Forbes Magazine quoted from one of my 2002 commentaries.
You can find more information about the NGOs mentioned in Chance Dorland’s report.
Email lists (sign up to learn about volunteer opportunities)
Atlas Leadership Academy alumnus and Atlas Network Asia Outreach Fellow Casey Lartigue Jr. has had a remarkable journey during the past few years, going from a well-established career working on education policy at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C., all the way across the world to South Korea, where he built a new non-governmental organization (NGO), Teach North Korean Refugees, devoted to teaching life, language, and career skills to those who have managed to escape from the communist regime. Lartigue recently accepted a position with American Orientalism University, as its director of theNorth Korean Refugee Education Center.
“I say that Casey is one of a kind because I simply know of no other Harvard-educated black Texan libertarian who has dedicated himself to the plight of North Korean defectors,” Atlas Network CEO Brad Lips wrote last fall in his review of In Order to Live, a book by refugee Yeonmi Park that chronicles her escape from totalitarian North Korea, then from a different kind of captivity in China. Park was able to bring her story to the world thanks in large part to her time working with Lartigue and his classes.
Lartigue taught English in South Korea in the 1990s, when he met the founder of Atlas Network partner the Center for Free Enterprise, based in Seoul. He maintained a connection with them through the years, and in 2007 began editing and writing articles for them from the United States.
“In 2012, March 1, I attended a rally that motivated me to get more deeply involved in North Korean issues,” Lartigue said. “A month later, I was at the Think Tank MBA workshop. I began to think about making North Korea my focus during the session. I began to think about ways I could get more deeply involved, and things I learned gave me the basic foundation to get started.”
After his Think Tank MBA training, Lartigue continued with Atlas Leadership Academy’s programs and webinars. He began connecting North Korean refugees with volunteer tutors in March 2013, at first without a long-term plan.
“We just wanted to connect refugees with people who could help them,” Lartigue said. “In December 2013, two things changed. One, I became a fellow with Atlas Network, and two, I became the director for international relations at Freedom Factory. Both changes gave us credibility, giving us the confidence to expand our little project.”
Lartigue’s “Teach North Korean Refugees” became a project within Freedom Factory, and the team began focusing on how to make it stronger internally. Lartigue began participating in Atlas Leadership Academy’s mentorship program in 2014, paired withRainer Heufers, founder and executive director of the the Indonesia-based Atlas Network partner Center for Indonesian Policy Studies.
“We had a really active 2014, it wasn’t long before my volunteer project began to take over my job at Freedom Factory,” Lartigue said. “We were really grateful when Atlas Network offered us a matching grant opportunity. It let people know that their donations would be matched by a solid organization with superior transparency. We then made the tiny little project into an official NGO, as of May 2015. We were able to use the money we raised through the matching grant to establish the North Korean Refugee Education Center at American Orientalism University. Each year, we have taken another step. Atlas Network has provided us with assistance every step of the way, with a fellowship, speech opportunities, strategic advice, and a matching grant opportunity that has helped us grow despite having limited resources.”
In his new role at American Orientalism University, Lartigue will also help to create a Free Enterprise Research Center, which will bring together free-market researchers from around to world to meet in Korea. This renewed focus on the ideas of liberty brings him full circle to his earliest days of discovery in the world of political philosophy.
“I read all three of Frederick Douglass’s books when I was 12,” Lartigue said. He would go on to join the Board of Trustees of the Frederick Douglass Memorial and Historical Association in Washington, D.C. “The idea of self-ownership and the right of locomotion were within me from a young age. The shocking moment for me was losing a debate to objectivists. I had started hanging out with progressives; they seemed to be more action-oriented and caring. Then the objectivists knocked some sense into me using language and phrases that attracted me. I was into minority issues, and they reminded me that ‘the individual is the smallest minority.’ The focus on individualism brought me back to where I had been a few years before, and have been ever since.”
Despite “zig-zagging across various ideologies and ideas” in his early years, as Lartigue puts it, he has found a lasting home in the worldwide freedom movement, where he makes an extraordinary difference in the lives of people who need it the most — those who have escaped the lifetime prison of a totalitarian regime, often with nothing but their lives.
“These days I quote Walter Williams,” Lartigue said. “I am an extremist, and extremely proud of it.”
By Casey Lartigue, Jr.
Back in 2007 when I launched a radio talk show, I predicted that I wouldn’t get major media coverage until there was a problem. After I got fired from the show in a dispute with management, I was proven correct. I got a long article published in the Washington Post, several national media invitations, mentioned in a book about conspiracy theories, and later became a regular commentator on a National Public Radio show.
