2016-02-29 Ana Dols, no by-standers allowed

I spoke at a fantastic event organized by Ana Dols. I met her on Feb 2 when I was a featured speaker at an event introducing (TNKR) Teach North Korean Refugees to the American Women’s Club.

I said then during Q&A: I hope this will be a movement rather than a moment. At the end of the event, Ana told me that she wanted to invite me to speak at an event.

27 days later, I was speaking at a Women Lab Korea event. Ana is a newcomer to NK refugee issues, but she organized a really smart panel.

Sunghoon Kris Moon to give an overview about North Korea.
Ken Eom to discuss his own escape from North Korea and his adjustment.
Casey Lartigue to discuss the way (TNKR) Teach North Korean Refugees (now the North Korean Refugee Education Center at AOU) helps North Korean refugees improve themselves.
Rachel Stine to discuss rescuing North Koreans trying to escape to freedom.

I learned some things and also had some things I already knew shaken from the cobwebs in the archives of my mind. I have now given so many speeches that I am ready to get to Q&A to hear what people think. Of course many audiences want to talk about titillating stories about the leaders of the NK regime, I try to be patient, count to 10, remember there was a day I was in their shoes, then answer while trying to encourage them to think about something practical they can do.

It seemed that I had a connection with many people in the room. Sunghoon Kris Moon showed one of Yeonmi Park‘s speeches. Of course, Yeonmi was Ambassador of TNKR and we hosted a podcast together.

And we discovered some personal connections.

Rachel Stine was one of the volunteer tutors back when I was the International Adviser to the Mulmangcho School.

Several of our current and past volunteers were at the session. Peter Daley is Mr. Reliable, coming to many of our events in addition to being a tutor and coach in our program. Renee Cummins remains one of our biggest cheerleaders. Eileen Chong has kind of snuck up on me, coming to many of our events, being a coach in our program, helping us with graphics.

Many others. But the woman of the hour was Ana Dols. I meet many people at events who say they want to organize an event. There is a lot of happy talk at events, with people saying they will do one thing or another, then when they leave the event, it seems they forget to do most of what they have said. But not Ana. She followed through, kept the speakers updated, then she got it done! Don’t call her a by-stander!

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Continue reading 2016-02-29 Ana Dols, no by-standers allowed

2016-02-27 “How can I help North Koreans? Here’s my plan!”

Six North Korean refugees spoke at the third English speech contest organized by the Teach North Korean Refugees project in the North Korean Refugee Education Center at American Orientalism University.

It was a wonderful occasion, here are some of my random thoughts and observations.

* Although we left the topic wide open by allowing contestants to address any part related to North Koreans, the speakers addressed practical ways. Experts and “save-the-world” types may have been disappointed. But then, the speakers probably took the challenge seriously because they also had to present an actual plan, rather than intellectual gymnastics so common of intellectuals and big talkers.

* Although it was a speech contest in which refugees were expected to present plans, they still managed to sneak in some wonderful anecdotes. 🙂

* We got wonderful feedback from attendees and volunteers. This was our best organized contest. Thanks so much too our volunteers. We were so organized that I was

* I loved watching the coaches of the contestants, seems they were more stressed out than the contestants. I can see the contest helped build a bond between the coaches and the contestants. The English tutoring part of the program also builds strong bonds, don’t get me wrong, but as Samuel Johnson said, “The threat of execution sharpens the mind.” Coaches and tutors knew the big test was coming, so they were focused!

* We had about 85 attendees, 23 or no-shows, raised about 256,000 won. That’s about 3,000 won per person. From now, I will charge admission at events rather than relying on donations.

* The speeches were great, but talking with refugees after the contest, I really wish they could give their “natural talks.” I proposed some themes for the fourth contest, Eunkoo Lee enthusiastically agreed with one of them. What’s your suggestion as the theme for the speech contest in August 2016?

* One of the contestants was slightly above the ABC level when we met her last year. I think she has studied with about five different coaches during the last year. What a difference a year has made! She didn’t win the contest, but we could see how proud she was to even compete in such a contest!

* For anyone keeping track, we have had three contests, none of the grand prize winners used PPT. About half of the contestants have used PPT, so it could be 50-50 coin flip, but still, the three grand prize winners have all spoken without using PPT.

* Unlike last year when several audience members rudely and stupidly talked to each other during the contest, they were really quiet and respectful this time. The only people to talk (actually, whisper) were two of the refugees.

* The audience was so quiet, I decided to open the floor to questions while the judges were deciding. I quickly regretted it because audience members wanted to ask questions of the refugees, apparently not realizing they had just been through a stressful experience and probably didn’t want to engage in Q&A. Lesson learned, I won’t do that again unless we have the refugees leave the room.

* I was happy not to be a judge of this contest. Thanks so much to the judges for having the courage to render their decisions, knowing we didn’t have a police escort for them…

* Next speech contest: Either August 20 or 27, we will talk with the law firm soon to book the date.

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Continue reading 2016-02-27 “How can I help North Koreans? Here’s my plan!”

