In this UNEDITED post:

  • They know my (misspelled) name
  • National Unification Advisory Council session
  • Yaron Book: The Morality of Capitalism
  • Mentoring NK refugee youngsters
  • Greatest TNKR tutor in history
  • Olivia Enos visits TNKR
  • Researcher doing research through TNKR
  • New interns
  • Voices from the North
  • Eben’s TNKR Wall
  • Casey Lartigue, Challenge Maker Award winner!
  • Matching session preview

They know my (misspelled) name

TNKR’s co-founders attended a National Unification Advisory Council session. I’m not sure if we have been appointed or added to a committee, no one on my team really seems to know. Anyway, we joined!

What an honor right? They are getting to know my name, right?


They misspelled my name as “Katy.” The amazing thing is that they spelled “Lartigue” correctly. This is like not being able to recite the alphabet from A to Z, but being able to do so from Z to A. Or not being able to spell “c-a-t,” but correctly spelling “epistemology.” I mean, really? You can’t spell “Casey” in Korean, but you can spell “Lartigue?”

I post that at risk of having

  • linguistics experts coming out of the woodwork and claiming that I’m wrong because King Sejong in the 15th century would have preferred that incorrect spelling.
  • lazy staffers at organizations seeing the incorrect spelling, and believing the incorrect spelling is correct. So just in case, I will confuse them by posting the correct spelling, so they might have to spend an extra moment pondering which spelling is correct.
  • even lazier people who happen to see this message whining to each other wondering why I am so obsessed with the spelling of my name. Such feeble-minded people see something once and they see it as an obsession by others.

The National Unification people are not the only ones to misspell my name. I was informed the day before that I had been awarded the “Challenge Maker” award from Challenge Korea. They spelled my name as “Cash.” 캐시

That’s when I came up with strategy. We have new bilingual interns joining us in the office. At first, I was going to ask them to call ahead whenever I am invited to an event to make sure the Korean staffers have spelled my name correctly. The members of our staff are too busy with other things to care about such a detail, but the interns both agreed to do so.

But then I remembered that the Korean government was offering reward money when people reported signage with incorrect spellings in English. THAT’S IT!!!

I will keep getting invited to events and getting awards, expecting they will misspell my name. Then I will call the government to report when my name has been misspelled. Then i will go running to the bank with all of the reward money I have collected.

In that case, my name would be correct: 캐시, pronounced as “Cash.”

National Unification Advisory Council

Other than that, the meeting was fantastic. It was all in Korean, giving me time to focus on other work, such as posting about winning the “Challenge Maker” Award. TNKR co-founder Eunkoo Lee was with me, so I took a photo of her when she was speaking.

The most delightful moment was when a North Korean refugee came to me at the end of the event to introduce herself. She had heard me give a speech several years ago, I think it was at a workshop with refugees and staffers at North Korean refugee related organizations. She said it was so inspiring. She has been following TNKR’s activities, but said she wasn’t sure it would be okay if she joined us. Of course I told her that it would be fine, so I will be sending her a message today to invite her.

Yaron Brook: The Morality of Capitalism

Last night I attended a speech by Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute. I had met him a few years ago when he spoke at the Mont Pelerin conference in Seoul. I have been an (unpaid) adviser to Jeremy Kidder as he has been setting up operations for the Ayn Rand Institute in Seoul.

I have mentioned Rand in a few of my columns, such as about Thomas Sowell and Nathan Glazer, as part of my zigging and zagging across many philosophies and activities. As I wrote in a previous column: ” I was a member of American Indians at Harvard, The Black Students Association, The Objectivist Club of Harvard, the Society of Black Professional Entrepreneurs at the Harvard Law School, theHarvard Crimson,” Harvard Democrats, and Harvard Republicans. I was a regular at debates, discussions and regularly audited classes all six years I was at Harvard.”

I wasn’t trying to find a philosophy to settle down in like a soldier in a foxhold to fight for a country, I was trying to inform myself as part of my intellectual development.

Ayn Rand followers check to see if I am an Objectivist. I make it clear that I’m not, but that Rand was important in broadening my thinking, that these days I’m more like John Galt more interested in flipping pancakes (doing something practical) rather than philosophizing.

It was touching last night that several of the people at the session were already familiar with TNKR, and a few said I am their hero. One young man who I helped arrange for him to attend a conference abroad thanked me for it and gave me an update.