While it might have seemed great to get that attention, I didn’t enjoy being known for getting fired from a talk show. Friends who remembered my prediction thought it was amazing that I had guessed in advance what would happen, but like a broken clock, I make that kind of prediction all of the time. Do something to slightly improve the world, and a reporter may stumble upon you every once in a while. Get caught in a scandal or crime, and you can have reporters surrounding your home, taking photos as you walk from your front door to check the mail or do sit-ups in your garage. Whether you are the shooter or the target, a reporter will want to talk to you.
I have been engaged in activism on North Korean issues for a few years. At the beginning, I predicted that I wouldn’t get major news coverage until I got caught up in a scandal. No scandals yet, although I have had some reporters snooping around when they thought some of my colleagues had done something wrong.
Every time a reporter stumbles upon my activities helping North Korean refugees, I thank them. Certainly there were scandals, murders, earthquakes, K-pop and other stories that would have generated more clicks. Then I pretty much say goodbye, recognizing that they will never write about my activities again.
It might be a cynical point of view, but in order to understand reporters, think about a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat at a birthday party for kids. Imagine the magician demonstrating to the kids how he did it. Then imagine the magician asking the kids, “Do you want me to pull the rabbit out of the hat again?” The kids, like reporters, want to see something different, something “new.” That’s why I say the best way to get a reporter curious about a document is to label it “Top Secret.”
Perhaps that was my mistake, yet again. You probably won’t hear about it in many places, but this past Sunday I was one of the main organizers of the International Volunteers Workshop: Opportunities to Help North Koreans, co-hosted by the Teach North Korean Refugees Education Center at AOU, Justice for North Korea, and Transitional Justice Working Group. Our goal is to connect English-speaking volunteers with organizations helping North Koreans who have escaped or are still being held hostage in Kim Jong-Il’s country. According to our voluntary registration team, we had almost 200 people from about 40 countries join the event held at Memorial Hall of South Korea’s National Assembly.
A few of the attendees looking around at the diverse crowd trying to do something helpful for North Koreans were openly asking why there wasn’t more media there. After we left, I mentioned to one that it wasn’t too late, one of us, preferably an American, could still return to the National Assembly and steal something, thereby guaranteeing us 72 point headlines in the Korean press for weeks. There would be reunification of the Koreas, in the press, as both sides of the peninsula denounced us.
As if two decades of dealing with media had not already made me cynical, I recently received an email from a reporter who often asks me about stories dealing with North Korea. I mentioned to him that one of the speakers at our upcoming workshop would be Hwang Inchol, the leader of the Association for Family Members of the KAL Kidnapping Victims. The group is pressing for North Korea to return the people on a South Korean airplane (KAL YS-11) hijacked by North Korean agents in 1969. Hwang’s father was on the plane, abducted to North Korea. Even as I was writing the email about the case, I knew it would fail the reporter’s test: “Is it new/news?” Predictably, the reporter wanted to know about a “new” North Korean museum being built somewhere. “New” trumps “important” in journalism.
As I listened to Hwang Inchol, still in pain after 47 years, I became a broken clock, making a note to myself that he wouldn’t get news coverage until he got caught up in a scandal or did something crazy like trying to escape to the DMZ to find his father. It would be pointless, but he might even get as much coverage as the American recently sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for allegedly trying to steal a banner in North Korea.
The writer is director of the Teach North Korean Refugees Education Center at American Orientalism University. He can be reached at CJL@post.harvard.edu
“The International Volunteers Workshop: Opportunities to Help North Koreans” was a tremendous success, in terms of measuring success among events.
- A lot of people were there? Check!
- Attendees said they enjoyed it? Check!
- Most attendees stayed from start to finish? Check!!!
- I led the event without upsetting/offending a lot of people? Pending! Still waiting for feedback. 🙂
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I say it was successful in terms of events because holding the event is just part 1. The key is the follow up. We hosted the event hoping that volunteers would find organizations they could assist and that organizations would find people who could help them overcome their budget struggles and lack of manpower.
Session 1: Andrei Lankov delivered the keynote address. He had the challenge that speakers have at not knowing the audience, so I tried to make it a bit easier by finding out how much attendees knew about him. Of the 230 people who registered in advance, 135 (60%) had never heard of him, 95 (40%) had. And I suspect that some who had heard of him had not read many things by him. So I let him know that in advance because that would be an indicator for him about the audience and the approach he should take.
Session 2: Two North Korean refugees gave testimony and a third introduced her organization. By a coincidence that would give a conspiracy theorists or a fortune teller a heart attack, 135 (60%) of those who registered in advance had never met a North Korean refugee, while 95 (40%) had done so.
“Heartbreaking but inspiring” is what one of the attendees wrote to me this morning about what she heard.
