Testimonials from refugees in TNKR

We are sometimes asked by researchers about the “customer satisfaction” of refugees in TNKR. Here are statements from NK refugees that we are now collecting. On this page:

  1. Seven refugees are raising money for TNKR (click the photos and links in red).
  2. Statements collected at TNKR orientation and matching sessions.
  3. Other statements we have heard from refugees


Refugees fundraising for TNKR

1) Cherie: 탈북민 영어교육프로그램 모금 fundraiser


“North Korean people all over the world need more great organizations like TNKR to support their adjustment to life in other
countries with tutoring, coaching, and networking opportunities.”
–Cherie Yang



2) Eunhee, 당신이 바로 탈북민들의 운명을 바꿀수도 있는 멋진 사람이란걸 fundraiser

My life changed because of TNKR, it opened a whole new world to me. I used to be ashamed to tell people that I am from North Korea, but now
I have the confidence to not hide my face or my name. Every day I am thankful to Casey and Eunkoo (founders) for helping me gain confidence
in myself.”
–Eunhee Park



3) Ken, TNKR IS A LITTLE BIG HERO(작지만 큰 사람 TNKR fundraiser)


“My best experience was when I made a speech at the OSAN Air Base. That was a really unusual experience in my life. I never expected that
I would make a speech in front of the US military. Thanks, TNKR”
– Ken Eom



4) Amy, 향설, 먼저 온 통일에게 꿈을 키워주세요 fundraiser


“TNKR is ‘the bridge that connects with the world’ for North Korean refugees because English is an essential tool to integrate into society. TNKR is an angel. Its volunteers help refugees to improve their English from a basic to a high level, helping us adjust to this society.”
– Amy Sung-



5) Jun, “I Love TNKR” fundraiser


“TNKR is a superhero. It gives me the opportunity to spread awareness about North Korea to the world.”




6) Sungju Lee, “Every Falling Star” autographed copies fundraiser


“TNKR is the best organization for helping North Korean refugees learn English. Through 1:1 tutoring, it allows us to choose the path for studying English, it allows us to tell our stories and educate the world about what happens in North Korea, and it allows us to reduce our fear of the “West” by learning English from the kindest of volunteers. More than that, TNKR empowers refugees, it gives them a choice in their lives, the ability to choose their own destiny.
–Sungju Lee, author
“Every Falling Star: The True Story of How I Survived and Escaped North Korea.”



7) Jihyun Park, “Help Bring TNKR to the UK” 

“North Koreans are one of the most persecuted peoples in the world
today. North Korea is in a unique situation in terms of its governance
and human rights abuses and North Korean refugees present a
unique set of challenges and adversities to overcome.
“I am a North Korean refugee, I escaped North Korea and made a
new life for myself and my family in the UK. One program that gave
me hope was Teach North Korean Refugees in Seoul. I am proud to
have been a student and now to be collaborating with it to bring
more opportunities to refugees in the UK and around the world.”

–Jihyun Park



In addition to fundraising, a number of North Korean refugees have also talked about the importance of TNKR.


“There are many NGOs for helping North Korean refugees, but
TNKR is the best model for helping refugees practically and productively.”
-Jang Jin-sung, author of “Dear Leader.”

“There is one organization most revered by the North Korean refugee community in South Korea. This organization is especially popular among North Korean refugee university students who are preparing themselves for a new future in the South. The name of the organization is TNKR (Teach North Korean Refugees).”
–New Focus International, edited by Jang Jin-Sung

“I am thankful that I have volunteer English teachers helping me to improve my English. My happiest time is when I am
studying English with my private tutors.
–Yeonmi Park, former TNKR Ambassador


2017-07-22, TNKR Matching session #61

I am a student who attended the TNKR Matching Session on July 22, 2017.

I arrived at 1:00 pm.

