June 20 was refugee day. People asked me what TNKR was planning, but my response: Every day is North Korean refugee day at TNKR!

Today TNKR held its 93rd Language Matching session. The session started at 2 p.m, the first refugee was knocking on our door at 9:20 a.m. Almost five hours in advance!

If you are unfamiliar with the TNKR Language Matching session process, you can check out this video I uploaded to Instagram.

Look forward, not backward

Today was a special “re-matching” session. Seven refugees joined, six of them were returning to TNKR, one was joining TNKR for the first time. We were joined by 10 volunteer applicants hoping they would be chosen.

The session was a tremendous success. Academic Coordinator Janice Kim does a great job getting tutors prepared and TNKR co-founder Eunkoo Lee gets the refugees prepared.

Every tutor was chosen, the refugee who said he wanted six tutor got six, the refugees who said they needed just one more tutor each got that.

Some background:

Escape and arrival dates of refugees at today’s session.

  • Escape Arrival
  • 2007 (1) 2007 (1)
  • 2011 (1) 2011 (1)
  • 2012 (2) 2012 (2)
  • 2015 (2) 2015 (2)
  • 2017 (1) 2018 (1)

We have the refugees announce this when they escaped and arrived, then we go with the approach: “Look forward, not backward.” They have arrived, now how can we work together to get the refugees to reach their goals?


How is it North Korean refugee every day at TNKR? Students get to choose their tutors! They are all returnees who recently participated in a short-term tutoring TNKR project. This time they were more prepared and had a better idea about choosing tutors and also are much clearer about what they want to study.

Refugee selections

  • 1 refugee chose six tutors.
  • 1 refugee chose three tutors
  • 3 refugees chose two tutors each.
  • 2 refugees chose 1 tutor each.

Tutors selected

  • 7 tutors were selected twice each
  • 3 tutors were selected once each.

We had only one tutor not show up, he canceled shortly before the session was scheduled to start. Hope to see him in 2020, that’s when he will be allowed to apply again.

As for everyone else, arriving at the start time means you are late! Tutors are expected to arrive between 1:30 to 1:50 p.m. The last tutor to arrive got there two minutes before the session was scheduled to start, and he may have noticed we were waiting for him!

The volunteers first introduced themselves, including explaining why they wanted to join TNKR. Refugees introduced themselves, then after tutors had one chance to revise their remarks, the selections began. The only problem was when one refugee attempted to select two tutors at the same time. She was so eager!

After the session, refugees and tutors greeted each other directly. After the refugees left, we then had a workshop on “ethics and advocacy.” It is a great introduction reminding the tutors how serious things are, and it would be great to bring back some of our current and previous tutors.

We then wrapped up with a little more background information on each refugee.

What were you doing on World Refugee Day?

TNKR’s co-founders were in Busan June 20-21, meeting with leaders of organizations helping North Korean refugees with adjusting to life in South Korea.

We also had a pleasant radio interview on 90.9 Busan, the interview should air on Wednesday June 26 around 11:20 a.m. Seoul time.

“Hello Konglish!”

Another special North Korean refugee day will be on July 21, when North Korean refugee newcomers will have the opportunity to choose tutors. Those refugees are now learning about how important English is, and have come running to TNKR.

North Korean Refugee Freedom Day

Speaking of refugee day, TNKR will be holding a Leadership
Forum featuring North Korean refugee speakers discussing their experiences in the Hanawon re-education center. Almost all of the North Korean refugees who have escaped to South Korea in the past two decades have passed through the center.

Voices from the North: “My Hanawon Experience”

I have now posted four blog entries at the Korea Times featuring comments from North Korean refugees about their Hanawon experiences.

Part 4: https://tinyurl.com/y64hg365
Part 3: https://tinyurl.com/y62t3l2q
Part 2: https://tinyurl.com/y5gdlkak
Part 1: https://tinyurl.com/y2avh9nt

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