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Session 3: Six different representatives of NGOs presented. It was interesting to hear about the different activities. Even though I am aware of some of them, I got to learn about each one of them more deeply. The most shocking thing is that most people stayed to listen to the NGOs, and that people asked many questions even though the entire Workshop lasted more than 5 hours!
- So many people arrived on time that we were able to start on time. At one point, we were actually ahead of schedule! Unbelievable.
- Volunteers at the Workshop were on the ball. Even when I forgot to announce at times when no photographs were allowed, they were monitoring people with cameras. Few details were overlooked, based on the many Kakao messages I was getting during the event reminding me to make various announcements.
- We had almost 200 people show up, but according to our team monitoring registration, there were 74 cancellations and no-shows. Wow! Enough of them to have had their own huge event! I will check the final numbers, because crowd counts are always touchy, and sometimes it depends on who does the counting. For example, some people don’t include speakers and volunteers, but some others do.
- The best feedback that I got was from a few of our volunteers who said seeing people outside of TNKR introduced to our program made them realize how special our little project is.
- We had an extremely diverse crowd. I haven’t sorted out the final numbers yet, but we had people from 46 different countries sign up in advance.
- This past weekend was busy crazy…
Friday night, visited a refugee in the hospital.
Saturday morning, speech to the Asia Leadership Institute
Sunday, International Volunteers Workshop
Monday morning, wrote my Korea Times column
On the Brouhaha Over Defectors’ Memoirs
By John Cussen
The Korea Times, March 19, 2016
“As readers of this newspaper, you know of these experts’ complaints because The Korea Times columnist Casey Lartigue, Jr. has been the memoirists’ chief defender. Meanwhile, here in Pennsylvania, I know of them because my efforts to place a combined essay review of Yeonmi Park’s “In Order to Live,” of Lucia Jang’s “Stars Between the Sun and Moon,” of Hyeonseo Lee’s “The Girl With Seven Names” and of Eunsum Kim’s “A Thousand Miles to Freedom” in scholarly journals based in North America have been frustrated by rumors that the books are at least in part fiction.
“Fortunately, as I say, the experts and editors are wrong, for all of the several reasons already advanced by Lartigue and others, as well as for another reason ― a literary reason ― that I’d like to introduce here.
“First, however, let’s recall the arguments in favor of the books that have already been offered: first, the unreasonableness of expecting those of the memoirists who are now celebrities to remain consistent in every one of their stories’ details while giving interviews. Also, says Lartigue, fears of regime reprisals against their families back in the North may at times cause the defectors to obscure and displace details of their printed stories; however, Lartigue insists, the stories remain essentially unchanged. Trauma is also a factor, say both Blaine Harden (co-author with Shin Dong-hyuk of “Escape from Camp 14”) and Maryanne Vollers (co-author with Yeonmi Park of “In Order to Live”). Consciously and unconsciously, as their traumatized psyches require, the memoirists scramble the more gruesome and/or shameful facts of their stories. That they do so is not symptomatic of dishonesty but, ironically, of the gravity of the memories they are struggling to articulate.”
Bear hugs in Texas By Casey Lartigue, Jr.
My previous column was about celebrating every day I am alive. Later that day, my grandaunt passed away in Texas and the grandmother of a North Korean refugee friend passed away in North Korea.
I last saw my grandaunt two years ago when I flew from Seoul to Texas to attend my paternal grandmother’s funeral. The people who were already adults when I was born, probably changed my diapers when I was baby, and celebrated my achievements during my formative years are passing from the scene.
While grieving for my grandaunt passing away, I got the bad news from my North Korean refugee friend. She later said her mother and aunt, who also escaped from North Korea, cried non-stop for days.
Even in death, your country of birth can determine your freedom to “seize the day.” Two years ago before she became a leading spokesperson about North Korea, Yeonmi Park said to me, in anger and disgust: “I have the right to see my family. Why does Kim Jong-Un have the right to block me from seeing my family?”
I think about that whenever I hear people talk about the “good” allegedly done by Kim Jong-Un and his dirty regime. They are kidnappers blocking people from the freedom to enjoy their lives as they wish, to see their family in good or bad times, to find their way in the world.
My North Korean refugee friend and her family could not return to North Korea to attend the funeral of her grandmother. Certainly they are happy to have escaped from North Korea, but who could blame them if they reflected on their choice to escape from North Korea?
I hesitate to say this because people are shocked to hear North Korean refugees say they miss being in North Korea. Some friends (South Korean as well as Westerners) who started paying attention to the stories of North Koreans rather than just headlines sometimes express outrage or bewilderment about refugees saying they want to return to or miss North Korea. I tell them to slow down about judging people who had to make life-or-death, all-or-nothing decisions to escape from a regime determined to keep them from escaping.