It was very apparent that Mr. Casey, Ms. Eunkoo, and Youngmin teacher were very busy preparing for the session.
As the session began, the 12 volunteer tutors introduced themselves one by one. All of them had such warm smiles on their faces, and I felt honored to be given the opportunity to study with them as a North Korean refugee. Words cannot adequately convey how happy I felt to see so many volunteer tutors willing to help us improve our English.
It also dawned on me how much the international community was focusing on the situation surrounding the Korean peninsula, particularly in North Korea.
It was also fascinating to see all the students introducing themselves one by one and being given the power to choose their own tutors. It was a very special system unheard of in other organizations.
As a student, I was particularly thankful for the strict policy of only using English and banning the use of Korean in classes. I initially planned to choose 2 tutors, but I ended up choosing 4 tutors. 
Two students even chose 5 tutors each.
I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to all the tutors from various countries (USA, UK, New Zealand, etc.) for caring so much about us despite their busy professional schedules.
And I would like to sincerely thank TNKR for shining a light of hope to all the North Korean refugee students.
I also feel hopeful that all of this English support, big and small, will have a monumental impact on the Unified Korea in the future.
Hurrah to the Great Unified Republic of Korea! Glory to our elders from the United States of America!
  • I love learning English. I’m a college student, so learning English is very important for my classes because so many of them have textbooks in English. Thank you so much to TNKR, Casey and Eunkoo, and so many kind teachers helping us learn English. When I first joined TNKR I couldn’t understand anything I heard in English, but now I can understand so much and it feels so great. I learned about TNKR from another student who was in the program in 2013 and 2014.
  • I have many chances to go abroad because of my career, but I can’t communicate with others. Thank you so much to TNKR and the tutors. I think your small help can contribute to the reunification in Korea and peace in the world. You are helping refugees who are struggling with English. I will study actively, I promise.
  • English is essential in Korea, so I need to study it. I hope to study abroad one day. I would like to thank the representatives of TNKR, Casey and Eunkoo, who have provided us with the opportunity to learn. I was really nervous about trying to speak English, but after speaking with TNKR tutors, I have gained confidence. I also feel that people can understand me a little bit. I have been using the TNKR curriculum, I would like to continue using it. Thank you to the TNKR representatives and the tutors.
  • When I joined the orientation, I heard that some tutors had not gotten chosen. I felt very sorry about that, those volunteers came for us. It makes me feel that I must study hard. I can see that TNKR is really focused on refugees. Thank you very much, I will do my best.
  • I have performed internationally but English is a big problem for me. I studied in in-house tutoring, it was my first chance to have a 1:1 class. I did study British English when I was in North Korea, but I didn’t study hard. Now I feel more comfortable to try. If I have a chance to perform internationally and to say something in English, I will tell the whole world about TNKR making such a great opportunity. I am really thankful to all of the teachers.
  • I have been studying in the in-house tutoring program, it has been really effective for me. I also think the self-study approach is really effective, it makes me realize that I should not just wait for the teacher, that I must study hard on my own. Thank you TNKR for giving refugees this wonderful opportunity.
  • I am studying at a university, but it is so difficult because many classes use English. I really need to study English. Thank you TNKR for this wonderful opportunity.
  • I studied in an academy, but it was too expensive for me and it wasn’t very effective. The teachers couldn’t correct me because there were other students there. I was also afraid to ask because they might think I am stupid for asking basic questions. With TNKR teachers, I don’t feel that fear. They focus on me. I think I have improved a lot because of the TNKR tutors. Thank you to TNKR for allowing us to study without worrying about the cost. I have been lucky because the teachers have been willing to adjust to my schedule.

2017-07-02, TNKR Matching session #60

  • I have studied at other institutions, but they had fixed programs. What I like about TNKR is that the students are at the center. I have the power to choose my tutors. I can ask many questions of tutors without feeling embarrassed that I’m slowing down a class.
  • I really appreciate TNKR, I am always thankful to it and the tutors. The program is tailored to the needs of students. I have gained a lot of confidence when it comes to speaking English. I studied at a hakwon (language institute), but I was often lost in the classes. But here, the tutors have figured out how to focus on my needs, so I have been able to improve. I have returned to TNKR because my tutors have all returned to their native countries.
  • I am so nervous, I could not imagine that so many tutors would show up to help North Korean refugees. Yesterday I was really worried about speaking in English with native speakers. I had never talked directly to a foreigner in English until I met Casey. Because of the dedication of TNKR and the tutors, I will do my best.
  • I really lacked confidence, even when I first applied for TNKR I wasn’t sure that I would be able to study in English with native English speakers. But after the orientation and seeing the tutors today at the Matching session, I believe that I can do it. I can feel that the tutors will be supportive and really want to help us.
  • I have traveled to the United States, but I struggled so much, my grammar is so bad. TNKR gives me the chance to improve my English by studying directly with English speakers who want to help.
  • I went to many hakwons (language institutes), but they run group classes, I struggled so much and didn’t learn anything. I have felt discriminated against in other education settings in South Korea when they learned that I was from North Korea, but TNKR has made me feel welcome. I am really looking forward to meeting the tutors. When can I start?

