2016-04-19 “What are you doing about North Korea?” The Korea Times

What are you doing about North Korea?

2016-04-18 : 15:37

By Casey Lartigue

“What should be done about North Korea?” “How can we help North Koreans?” Those questions are often asked, but rarely answered to the satisfaction of questioners. In the last five years of speaking at and attending North Korea focused events, I have yet to see audience members, reporters or experts respond, “At last! This is the answer about what to do about North Korea!”

Why can’t anyone give a satisfactory answer? One, the answers are based on the biases and skills of the speakers and aren’t addressed to the particular biases and skills of listeners. It would be like asking someone what you should buy when you go shopping, without the person answering knowing what you already have in your refrigerator or living room. You can get a generic answer, but not specific and customized. If you ask researchers what should be done, most will probably ask for more research. An activist wants to stop the talk, get to the action, to hell with more data.

Two, it is easier to agree in theory rather than in practice. Activists may agree on the need for action, but one may want to send air balloons or do radio broadcasts into North Korea, another may want to rescue runaways, another may focus on resettlement. And then there are different approaches within those approaches, setting up backstabbing turf wars.

A third reason listeners are rarely satisfied with the answers: There is often a mismatch between what is suggested and what can be done. Even if you believe that the USA should sign a peace treaty with North Korea or that six-party talks should be restarted, you are part of the 99.9% who lack the power to get it done.

There are many suggestions about what to do about North Korea. There are calls for the United Nations, China, Laos, Russia, South Korea, and the United States to do more, such as sanctions (heavy or targeted), bombing or invading North Korea or suing/arresting/assassinating Kim Jong-Un.

There are others advocating for engaging North Korea, investing in the country, educating North Koreans, giving targeted humanitarian aid, expanding trade, and increasing academic and cultural exchanges.

Most of what is recommended can’t be done by advocates, no matter how much people debate at conferences and on social media. While those with power are cautious, others with strong opinions but no power can comfortably assert what should be done–and still have their jobs as commentators or professors the next day.

I’m sure some readers are thinking, “Okay, Mr. Lartigue, if you are so smart, what is your answer?” I am now leading up a project asking North Korean refugees to develop plans about what to do about North Korea.

Unlike cases of having a refugee answer questions emailed by a reporter or asked at the end of a speech, the “How to help North Koreans” project, organized by the Teach North Korean Refugees Education Center at AOU, will follow through by helping refugees implement their proposals. It started with our speech contest in February, in which refugees explained what they would do to address North Korea. We left the question broad, so they could address any aspect of North Korea (the country, leadership, North Koreans who are escaping or resettling).

Refugees were tasked with developing original and authentic ideas. Next, they will be selecting from a pool of eager volunteer “helpers” who will add various skills and expertise (website design, social media, editing, writing, etc.). They will be given two months to develop their projects. After that, they will go live with their projects.

That is, if we can get them to slow down. Some of the refugees who presented their ideas at the third speech contest don’t want to wait for our timeline. We did notice that the expectation that they would implement their projects limited pie-in-the-sky proposals. Of course, that approach will disappoint experts and reporters looking to be dazzled (by impressive plans that never get implemented). As I have noted in other contexts, reporters, experts and researchers are often like children at a birthday party waiting for a rabbit to be pulled out of a hat, they need something surprising or shocking to excite them.

The refugees in TNKR’s project will be able to talk about their plans to audiences around the world, rather than just giving impromptu responses during Q&A. There may be mismatches with some audiences, sure, but instead of, “What should be done,” the focus will be, “Here’s what I’m doing. Please join me to add your skills.” Researchers can join by adding their research expertise and activists can add opportunities for action. Asking “what are you doing about North Korea” is an uncomfortable question, so speakers may long for the day they were asked, “What should be done about 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.

2016-04-13 “North Korean refugees share journey with Osan Airmen” U.S. Air Force


Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea —

Two North Korean defectors shared their story of coming to the Republic of Korea to a crowd of Osan Airmen during an open forum here March 6.

The two refugees, Ken Eom and Sehyek Oh, are members a program called “Teach North Korean Refugees,” which teaches English and other languages to refugees.

The program, managed by Casey Lartigue, also focuses on writing, public speaking and presenting, so that refuges can tell their story in their own words.

“The main thing we do is help the refugees find their way and to tell their stories,” said Lartigue.

The first speaker, Eom, shared his experiences of being in the North Korean army and how he escaped from the regime. He concluded his speech with his hopes for the Korean Peninsula to be someday united.

“I strongly believe one day that Korea will be unified. When that day comes I would like to take you to my hometown to see my family and friends,” said Eom.