2016-02-24 Talking about volunteering and helping others

I joined a discussion tonight about volunteering. It is good to get away from talking about North Korea sometimes. But tonight, because the subject was volunteering, it was hard to get away from it.

I was delighted that I had a chance to talk with Katie, one of the tutors in TNKR, to get her feedback about her experience in the program and the refugees she has been tutoring.

Also, one of the group members had already heard about me, watched some of my videos online, and even recommended my organization to a friend! Wow!

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2016-02-24 “I don’t have to” Korea Times

‘I don’t have to’

2016-02-23 : 16:44

By Casey Lartigue, Jr.

Korean friends and conversation partners are shocked when I tell them I never feel stress. When some challenge me, I just say I’m a hedonist in search of pleasure. When doubters probe deeper, I confess: “I never feel stress because I know I am going to die one day.”

As if reading a script, most say that “everyone” knows that. I think I was eight years old when the reality of death hit me. I had many sleepless nights when I realized I would be dead forever.

The reality of death was terrifying—but also liberating, energizing, a great motivator for me. I happily burn the candle at both ends, recognizing my fire will be completely extinguished one day. Quoting Bon Jovi, I tell people, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” I won’t beat death but every day is a celebration of being alive, to “live life, like it’s the last day of school,” as the Wylde Bunch sang.

When I was young, I remember hearing older relatives and friends say, “I ain’t got to do nothing but stay black and die.” It dates back (in print) to “Necessity,” a poem by Langston Hughes (1902-67), in which he wrote, “I don’t have to do nothing, but eat, drink, stay black and die.”

I have heard other variations of it (paying taxes or using the bathroom). In Hughes’ poem, the speaker asserts his defiance, but then reflects on his situation ― living in a small room owned by a landlady who can raise his rent. He concluded he must work in order to support himself.

I had my own internal conflict until I read David Kelly’s essay “I don’t have to.” Kelly, an Objectivist philosopher, recommended asking “Do I want to” instead of thinking “I have to.” It changed the way I talk. I began cursing when I caught myself saying, “I have to (fill-in-the-blank).”

“I ain’t got to do nothing but stay black and die” is still in me, as well as “you ain’t the boss of me.” But they now feel defensive. “I want to,” “I will” “I don’t have to” “I am going to” are reminders to myself to assert my individual autonomy to peacefully live my life as I choose.

Some people, including conspiracy theorists, who know about my professional career in America ask why I am so happy running a small little organization helping North Korean refugees. Back when I was a think tank analyst in the U.S., I remember reading about Warren Brown, a popular Washington, D.C. lawyer who quit his secure government job to open a small bakery. I’ve read about other cases of people walking away from the rat race. These days, when people ask “What do you do for a living,” I reply: “As I please.” (I heard that from a friend who also dropped out of the rat race.)

Korean friends are more impressed when I quote Steve Jobs: “I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’” Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute recently suggested people should think about death to“remorselessly root out activities, small and large, that don’t pass the ‘last-year test.”

I am for freedom and doing practical things before I die. Many “know” they will die, but act like they will live forever, debating issues eternally, talking, talking, talking.

When Koreans ask if I enjoy being in Korea, I say, “I’m still here. If I stop enjoying it, then I will leave.” Two years ago, I was offered what seemed to be a dream job back in the USA, but I was enjoying my activities here (paying me much less), so I stayed.

My carefree approach is in conflict with Korea’s emphasis on duty and responsibility. Peacefully doing what you want without considering the group often seems to be an affront.

Years ago, an older Korean man told me that I couldn’t go through life eating only what I want. After he told me a second time, I thought about quoting Langston Hughes. Instead, I politely informed him that I don’t have to eat everything on my plate (or at the table). I have been less diplomatically lately, telling people, “My plate, my way; your plate, your way.” I’m no longer an eight-year old who must eat his vegetables so the kids in Africa won’t starve (I got a whipping for making the same point when I was young, that maybe another reason death was on my mind).

But that is a lot to tell conversation partners talking about overcoming stress. So I just tell them that I am a hedonist who wants to enjoy every minute I am alive, so I don’t have time for stress.
The writer is co-editor of “Educational Freedom in Urban America: Fifty Years After Brown v. Board of Education.” He can be reached at CJL@post.harvard.edu

Original Korea Times link

Far From Heaven. The Unspeakable Lives of North Korean People (2016-02-29)

12733421_988790321191867_1871327598203832270_n You are invited to join WomenLabTalk when it holds a special session focusing on North Korea and North Korean refugees. The invited speakers are Sunghoon Kris Moon, North Korean refugees, Casey Lartigue Jr. and Rachel Stine.

The event is being organized by Ana Dols, an energetic lady who wants to make a difference! She writes: “I am the womenlabkorea catalyst and my goal is to use women’s collective intelligence as a driver to generate some impact in their lives and in the lives of women around them.”

This is especially relevant to the issue of North Korean refugees, about 80 percent who make it to South Korea are females.

More details and background info here.
Far From Heaven. The Unspeakable Lives of North Korean People

Register here so they can prepare.

25,000 won per person, all of the proceeds will go to (TNKR) Teach North Korean Refugees and the Underground Railroad System Project.

