This morning I received a notification that TNKR summer volunteer Julie Schuldt had held a Zumbathon at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania. It is stunning to look at photos of people jumping around, in the effort to raise money for TNKR!

When Eunkoo Lee and I started TNKR in March 2013, we didn’t have long-term plans. We just thought it would be great to connect North Korean refugees with volunteer tutors who could help them improve their English. More than three years later, we have an organization we can be really proud of, knowing that so many refugees respect what we are doing. We have had more than 450 volunteers join TNKR over the last few years. We are so delighted to have so many people give so much of their time to help refugee learners in our humble project.

Julie was a volunteer with us during the summer, mainly helping with writing. She has remained in contact, letting us know how much she admires TNKR. I tell all volunteers to use their skills and interests to help TNKR. If you’re great at Social Media, do that with us! You want to market something to the world? Take on TNKR as a project! Great at (or want to try) fundraising? Use TNKR as an opportunity to take an organization out of poverty! If you like to exercise? Yes, hold a Zumbathon, as Julie did!

I’m not exactly sure what Zumba is, I have never tried it, but looking at the photos, I would have loved being there.

Julie is back in the USA, she could have chosen many worthy organizations around the world–she chose TNKR! Now many people who would have never heard of us have raised money for TNKR. It is one of those wonderful moments I would have never imagined when Eunkoo Lee and I started TNKR in 2013.



See below for more photos and the German translation by Juliana

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As of August 2016, Teach North Korean Refugees and The Korea Times have been partners. Today we had a meeting to discuss ways we can work together more closely in the future. Best of all, we came out of it with one clear action item and a better understanding about their expectations.

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In recognition of International Refugee Day, the U of A and Edmonton chapters of Amnesty International are teaming up with the Teach North Korean Refugees Project (TNKR) and Liberty in North Korea (LiNK) to bring you a one-of-a-kind event that will give you a direct window into the human rights abuses in North Korea from people who’ve lived there, as well as sharing the hope they have for their lives now that they’re free.

Two North Korean refugees will be speaking (via Skype from Seoul) about their experiences escaping North Korea and transitioning into a life of freedom, as well as several other speakers discussing the political situation in North Korea and their work helping North Korean refugees.

Our speakers will be:

• Sharon Jang, a 24-year-old North Korean student who fled North Korea in 2011. Sharon travelled for two months, covering 2300 miles through China and Laos, in order to reach safety at the South Korean embassy in Thailand. She had previously worked 15-hour days in a coal mine only miles away from the Hoeryong concentration camp (also known as Camp 22).

• Ken, who served for 10 years in the North Korean military, before escaping the country in 2010.

• Casey Lartigue, Jr., co-founder and co-director of the Teach North Korean Refugees Project, which provides North Korean refugees with English-learning opportunities and helps them determine their place in society, free of charge. Casey will be joining us over Skype from Seoul with Sharon and Ken.

• Dr. Kyungsook Kim, Korean Program and Language Coordinator for the U of A Department of East Asian Studies

• Esther Park and Dani Lichota, regional managers for Liberty in North Korea, a US-based organization that works to rescue North Korean refugees who are hiding in Asia and resettle them in South Korea. Esther and Dani are in charge of LiNK’s Nomad program, which has representatives travel around the US educating about North Korean human rights. Esther and Dani will be speaking via Skype from Los Angeles.

After the speakers, there will be time for a Q&A with the audience.

The event will be in the Natural Resources Engineering Facility (NREF) room 1-001 on the U of A campus (right next to ETLC).

In the interest of keeping things affordable, tickets will be $5 at the door for the general public, and free for students with student ID. All proceeds will be donated to the Teach North Koreans Refugees project in order to fund their programs and help North Korean refugees learn English and get accustomed to life in South Korea. Any additional donations to the TNKR program will also be accepted at the door and are greatly appreciated. Founded in 2013, it’s a young and growing program, so we’re trying to promote them and get them all the support we can.

As well, all proceeds from both ticket sales and donations will be matched by the Atlas Network!

Please invite your friends!

