2015-09-28 Canadian business group

Today is Chuseok in Korea, but I pulled myself from being lazy at home to meet this morning with a group of Canadians visiting here on a business trip. They are meeting with some distinguished government and business leaders–and me. 🙂

I couldn’t figure out why they wanted to meet me, and then I was surprised to learn that they really really wanted to learn about (TNKR) Teach North Korean Refugees. They had many questions about it and North Korea.

They kept asking, and I kept talking…. Of course, I hit them up for a donation. 🙂

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2015-09-28 Energy Center (even on a holiday)

Years ago a senior colleague of mine described me as an “energy center.” It was at my annual review, so it wasn’t completely a compliment. For better or for worse, there were always things going on around me…

It was like there was always a commotion, and if anyone did an investigation, it would seem that I was always involved in some way…

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2015-09-26 Visiting Aeran Lee’s North Korean restaurant

(TNKR) Teach North Korean Refugees co-directors Eunkoo Lee and Casey Lartigue were invited to Aeran Lee‘s North Korean restaurant in Seoul. It was great!

* We got great feedback about her tutor, Masha Klimenteva. Dr. Lee is an important lady, but Masha treats her like any other student–correcting her, having her repeat until she gets it right, pushing her to do more.

* She treated us to nice North Korean food.

* She explained to us the significance of the paintings from North Korea that are at the restaurant.

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2015-09-25 Media Day + in-house tutoring

* Quoted by Vice News

* Quoted by Global Post

* interview with new website that will feature (TNKR) Teach North Korean Refugees as part of its launch. Two reporters from the website stopped by to interview me, to talk with two volunteers who happened to be here, and also to interview a refugee who was having her first class.

The reporters interviewed me first about TNKR’s mission, history, and main activities. It is interesting to me to explain such things because it gives me a chance to reflect on things.

* interview with a leading wire service

* interview with an international correspondent.

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The refugee was delightful, so pleased to be joining our in-house tutoring program. She has studied at a language institute so she has learned the basics beyond the alphabet, but that’s about it. She arrived early, so unfortunately for her, her introduction to TNKR was talking with me. I engaged her in conversation, pushing her to repeat what I said in English rather than talking in Korean, and also pushing her to try English. At first she wanted to speak Korean, and it took her a little time to relax during her class with Bridget.

She seemed to enjoy the class. She later said after the class that she really enjoyed the 1:1 focus that she got today, rather than a group situation in a class, and that she thinks it is a great chance for her to improve her English.

I was deeply touched by the kind things the volunteers said about the program and about me. The lesson I learned: Make sure I am nearby whenever our volunteers get interviewed.

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2015-09-25 Quoted by Vice News (“North Korea, Where Watching a Soap Opera Is Apparently Punishable by Death”)

North Korea, Where Watching a Soap Opera Is Apparently Punishable by Death

North Korea, Where Watching a Soap Opera Is Apparently Punishable by Death

 “Of course North Korea doesn’t welcome anyone sending information into the country,” Casey Lartigue, a director at Seoul-based think tank, Freedom Factory, told VICE News. “That would be like Dracula allowing you to build windows in his home.”

Follow Nathan Thompson on Twitter at: @NathanWrites

Original link at ViceNews, Vietnam Plus, Business Insider Continue reading 2015-09-25 Quoted by Vice News (“North Korea, Where Watching a Soap Opera Is Apparently Punishable by Death”)

2015-09-24 Quoted by Global Post (“North Koreans can’t get enough of illegal foreign radio”)

North Koreans can’t get enough of illegal foreign radio

North Korean soldiers tuning in.


PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — The North Korean regime has long been accused of brainwashing its citizens into a form of mass Stockholm syndrome — where the imprisoned love their captors.

But the spell is slowly being broken. Today, more and more people living in the Hermit Kingdom possess an informed understanding of the world and the pariah status of their homeland.

The BBC World Service is the latest foreign news agency to announce plans to broadcast news programs into North Korea. It will join the handful of stations already broadcasting into the state, including the US-backed Radio Free Asia (RFA). “According to my research … most people from North Korea listen to RFA,” says Casey Lartigue, a director of Seoul-based think tank Freedom Factory. “It has the clearest signal.”

Continue reading 2015-09-24 Quoted by Global Post (“North Koreans can’t get enough of illegal foreign radio”)

2015-09-24 in-house tutoring (new tutor, new tutee)

This morning we had a new in-house tutor start with us. She was absolutely thrilled when she learned she could become a tutor in our program. I met her when she was talking to the Bitcoin team. And, viola! She is now an in-house tutor with us. In college in the USA she had already gotten involved with NK issues, and now she is a tutor in South Korea with TNKR.

Judy tutored two refugees this morning. One of the refugees started in-house tutoring last month with Grace. He was at the ABC level, but today was saying some things in English. The second refugee starting with us was so nervous that she was shaking when I greeted her.. But she relaxed with Judy and they had a great class together!

