Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR) at Shin & Kim law firm in Myeong-dong, downtown Seoul, Saturday.

Themed “That Moment: My Escape from North Korea,” the speakers were given 10 minutes to talk about a particular moment or a turning point in their lives as they realized they had to escape the reclusive country.

Many spoke of the North Korean regime’s brainwashing tactics and living in complete ignorance, with one contestant speaking of watching a rare television broadcast of the 2012 FIFA World Cup and not knowing who the other countries were.

“I had never seen a world atlas before. I didn’t know what Australia was. All I knew was North and South Korea, China and the USA,” he said, asking to remain anonymous.

The common theme with most speakers was the fear of being caught. One contestant said that he and his mother discussed suicide after being arrested on a train.

Grand prize winner Cherie Yang talked about how she fled to her friend’s home only to discover the police were looking for her.

“After days of wandering across fields I came to my friend’s home. I was told the police were looking for me. I had to leave North Korea,” Yang said.

Ken Eom, another refugee from the North, grabbed second place in the fifth biannual speech contest.

Many contestants did not allow their pictures to be taken for fear of their own lives and the safety of family members still in North Korea.

“This time, more of the speakers are taking the threat seriously,” said TNKR co-founder Casey Lartigue, Jr. “A few of our speakers have asked us not to record their speeches this time. So we had an internal discussion and decided to have this contest off-record.”

TNKR is a Seoul-based NGO that provides free English language lessons for North Korean refugees. It has connected 264 North Korean refugees with 539 volunteer tutors and coaches.

The group was established in 2013 under the leadership of Lartigue and National Director Lee Eun-koo.

“A fantastic thing is observing sessions where coaches and refugees prepare together. Overall, since Jan. 26, seven refugees have had coaching sessions with 18 volunteers. The volunteers have had 39 one-on-one coaching sessions with refugees for a total of 66 hours,” Lartigue said.

“We are lucky to have so many volunteers from around the world willing to give up so much of their time to help refugees improve their English, get prepared for academic and employment opportunities and tell their stories.”

TNKR and Shin & Kim hosted the contest. The Korea Times and Korea Development Bank sponsored the event.

Visit facebook.com/TeachNorthKoreanRefugees for more information on TNKR.

Support the speech contest and other projects featuring TNKR activities: http://give.teachnorthkoreanrefugees.org/en/how-to-help-north-koreans