726-111, Hannam Dong, Yongsan Gu, Seoul, Korea 140-210 서울시 용산구 한남동 726-111

힐사이드 레지던스 오는 방법 (How to get to Hillside residence)

1. 한남대교 북단에서 직진 – 단국대학교 지나 직진 – 볼보 자동차 빌딩 – 약 100미터 지점 도로 우편(풀향기, 루터교회 지나지 않고) 힐사이드 간판따라 우회전 – 언덕 끝에서 좌회전 – 좌회전 후 오른쪽 언덕으로 올라오면 힐사이드 입구 보안실

Hannam Bridge North side – Dankook Univ. – VOLVO Bldg – go straight 100m then turn right beside PulHyangGi Restraunt – then come up to hill then turn left – then turn right and come up to hill until you find the hillside Security Post
2. 남산에서 한남대교 방향으로 직진 – 한남대교 건너기 전 고가 밑에서 유턴 – 단국대학교 지나 직진 – 볼보 자동차 빌딩 – 약 100미터 지점 도로 우편(풀향기, 루터교회 지나지 않고) 힐사이드 간판따라 우회전 – 언덕 끝에서 좌회전 – 좌회전 후 오른쪽 언덕으로 올라오면 힐사이드 입구 보안실

From Namsan to Hannam Bridge – U-turn under the overpass of Hannam Bridge – Dankook Univ. – VOLVO Bldg – go straight 100m then turn right beside PulHyangGi Restraunt – then come up to hill then turn left – then turn right and come up to hill until you find the hillside Security Post

New NK refugee education center 2016-02-19

You are cordially invited to join the opening ceremony marking the formation of a new North Korean refugee education center.
The center is being established under the leadership of Director Casey Lartigue and Vice-Director Eunkoo Lee, co-founders of Teach North Koreans (TNKR), a non-profit based in Seoul that has connected more than 200 refugees with more than 300 volunteers.
* The ceremony will last less than an hour.
The event is taking place a short distance between the Jonggak (line 1) and Angguk (line 3) subway stations. The closest landmark is the Centermark hotel. http://www.centermarkhotel.com/eng/about/location.asp
RSVP here.
* * *
Yes, we are still listening to suggestions of names for the center…. serious suggestions only, please…
* * *
The center is unfurnished. For the last few years, I have been like a man running down the street, and people asking me if they could give me a piano. At last, we have a center where we can receive donations (desks, chairs, shelves, file cabinets, computers and other office supplies).

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2016-02-14 What a coincidence! September babies at discussion group

Yes, I’m a fluent English speaker. Still, I enjoy joining English language discussion groups in Seoul.

* They usually are composed of working professionals trying to improve or sharpen their English. So they are smart people who are thinking about various issues.

* I get to talk to people who often want to talk to me–at least, initially. It gives me a chance to speak honestly to people who are happy when they agree with me and dismiss me as a foreigner who doesn’t know anything about Korea when they disagree with me.

* I get to explain things naturally, often reminding myself of anecdotes and arguments.

* always something unexpected happens–today, it turned out four of the five members of our particular group were born in the month of Septembe overall, there were about 15 people at the discussion.

* one group member who attends regularly mentioned to me that in a discussion a few weeks ago, all of the members in one group were supporting Bernie Sanders.


What a coincidence!



2016-02-13 Fun Korean Waves

Had a great time meeting up with Paul F Worsham during his trip to South Korea. We first met back in 2008 when I joined his meetup group Fun Korean Waves.

We stayed in contact after I left, I attended one of the meetups during one of my trips. I would have organized a meeting for him this time but he arranged the trip at the last-minute.

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2016-02-12 A Movement, not a moment…

Last February 2, I was a speaker at a wonderful event hosted by the American Women’s Club, Korea. I have spoken at many one-time events. Then when it is over, the speakers get celebrated, but there is no follow-thru.

That’s not the case with the ladies of AWC!!!

The latest case: Today I met with Karin Hanna. She was deeply moved by the speakers at our event, she followed up with me, making it clear that she wanted to help in some way. TNKR is an all-volunteer that depends on volunteers–giving their time, but also using their brains to find their own way to help. Karin has found her niche–she will translate things into German, help link us with German speakers who might be interested in helping, and a list of other things she suggested as we talked.

She actually got prepared for our discussion! Reading articles, checking videos, reading through our entire Website.

I often have people asking me curiosity questions, but in Karin’s case, she was asking questions with a purpose–trying to figure out how she could get involved. It reminded me of a few months ago when the same thing happened with Rorry Ambers Late. She asked me pointed questions, which at first seemed like curiosity questions, but later turned out to be questions with a purpose.

Today Karin made it clear–she is trying to get involved for more than just a moment, that she wants to have a long-term connection.

I try not to be cynical, but I do make the point in speeches: I hope this will be the start of a movement, not just a moment. I don’t mean to blame people in the audience, some join events out of curiosity. Others who want to help have no idea how they can get involved. Some others want bigger world saving actions than what we are doing.

Out of every event, I hope that just a few will follow-up, try to get involved, figure out how they can help.

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