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2015-09-23 Third Level of Leadership (Korea Times column)

Third level of leadership

By Casey Lartigue, Jr.

He came along before the age of TED Talks, but I have the feeling that Leonard E. Read (1898-1983) would have fit in nicely with an 18-minute version of his speech “How to Advance Liberty.” Read, founder of the Foundation for Economic Education, discussed three ascending categories of leadership, with his focus being on giving advice to advocates of economic freedom.

The level that interests me now is the third one, which Read said is difficult to reach because it “requires that the individual achieve that degree of excellence in understanding and exposition which will inspire others to seek him as a tutor.” You need to be good at what you do, and attract people, instead of the “reforming, propagandizing, thrusting-at technique” used by many advocates. Read said there is a good way to test how you are doing: “Observe how many are seeking your counsel. If none, then you can draw your own conclusions.”

I don’t expect to reach that third level of leadership soon, but I have been encouraged this year by the parade of talented and educated people seeking my counsel. The visitors have included students (high school to graduate school, and international students in Korea), travelers to Korea, retirees, teachers, business people, housewives and consultants. They want to learn about, volunteer for and donate to Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR), which I co-founded with South Korean researcher Lee Eun-koo. I have been invited to speak at some influential universities (Harvard, Yale, Tufts) this November about our volunteer project.

There is a feeling of déjà vu for me. Back when I was a researcher at the Cato Institute, I had activists, parents and some of those universities reaching out to me. A young man inspired by my school work and activism called me out of the blue, he wanted to be my volunteer assistant. I was moved that he was inspired by me, but it is still more special now because I am running a tiny volunteer NGO, compared to being a researcher at an established think tank.

Another good sign that our organization is reaching the third level of leadership: Young people sign up, despite having attractive options. During the summer, Korean-American Christine Kim joined me as a volunteer on a fellowship from her university in California. She’s a talented young woman and she could have chosen many larger, well-known and well-funded organizations.

I tried my best to lower her expectations, but she made it clear that she is a fan of mine and that she wanted to be a part of what we are doing. She tutored at least five North Korean refugees, some twice a week. Another Korean-American, Grace Lee, followed in her footsteps, tutoring North Korean refugees for four to six hours a day at our small office during her two-week trip to Seoul. The work of Christine and Grace made me realize that we could have in-house tutors for refugees on our waiting list, as the interns inspired by me in turn inspired us to open a small study for North Korean refugees.

Even if we don’t reach that third leadership level, we have another good sign that we are doing the right thing: A waiting list. People often ask me how we recruit refugees to join us, but I tell them: “We don’t.” These days, the refugees find us, either on their own or by referrals. As Read said: “The tutorship of any real master will be sought without any advertising on his part.” Despite lacking an operating budget, independent office or paid staff, we have had about 190 North Korean refugees and 290 volunteers participate in our program since we began in March 2013. We have more than 50 refugees on our waiting list and many prospective tutors and volunteers contact me every day. Some eager refugees began contacting me directly, lobbying for their chance to join our program sooner. Incredibly, we now have tutors taking three and four hour bus rides each way to come to Seoul to join us. We even have a tutor who will fly in from Jeju Island to tutor on back-to-back days.

Another good sign for a cause? Participants raise and donate money, even without being asked. Refugees have volunteered and have donated money to us. Volunteers are setting up crowd-sourcing pages to raise money and donors we don’t even know have put money in our bank account. The Atlas Network in Washington, D.C., is now matching donations to double the donations we receive.

We haven’t reached that third level of leadership that Read discussed decades ago, but we have some good signs that we are on the right track, that we have people seeking our counsel.

The writer is the director for international relations at Freedom Factory Co. in Seoul. He can be reached at CJL@post.harvard.edu.


Original Korea Times link

casey_lartigue_jr profile photo to upload


2015-09-23 News discussion, new volunteers

This morning I joined Van Hur‘s English language discussion group. I love these groups because I can discuss non-North Korean things, learn things educated South Koreans are talking about and also meet new people….

It helped that Van notified me in advance that they would be discussing one of my recent Korea Times columns. That gave me extra motivation to join!

After that I met with a new volunteer who has experience with tutoring North Koreans and has seen my speech at Harvard University last May. So she knew to bring her own ideas to the meeting with me rather than waiting for me to list tasks.

After that I bumped into Gregor Stebernak, I immediately recruited him to join TNKR.

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2015-09-22 lnternational students joining TNKR

In my latest Korea Times column, I mentioned that I have had a parade of talented and educated people reaching out to me. On cue, I met tonight with three international/exchange students who want to join TNKR as volunteers. They are the world: from the USA, Austria, and the Netherlands…

I met with Rorry Ambers Late a few weeks ago. She came back today with some new recruits eager to help TNKR. We had a fun conversation, discussing practical things we can do together.

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