More information:

The Teach North Korean Refugees project:

Liberty in North Korea:

Amnesty International Canada:

Amnesty International’s North Korea resource:

University of Alberta Department of East Asian Studies:

TNKR(Teach North Korean Refugees) English Contest에 여러분을 초대합니다. 현재 TNKR은 일반영어(회사, 공부, 여행 등) 공부를 할 수 있도록 기회를 제공하는 Track 1(Finding My Own Way)과 본인의 이야기를 영어로 이야기할 수 있도록 도움을 주는 Track 2(Telling My Own Story) 를 진행하고 있습니다. 현재까지 150여명의 북한분 들과 200여명의 선생님들이 TNKR에 참여하였습니다.

그리고, 2015년 8월 English speech Contest로 여러분을 만나고자 합니다. TNKR을 통해 향상된 여러분의 영어실력을 English speech Contest로 발휘해 보시기 바랍니다. 또한 콘테스트 준비를 위해 TNKR 에서 만난 선생님들 및 코치선생님들과 준비하실 수 있습니다.

그리고 이번 TNKR English Speech Contest 는 법무법인 세종과 공동주최로 개최됩니다. 관심있는 많은 분들의 참여 기대합니다.

  • 참여대상자(Participators):                                                                                   현재 한국에 거주하고 있고, TNKR에 한번이라도 참여하였던 북한 분들 누구나 (단, 2015년 6월 TNKR 매칭에 참여한 학생까지 참여가능)
  • 일정(Schedule)
  • Step 1                                                                                                                                    ① 참가 신청서 (TNKR English Speech Contest application)및 영어스피치 동영상 제출(5분) (1-2분 자기소개 포함)

          영어 스피치 주제: “What freedom means to me”

② 제출마감일: 2015년 7월 1일(수요일) 오후 6시까지

③ 제출방법:

  • Step 2 

① 7명의 최종결선자  발표

② 1차 발표: 2015년 7월 10일(금요일), 개별연락

  • Step 3                                                                                                                       

   English Speech Contest: 직접 영어로  말하기 (10분)

일시: 2015년 8월 22일(토) 14:00- 16:00                                                 

  –장소: 법무세종(Shin& Kim) 강당                                                                   

* 영어 스피치 대회는 관객들 앞에서 진행됩니다.

  • 시상내역(Rewards)

★ 1등(1명): 100만원 상금

★ 2등(1명): 50만원 상금

★ 3등(1명): 20만원 상금

★ 장려상(4명): 10만원 상금

  • 문의 (Contact)

– 궁금하신 분들은

Casey Lartigue (English)

Eunkoo Lee (Korean)

phone: 070-4006-0942

<제1회 TNKR English Speech Contest>

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Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR), in conjunction with the law firm Shin & Kim, will be holding its second English speech contest in Seoul on August 22 from 2-4 pm.

Seven North Korean refugees will each have up to 10 minutes to address the question, “What freedom means to me.” Participants will prepare and deliver original speeches in English.

Participants are encouraged to prepare with volunteer coaches and tutors in Teach North Korean Refugees. For many of the contestants, it will be their first time to give public speeches in English.

The contest is open to all North Korean refugees who currently or have previously lived in South Korea and who have joined TNKR by June 20. The final contestants will be chosen from a pool of applicants who will be asked to submit a video.

First prize: 1 million won.

Second prize: 500,000 won.

Third prize: 200,000 won.

Honorable mention: 100,000 won each.

The contest will be held at the Shin & Kim office in Seoul.

North Korean Defectors Learn English to Communicate

Volunteers to hold meeting for NK refugee program By John Redmond

The co-founders of the Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR) program invite volunteers who wish to learn more about the project to a meeting in Yeouido, Seoul, May 6.

“We have had so many people ask how they can help,” the group’s website says.

“TNKR will be meeting with interested volunteers who would like to find out about what we are doing, and would like to find a way to get involved.”

Volunteers are asked not to show up expecting to be assigned tasks, but “come with your thinking cap on, use your brain to find your own role.”

Normally held on Saturdays, this session is to reach those with weekend schedule conflicts.

The non-political and non-religious humanitarian organization focuses on providing assistance to those who have escaped North Korea.

“The primary focus of TNKR has been to provide English learning opportunities to refugees and to provide them with more options for determining their place in society. All tutors involved in the project are volunteers, and there is no cost for the refugees,” the Web page states.