Mentoring NK refugee youngsters

I’ve been asked to help with a new program mentoring North Korean refugee youngsters. It is a program being started by a large church with a lot of money, but it seems that they will mainly make their space available for classes for about a dozen volunteers and 20 students. They asked Prof. Shin to help, she asked me to help. I think I will be more useful in advising the volunteers and letting them know what TNKR is doing.

Greatest TNKR tutor in history

He doesn’t like attention, so I won’t use his full name and I hope that others who know who he is won’t be dumb enough to do so either.

Mark is no doubt the best tutor in TNKR history, and that is saying something! We have had more than 900 volunteer tutors and coaches in our history, many professional and smart teachers, many smart people who weren’t teachers but wanted to help.

Mark embraced our approach of not chit-chatting with students, of not trying to be buddies with them, or not talking about personal things. He would zero in on the learning needs of the students, and wouldn’t give up. His approach goes against the tide of what I hear from so many educators as well as volunteers who join our program and want to buddy-up with students.

Along the way, an incredible thing happened:

Other refugees began requesting Mark.

That’s right, students who had never studied with Mark began to hear about the legend of Mark. We have never had this happen in our history. Refugees would call or during visits to our office ask if they could study with Mark.

Last month, he had sixteen 1:1 tutoring sessions. After that, the tutors with the most had 5 sessions. That is a lot, too, I don’t want anyone to think we don’t appreciate other tutors who give their time and not everyone needs to try to measure up to Mark. But is it okay to talk about greatness without others feeling slighted?

I have attended sessions where refugees have tried to ask Mark about personal things. At that point, I would guess that about 98 percent of people on the planet would answer. Mark would just look at them, not answer, then get back to the learning point at hand. In a few cases, he gave one or two word responses, then went right back to the learning point at hand, making it clear that conversation about his personal things were over.

He would just continue teaching or mentoring. Skeptics of course may suspect that Mark was putting on a show for me, but as usual, skeptics who aren’t on the scene don’t know what they are talking about. Mark’s students who studied with him away from our office would ask us about Mark, they wanted to know something about him. And if you ever met Mark, you would know that he respects us, but that he is the same guy at all times and doesn’t put on a show for us or anyone else.

He was so good that we created a new role in TNKR: “Senior mentor.” He was perfect for the speech contest as a mentor for refugees seeking help from someone who did not have a personal investment in their speeches. Some mentors naturally grow friendly with the refugees, so that giving them hard feedback becomes more difficult, many are like cheerleaders.

Cheerleaders are great, but players learn more from coaches and mentors giving them feedback to help them improve. Mark would challenge their points in helping them to clear up the structure. After sessions, refugees would say they had never experienced such a class, that they felt more confident and could work better with their other tutors or mentors.

So other volunteers can look to his model, as a no-nonsense volunteer tutor who focused on the students, who neither engaged in chitchat nor started talking about personal things. Instead of being a “cold” approach as some volunteers and educators have worried about, the students spread the word about him and others wanted to study with the no-nonsense tutor who pushed them to learn.

Olivia Enos visits TNKR

Olivia Enos is a policy scholar at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., she dropped by the TNKR office to say hello during her trip to South Korea visit as part of her Asia tour.

I met her in April when I visited the USA, although we have been connected online for a while. She reminds me of myself in some ways. When I was at the Cato Institute, I was a policy analyst who wasn’t a typical scholar. In my case, I have an activist side that I wanted to get into the battles. I’m not a full-time activist taking things to the streets, but I do want to take my case or ideas directly to the people who will benefit. Then work with them, listen to them, then figure out how the program or activity can fit their particular needs.

In Olivia’s case, her focus isn’t on North Korean human rights, but I can see that she would like to focus more on it. She seems to be passionate about it, almost like she is cheering or crying along with the refugees as they tell their stories. And as she says on her Website, she is a “Christ-follower,” so I’m sure that plays into things.

Researcher doing research through TNKR

Yes, it can happen! Over the years, I have made researchers and reporters feel unwelcome. I have been both a reporter and researcher, so you can call it self-hate.

I have also been interviewed many times by reporters and was a communications specialist with an organization in Washington, D.C., so I have a lot of experience in dealing with reporters. I have been part of their lazy process of reporting on stories, and don’t want the important stories of refugees to go through that lazy process without some precautions.