Unlike my North Korean friend who could not hop on a plane or even make a phone call to North Korea without being cautious, I dropped everything to fly to Texas to attend my grandaunt’s funeral. I thought back to last year when I didn’t attend an aunt’s funeral _ I still can’t remember what those important activities were that kept me in Seoul then. I see the Facebook posts by my cousins still grieving about their mom and brother passing away within weeks of one another. She was a sweet lady who had a tough life. When I was young she would threaten to “whoop” us when we were bad, but thankfully her threats never became reality.
I am sure that next year I won’t remember which activities I skipped this time in order to attend my grandaunt’s funeral. I reasoned that good colleagues wouldn’t mind postponing a bit (“Those who matter, don’t mind; those who mind, don’t matter”). We can seize the moment among many choices, in this case, family over work.
One of my uncles picked me up at the airport. When I told him I would be attending the funeral, he let me know that he couldn’t wait to give me a “big bear hug.” He calls me “son” and tells me that he loves me every time we message or call.
It isn’t just him. One of his burly sons will give you a bear hug, while he is trash talking how he should finish you off. The other burly son will give you a bear hug, telling you how much he loves and misses you. You are still trying to catch your breath from the tag team of life-draining bear hugs, and dad is already ready for round two of bear hugs.
I knew it would mean a lot to my aunts and uncles for me to attend the funeral because my own father abandoned the family more than two decades ago. He was not there to say a final goodbye to his aunt, but his oldest son was. For a few days, I was “Casey Jr.” My relatives are happy about my activities helping North Korean refugees, but I know they are first of all concerned with my happiness. They would be as thrilled if I were saving whales or collecting stamps.
Before I left Seoul for Texas, I made sure to give a big bear hug to my North Korean refugee friend, lifting her off the ground, mixing both trash talk and words of praise. She didn’t quite understand why I did that, but that’s fine with me.
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.
Join Teach North Korean Refugees, Justice for North Korea and Transitional Justice Working Group for the largest gathering of volunteers coming together to find ways to help North Koreans and North Korean refugees.
This event is scheduled for March 20 at the National Assembly of South Korea from 1 to 6 pm.
If you have been thinking about getting involved with helping North Korean refugees then here’s your chance. After this workshop is over, you will have a deeper understanding about North Korea, North Korean refugees and to learn about opportunities for you to get directly involved.
* Andrei Lankov, author of The Real North Korea, has confiirmed he will deliver the keynote address. This will be a great chance to hear from and talk with someone who has been studying about North Korea for almost three decades.
* We also have two North Korean refugees scheduled to speak at the workshop, including Eunsun Kim, author of “A Thousand Miles to Freedom.”
* You will also get to hear directly from representatives of several NGOs actively involved with helping North Korean refugees in Seoul and other places around the world.
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Reasons to join the International Volunteers Workshop on March 20, 2016, from 1 to 6 pm?
1) VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES: The workshop features some leading NGOs introducing their major activities. So you will have any opportunities to get directly involved with helping organizations helping survivors of, current escapees trying to get to freedom and those still trapped by the NK regime.
2) EXPERT INTRODUCTION: Yes, the one and only Andrei Lankov will be kicking off the event. He was a student in North Korea in the 1980s, the author of several books on North Korea, and as expert as you can get when it comes to analyzing North Korea.
3) NORTH KOREAN REFUGEE SPEAKERS: Two different speakers, including the winner of a recent English speech contest featuring North Korean refugees, will be speaking.
4) NATIONAL ASSEMBLY: The workshop will be held at South Korea’s parliament. There aren’t many English-language events hosted at the parliament.
5) LOCATION IS EASY TO FIND!; Here are the step by step directions.
6) YOU ARE BEING INVITED! As long as you are not a spy or a kooky conspiracy theorist, then you are invited to join us.
7) COOKIES, NK STYLE: A prominent North Korean refugee will be selling cookies at the workshop!
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What are you waiting for, an engraved invitation?^^ Please share this with your social media, let others know about thiis great opportunity to interact with several leading and effective NGOs during the same workshop. Bring a friend with you, this is an international event, anyone who wants to help North Korean refugees as well as those still blocked from freedom by the North Korean leaders.
No obligation to remain the entire time, 10,000 won admission so come and leave when you want.
I was interviewed live on the radio earlier. Thanks to an alert fan for sending me this link/snapshots from “Inside Out Busan” hosted by @Tim Chatellier.
I also heard that TBS eFM aired a segment by Chance Dorland about the speech contest.