The second speaker, Oh, spoke about his experiences living in North Korea and defecting to the Republic of Korea.

The most compelling factor in his escape from North Korea was that he grew up living in poverty. He shared that there were times he went several days without food.

“I rather risk getting captured and being executed than to die from hunger,” said Oh during his account of his escape.

After both speakers presented their stories, they concluded the event with a Q&A session with Team Osan members in the audience.

2016-04-13 Air Force

Korea Times: “N. Korean defector group welcomes volunteers” (2016/04/13)

N. Korean defector group welcomes volunteers
By John Redmond

The Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR) Education Center at American Orientalism University (AOU) invites guests and volunteers to an open house session in Insa-dong, downtown Seoul, April 16.

Aimed at discussing specific ways the public can get involved with TNKR, the open house follows up on last month’s International Volunteers Workshop: Opportunities to Help North Koreans.

“Almost 200 current and prospective volunteers attended last month’s International Volunteers Workshop featuring NGOs focused on North Korean refugees,” said co-founder Casey Lartigue, Jr. “Those volunteers have made it clear they are eager to get involved with helping North Korean refugees directly.”

Agenda items include the “How to help North Koreans” project, a speech contest, in-house tutoring, TNKR curriculum and volunteer roles.

TNKR is a non-profit organization based in Seoul that has connected more than 200 North Korean refugees with 300 volunteers.

The group was established in 2013 under the leadership of Lartigue and vice director Lee Eun-koo.

The open house will begin at 2 p.m. AOU is next to the Center Mark Hotel in Insa-dong.

For more information, visit facebook.com/groups/teachnkrefugees.


Original Korea Times link

RSVP here

“How to help North Koreans? Here’s my plan!”

(TNKR) Teach North Korean Refugees is launching phase 2 of its project: “How to help North Koreans? Here’s my plan!”

* Part 1: English speech contest, 2/27/16
* Part 2, seminar by refugees presenting updated projects


In order to make this happen, we would like to connect refugees with volunteers who can help them build up their projects.

Therefore, we will be holding an orientation session on 4/23 at 2 pm at the TNKR office to discuss how to develop this project.

People often ask, “How can the international community help North Koreans?” With this project, we will get answers directly from North Korean refugees, then see what can be done. We will start with people who can directly join our meetings, but later we will try to open this up to people around the world.

Who can help? Anyone! Speech coaches, editors, webmasters, social media specialists, strategists, translators, writers and others with skills to build a project. This is not just a mock project, we want refugees to actually build projects that will later go live.

cover photo

The topic is broad, projects could address North Korea, rescues from China or other countries, resettlement, advocacy or any other aspect.

Even if you can’t directly participate in this project, there are ways you can help:
* We hope to hold the seminar at a nice place in early July. So please let us know of any suitable places that won’t break our budget.
* We are seeking sponsors for this project so if you don’t have another way to help, you can raise money and put us into contact with people who can help us make this project bigger.
* Tell friends who may be interested in joining this project..

If you can’t attend both then please don’t apply now, this is intended for people who can join.

2016-04-04 Some North Koreans want to return/wish they hadn’t left

“Some North Korean defectors wish they hadn’t left in the first place” is the Associated Press story on the Mashable website.

The article mentions Kim Ryen-hi, the North Korean refugee who says she wants to return to North Korea. As I wrote a few months ago, “Send her back.”

The article mentions that some refugees wish they had not left North Korea. I know some people don’t want to hear that, but it is true, as I mentioned in “Bear Hugs in Texas.” But people need to look at it from the perspective of North Korean refugees and the all-or-nothing choice they have, not from their own perspective.

The article mentions that some refugees send money to relatives in NK. As I wrote in the Korea Times in 2014, “Fund the refugees before it is too late.” Instead of sending money to the North Korean government, give it to the refugees. They can use it to pay off their debts from their escapes or to share with their families who are in North Korea.

They quote a researcher talking about some of the problems refugees face. As I often mention, there are many by-standers who don’t do anything but have endless analysis. Others want to save the world, but they can’t even do small things to make things better for people around them. Just talking talking talking.

As I often mention, let’s do our best to help NK refugees to adjust to living outside North Korea. That was the topic of our speech contest last February 27 and is part of a project TNKR is developing.

The headline and article say that “some” North Koreans say they want to return. To have an article, all a reporter needs is three anecdotes, as I wrote in “Godfather of NK beat reporters.”

Finally, some North Korean refugees have said they want to return. How many of them have taken action to do so? And why haven’t they?