Testimonials by Ken Eom and Cherie Yang

2017-06-11, TNKR Matching session #58

  • I learned about TNKR from a TV show. I appreciate that volunteers help North Korean refugees.
  • I found out about TNKR from a TV show last year. This is a great program, I am honored to join it.
  • A friend recommended this program to me. I am really happy to know there is such a program, I am so thankful to the volunteers.
  • I learned about TNKR from a colleague. Thank you so much for making this opportunity in such an organized program.
  • I studied in TNKR a few years ago, I can see how much it has changed. I first learned about it from a friend. I have met many friends, especially international students, but this program gives me a chance to learn in a professional way.
  • I first read about TNKR in a newspaper article.

2017-03-12 TNKR Matching session #54

  • I joined TNKR in 2013, but I gave up. I let my tutors speak to me in Korean, so I think I didn’t learn as much as I could have. This time, I want tutors who only speak English to me, I think I can advance my English faster. I run away from English, but I hope to be braver this time.
  • I need business English because I am working in a trading company. I can handle Chinese clients, but I am at a loss when English is the language.
  • I joined in-house tutoring when it first started. I was having an English emergency. I am thankful to TNKR because this will give me a chance to study abroad.
  • I had to wait a long time to join TNKR. I have had so many other opportunities, but 1:1 with native speakers is so good. I started in the in-house tutoring program, I was so lucky because my tutor pushed me to use English only. I struggled at first but I am now more comfortable to try even when I make mistakes.
  • I am so inspired by the TNKR tutors. I hope I can teach English to North Koreans in the future.
  • I am happy to have another opportunity to join TNKR. My tutor is having a medical emergency. When I first joined TNKR I could speak any English. One day I saw Casey in the subway, I could only say, “Hi Casey.” Now I can talk to him and other foreigners. Thank you so much TNKR.


2016-11-19, TNKR Matching session #51

  • I arrived in 2011, I will study nursing when I enter a university next year. This was my first time to see so many foreign teachers, I didn’t know there were so many people from so many different countries in Korea. It was so many amazing to meet them, it was so exciting. I want to learn English very hard so I can speak with them all.
  • I arrived in 2015, I am studying at a refugee alternative school, I plan to go to a university later. I want to be able to communicate with people from around the world. I hope my English will be good enough that I will able to teach English as a volunteer later. Thank you so much, TNKR, for giving me this opportunity. At first I was so nervous, this was my first Matching session. I live outside of Seoul so I wasn’t sure I would be able to find tutors, but my wish came true! I am very thankful to my tutors, thank you Casey and Eunkoo, I will do my best. I have five tutors to study with.
  • I arrived in 2009, I am now studying political science at a university. I am preparing for TOEIC and I need to be able to understand English because of my university classes. At first, I was thinking to get one or two tutors, but I selected three. Thank you to all of the volunteers and TNKR for making this possible. The mood in the session was active, people were smiling and happy. That made me happy. I met the tutors I wanted to study with, based on the resumes, so I am really satisfied with this session.
  • I arrived in 2006, I am now studying social welfare at a university. I need to study English to improve my grammar and speaking. I am amazed at how many volunteers showed up here, thank you to TNKR for organizing this.
  • I arrived here in 2007, I want to study conversation, speaking, reading and writing. I am studying social welfare, so I will need English so I can help others. I love TNKR, thank you so much for the many volunteers who came here today. I originally thought I would select two tutors, but I chose four! This is a really great program for refugees.
  • I arrived in South Korea in 2010, this will be my last time to use Korean when I talk to TNKR volunteers. I want to express myself completely. I need English because of my major. I am very thankful to volunteers and to TNKR. When I first met Casey, I told him that I thought one tutor would be enough, but I selected three.
  • I arrived in South Korea in 2015, I am studying systems engineering at a university. I need to be able to write essays, engage in conversation. I want to say thank you to all of you for volunteering, I hope to gain knowledge of English.
  • I arrived in South Korea in 2014, I want to study pronunciation, listening, and writing. Next year I will take the TOEIC test, I want to study abroad. Thank you to Casey, Eunkoo and the volunteers. I am so happy I returned, i can see that the program has gotten even more organized. TNKR now has its own office so things have gotten more stable. I hope to keep returning.
  • I arrived in South Korea in 2010, I am so thankful to the volunteers. I will be studying abroad, so I hope my tutors will be able to help me get prepared. Thank you so much to Casey and Eunkoo, you have created a wonderful program for refugees, I hope I can meet you very often to show my gratitude.
  • I am South Korean, I want to study English so I can communicate with Casey. I am not interested in deep studying, I just hope that I will be able to communicate with people so I can share more information about TNKR. I am very thankful to the volunteers, I have been volunteering with TNKR, this was my first time as a student So I am so thankful, I hope to have a long term connection with TNKR.