We have many rules in terms of engagement of reporters and researchers when it comes to TNKR. If reporters and researchers are willing to go through our process, then we can work with them. Of course, many would prefer to personally attack me, and that’s okay, I have work to do, I don’t need them.

We recently had one of our volunteers contact us, she wants to do some research. We applied the same process to her, and she was willing to go through it. She had a delightful interview with a student at our office. We will be watching to see how she proceeds! She was smart enough to also ask if she can interview the TNKR co-Founders later.

New Interns

These two sisters will be interning in the TNKR office the next few months. We will have several interns in the office, which is both good and bad.

The good:

  • We have some talented youngsters coming to us.
  • Some of them even want to be my direct assistant.
  • They want to get things done! The folks who find us, go through our application process are self-starters who want to DO something. That’s great, because I’m also busy, and don’t have time to figure out what others need to be doing.

The bad:

  • I hate groups. They’ll start hanging out, gossiping, probably start clubbing or doing their bonding in other ways around hanging out. TNKR is not a social club or a hangout point.

The two sisters who came to us this week planned ahead, contacted us to find out how they could get involved, have looked through some articles and media about us to get prepared. It was fun talking to them.

One thing I am really hoping: They can help me figure out my presence in social media. I just charge ahead. One reason I keep getting banned and having my account frozen on Facebook and other places is that I engage in social media in bursts: Work, work, work, then spend an hour or so aggressively posting in numerous places until Facebook or Instagram freezes my account, then getting back to work, work, work.

Talking to them reminded me of when I was on the board of directors of the Frederick Douglass Memorial and Historical Association. I was the youngest on the board at that time, I called the other members “sir,” “ma’am” and “aunt” even when they weren’t related to me, so that should let you know they were all senior citizens or on the verge of it. I was the one who was seen as bringing new blood and even social media savvy. HA!

I suggested that we should bring in some 12 year olds to teach me, and if that was too young, then some high school and college students. The good thing about TNKR is that such youngsters find us and offer to help save us from ourselves.

Voices from the North

In last week’s blog post, I interviewed a refugee who said she is willing to speak out, but doesn’t do so because it is “too messy.” She said she can give comments sometimes to my “Voices from the North” because she doesn’t have to be public, but can still share her voice.

Another refugee who stopped by said there are many refugees who have things to say and would like to tell their stories, but

  • they don’t trust that others will tell their stories honestly
  • they have seen the way other refugees have been savaged and they aren’t interested in opening up every aspect of their lives to scrutiny
  • things get “messy” with other refugees, especially political ones, attacking any refugees who begin speaking out.
  • When they are ready to tell their stories, they don’t want their stories thrown in a collection of refugee stories, they want to tell their stories separately of others.

Eben’s TNKR Wall

Eben Appleton wrote: Speaking of devotion?

How many TNKR volunteers have a TNKR wall in their home? Eben Appleton does.

TNKR co-founder, Casey Lartigue, Jr., stated one time. “Eben, you are the only person in the world who has a TNKR wall.”

This is my tribute to a dedicated group of all-volunteers in Seoul, Korea who teach North Korean refugees English. Learning English makes the refugees’ lives fuller and richer. South Korea is a society where English is necessary for the refugees to succeed in their new land of freedom.

I am a representative of this NGO that always struggles for money. I would give my last dollar to help them keep on keeping on. 

It is difficult to stay involved from so far away in Tennessee. I miss out on so many events I wish I could attend but can’t due to the 5000 miles distance between us. But what do I see each morning when I wake up? Posts with tags to keep me connected to their office. I see the many TNKR activities going on from tiny little cell phone. 

Early this year Co-founder Casey Lartigue bridged the mileage gap by coming to see me in TN. We enjoyed singing the praises of TNKR together by making others aware of the group’s English teaching program and the dire plight of the NK refugees.

Sooo, my TNKR wall speaks to the memories I have collected honoring my friends in South Korea.

Challenge Maker Award

It is true! I will be receiving the 2019 “Challenge Maker” Award from the Challenge Korea organization.

The awards ceremony will be open to the public, Friday July 5 from 1 pm at the Jamsil Students’ Gymnasium. It fits 5,000 people. Thanks to all of the volunteers, donors and fundraisers who have made TNKR’s work possible.

Support TNKR:

Matching session preview

Ever wondered what a TNKR Matching session looks like? Here is a short clip showing a TNKR Matching session, as featured by TVN. Check it out on Instagram.