TNKR provides two different tracks for refugees to choose to join and is a learner-focused project which encourages them to take charge of the way they learn and improve.

“Every refugee is given the choice of what direction their language learning will take by deciding upon their own study goals and selecting their own tutors.”

The meeting will take place at the Songu building from 7:15 p.m.

To get there leave the National Assembly Station on subway line 9 at exit 3 or 2 and make a U-turn. Walk between the KB bank buildings. As you reach the street it will be the building slightly to the right. The meeting will be in Room 805. For those who get lost, the office number is 070-4115-9600.

Please take the regular train and not the express train. The express train passes the National Assembly Station.

For more information visit or the Facebook page


The Teach North Korean Refugees project featured on MBC-Daejeon and MBC-Seoul.

북한이탈주민을 보듬기 위한
우리 사회의 노력을 전하는 연속보도,
마지막 순서입니다.

북한이탈주민들이 우리 사회에 적응할 때
대부분 자신감 부족으로 어려움을 겪는데요.

이들에게 무료로 영어를 가르치며
자신감을 키워주는 외국인 봉사 단체가


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Groove Magazine has a nice feature on two of the participants in the Teach North Korean Refugees project.

When Kim Chol-soo and his wife, Kim Young-ok (not their real names), first arrived in South Korea they had doubts about their new life. It was not what they had expected. Worries over finances arose soon after their arrival, and the government-provided apartment failed to offer them the same comforts as their home back in North Korea. Their first few months living in the South were difficult — a far cry from the life they had just left behind.






The Teach North Korean Refugees project met and talked with high school students visiting from the USA. It was our second event in the last week, and both times were elegant and poignant.

Three of the refugees are in Track 2 (“Telling My Own Story”) and two are in Track 1 (“Finding My Own Way”). Three of them were first timers so they had jitters but told us that they are glad they did it.

Another speaker began her speaking career five weeks ago–she has now given 7 speeches. I can REALLY see her improvement (of course, she thought she was terrible). Another speaker is an expert, she was clearly at ease.

We were encouraged and inspired by all of the speakers. It is easy to forget how dangerous it can be for refugees to speak out. Many still prefer to remain anonymous or even avoid speaking opportunities.

Thanks to the TNKR team (co-Director Lee Eunkoo, Operations Manager Suzanne Atwill Stewart and Special Ambassador Cherie Yang) for coming out on a Tuesday afternoon to cheer on our speakers and to help make the event even more special.

One of the teachers was particularly touched by what he heard. He had many questions during Q&A, then followed up with me later with a GREAT idea. So we are going to be in touch, to make it happen.

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Last November, one of our volunteer tutors made a big mistake: She suggested a way she could help the Teach North Korean Refugees project have smoother English Matching sessions.

It wasn’t long before Suzanne Atwill Stewart had become such an important part of TNKR that we couldn’t remember what it was like before she joined us.

Ah, but what was going to be her title? We initially disagreed–she was happy to be our secretary, I wanted to name her “Special Assistant.”

Well, a few days ago, she got upgraded: Operations Manager. That accurately describes what she does with TNKR. I am a generous guy, so I doubled her pay. Let’s see, what is 0 x 2? When that didn’t seem to be enough, I instead tripled her pay. Yes, 0 x 3.

She is a volunteer Operations Manager, but she takes it so seriously. She stopped by my office today with her long to-do-list of items, and did her best to give me some assignments (HA!). She actually tracks what I say, reminds me of it, then follows up like a gentle stalker.

And… she has made it clear to me that I must set aside time each week to meet with her, to discuss my many ideas, so that she and Eunkoo (co-director) can turn those ideas into reality–in an organized way…

The other TNKR internal change: Cherie Yang joined TNKR recently, but she has already had a great impact. First was our mini-speaking tour in the USA as her introduction to public speaking. She took on the challenge with very little prep. In just five weeks, she has given her first seven speeches in English.

She is one of the members of TNKR, I think she has five or six coaches and tutors that she meets and talks with weekly. She is really focused on studying, learning, enjoys being corrected and learning new things.

But the other thing that she has done: She recruits other North Korean refugees to our project and praises our project without us having to ask her.

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