2016-05-07 TNKR Matching  session

  • TNKR gives me the opportunity to learn about the world abroad. I hope I can develop my English to the level of being a native speaker. I met Casey at a conference at my university, I feel so lucky to be able to join TNKR. I have learned some English already, now I will make it my passion, I will try and try so I can achieve my dreams.
  • My English is not perfect but it is getting better. I heard so many times that I will need to learn English to survive. I look for options but I couldn’t find anything suitable. Finally, I found TNKR, I think I am so lucky. A friend of mine found about it from the Hana Foundation.
  • I also found out about it from the Hana Foundation. I studied in another program but it was socializing so I could not learn. This seems to be a serious program so I am optimistic. Thank you TNKR for creating this program.
  • My university requires a certain level of English so I have been studying it. It does feel like a burden to use only English, I am not sure I can really do it. But I will do my best.
  • I’m a baby at English. The quality of this program seems to be really good, I’m very impressed the way Casey and Eunkoo have developed it. I am honored to join.
  • I was released from Hanawon last month, thank you to TNKR and the Hana Center for making this possible. I am very thankful, I need more than Korean to survive. Fortunately, I heard about this program. I’m not sure where to start, I anticipate having many struggles in adapting, but I am thankful to have TNKR with me as I start.
  • I was also released from Hanawon last month. They have some classes for newcomers, but this is better because it is focused on refugees. I really appreciate that it is focused on refugees, that you protect us from discussing our stories, and that we don’t have to take photos. Thank you TNKR for guiding and protecting us so well.
  • I’m at the ABC level, I am just starting. I’m not sure yet how I will survive in South Korea, so many things are so new to me. Thank you TNKR for creating this program.


2016-04-02, TNKR Matching session
* I’m so happy to return to TNKR. I had three teachers, but two of them have returned to their countries, so I have only one tutor now. I really have enjoyed every experience with TNKR, there have been so many new experiences for me.
* My major is social welfare. It is really difficult because I don’t know English, but so many of the textbooks are in English. I found out about TNKR from another student in the program. I have been waiting for months to join, so I told myself when I have a chance to join that I would sleep overnight at the TNKR meeting place so I could choose first. At first, Casey seemed to be so scary to me, but now I can see that he is so kind and cute. And the teachers give me the feeling that they really care about us.
* I found out about TNKR from an app. I sometimes have opportunities to be on TV, but when anyone speaks English or there is another guest speaking English then I can’t understand. It has been so difficult for me to understand the classes at my university, so I am confident with TNKR that I will be able to improve. I am amazed that there are so many volunteers, especially the tutors coming from outside of Seoul.
* I found out about TNKR from another TNKR student. My major is nursing, I hope that I can become a nurse in the USA. I have been studying like crazy, so my English is not terrible, but it will have to be much better in order for me to be a nurse abroad. I now have a better understanding of TNKR, I am sure that I will be able to improve my English through this wonderful program.
* I am studying nursing, so many of the materials are in English. So I do struggle very often trying to catch up. I can see that TNKR’s teachers are ready to help us with our English needs.
* I have been selling Korean cosmetics in foreign countries. The night before first the Matching session, I was awake all night thinking about the opportunity to select teachers. I love all of the teachers, I am always ready to take any tutors who don’t get chosen. You can always call me, I will come for the tutors! I studied in-house tutoring, it was a good way to start TNKR, but Matching is so much better, because I get to choose.
* This is my second time in TNKR, the first time I was referred by the Hana Foundation. This time I am applying on my own. I have four children, they are now starting to learn English. So I am studying now so I will be able to teach them. That is my dream, to be able to teach English to my children, then later to talk to them in English. I am now studying at a cyber university. This is the best program I have ever heard of, sometimes I can’t believe that it really exists. The first time I wanted bilingual teachers, but this time I want teachers who will only speak English, I can improve much faster that way.
* I am excited every time I come to TNKR, it is definitely growing. I have been in many government programs and also experienced different hakwons and organizations, but TNKR is the best because refugees have power to choose.

2016-02-06 TNKR Matching Session

  • I heard so much English that I felt car sick. But this was a good experience, I feel that the TNKR tutors can help me reach my dreams.
  • I’m so happy, I got the tutors I wanted. This is my second time to join TNKR, I can see that it is growing and becoming a great organization.
  • TNKR is like a dream. It is getting better and better and bigger and bigger.
  • When I first heard about TNKR, I could not believe the way it tried to teach North Koreans, I thought there was a catch or some suspicious thing. But now I can see that the volunteers have good hearts, that they really do want to help North Koreans with English.

2015-10-24 TNKR Matching session #36

  • I am amazed how many volunteers sign up to help North Korean refugees learn English. TNKR has a great reputation with refugees, I guess it also has a strong reputation with tutors.
  • I am so thankful to TNKR for finding so many English teachers so we can learn English.
  • I am so happy, I wanted two tutors based on their resumes, and I was able to select them today. TNKR has a unique way to help refugees choose teachers.
  • I am at the ABC level, so I am concerned if I can communicate with my tutors.
  • There are so many refugees here who can speak English so well. I know that some have become famous, but today, they are just like me. So I am encouraged that I can also do it.
  • TNKR is such a strong organization, so many refugees talk about it as the best way to learn English.
  • I can’t believe there are so many people from around the world who want to teach English for free to North Korean refugees. The North Korean government lied to us.
  • Casey and Eunkoo are angels. They try so hard to help us learn English.
  • I’m so happy. I can choose my teachers in TNKR. I have never heard of such a concept, I didn’t believe it when I first heard about TNKR.

2015-08-15 TNKR Matching session #34

  • I am thankful to have so many volunteers ready to help me learn English.
  • This is the best program I have been in because I have the freedom to choose tutors.
  • This was my first time to be sitting with so many foreigners. I felt uncomfortable at first because it was a new situation, but I can see they are so kind.
  • I want to be taught strictly. I welcome my tutors giving me a lot of homework. This experience has motivated me to volunteer one day when I have a chance.
  • TNKR gives me the chance to speak English. I am embarrassed to speak English in front of children, but I believe that I can do it after studying with the teachers here..
  • TNKR is so good for refugees, I can’t believe such a great program exists for us. The government should learn from TNKR.

Other statements at other times


Volunteers are interested in North Korean issues. They are very kind and treat me without prejudice.


It is a really good opportunity for North Korean refugees, especially one like me who is very tired of studying English. If I do my best, I can improve my English. Also, it is really good that students can choose as many tutors as they want.


North Korean refugees should absolutely join. If you have a best friend, you should definitely invite them to join TNKR.


The strength of TNKR is the good quality and quantity of classes like a language program abroad. Through a language program abroad, we can experience native speakers’ culture and practice English directly. TNKR is the best opportunity for students to study English because we can experience speaking with native speakers!! EVERYONE, please come to TNKR.


I really appreciate that many people want to help North Korean refugees. TNKR offers a useful program to help with adjustment. It is really helpful for me to learn English and understand other cultures with teachers.


The biggest advantage is meeting the various tutors in this program. It’s also great that I can choose as many tutors as I want.



[Interview] Refugees say ‘Thank You’ to TNKR, New Focus International, August 1, 2016 (English) (Korean)