TNKR co-founders Eunkoo Lee and Casey Lartigue
2016-07-02 orientation with refugees: “TNKR is the best!”
For yesterday’s orientation with refugees getting prepared for TNKR’s 47th Matching session, co-director Eunkoo Lee had more of a feedback session with refugees. That’s because most of the refugees signed up for the session are returning to the program.
Here’s a sampling of the feedback we received from refugees:
* I have studied at several institutions and at my university, but TNKR is definitely the best for me. One thing is the flexibility: We can study at our convenience. The hakwons of course have fixed schedules. Here, we can negotiate with tutors. Two, I can study with as many tutors as possible. They are so patient. One tutor met with me every week for more than 7 months, she never canceled. Another tutor would have me translate,then she would check it. Then she would have me memorize English phrases, then test me. The tutors used a variety of articles, body language, whatever it took to help me understand. I’m studying nursing, I got motivated to study English harder after we had a foreign patient come to the hospital, but most of us were too nervous or embarrassed to speak. But one nursing student with good English talked to the patient. I decided at that moment that I would study English more seriously. I was so lucky to have the chance to study in TNKR.
* When I joined TNKR, I had so many things going on in my life, I had been in Korea for less than a year. I am so thankful my tutors were so understanding, and willing to be flexible for me. So many people kept telling me that I needed English, so I began studying it. I am now applying to go to university, I wrote about TNKR in my personal statement because it has had a big impact on my life here. I want to study every aspect of English–listening, writing, grammar, pronunciation. I am happy to have learned the basics. English is now my favorite subject, it is the only thing I want to study. Thank you so much, Casey and Eunkoo, for creating such a nice program. I am now more settled in my life, I am ready to study harder than before, I hope to get a good result and to be a great student in all of my subjects, even the ones where I will use English.
* When I first joined TNKR, I relied on the tutors. I had no idea how to study English. I have now realized that I can choose based on the skills of the tutors. English is a global language, it is necessary for those of us who want to attend university and graduate. I am applying now, I have written about TNKR in my personal statement. It has widened my view and given me confidence to try harder, to think about the best ways I can learn and improve myself. Thank you so much for providing us an opportunity to learn here.
* TNKR has been very useful and helpful for me. I am more comfortable to speak English than ever. I am now thinking in English sometimes, so I think that means I have made progress. I got a lot of help from TNKR last year to help me establish the basics. This time I will be more focused on how I study.
* English will be really valuable in helping me to reach my dreams. I really want to thank TNKR for providing me with such a valuable opportunity, I promise I will study really hard.
* (Kakao message later): Thank you for giving me such a great opportunity to learn English! I had a good time today^^ See you next Saturday!
나홀로 걷던 길, 이제 동료들과 함께
케이시 라티그 주니어
1969년 12월 11일, 강릉발 김포행 대한항공 국내선 NAMC YS-11기가 북한공작원에 의해 하이재킹 당했다. 당일 오후 12시25분, 이륙한지 10분만의 일이었다. 승객 46명과 승무원 4명을 포함한 총 50명의 한국인들은 그렇게 북한으로 납치되었다.
북한 당국은 납북피해자 중 승객 39명은 한국으로 송환하였으나, 나머지 11명은 억류했다. 납북 당시 문화방송(현MBC) 프로듀서였던 황원씨도 돌아오지 못한 11명 중 하나다. 그리고 지난 15년간, 황원씨의 아들 황인철씨는 북한 당국에 아버지를 돌려달라고 청원해 왔다. 최대한 북한을 도발하지 않으면서, 정치적인 문제가 아닌 순수한 인도주의적인 측면에서 아버지의 납북 사건에 대한 인식 제고와 해결 촉구 노력을 균형 있게 진행해 온 그였다
중대한 역사적 사건의 당사자와 함께 일할 수 있는 기회는 쉽게 찾아오지 않는다. 올해 3월 20일, 나는 인철씨를 국제 자원봉사자 워크숍에서 처음 만나게 되었다. 한국인 동료와 내가 공동 창설한 TNKR(Teach North Korean Refugees: 탈북민에게 영어 가르치기)은 본래 탈북민들의 영어 실력 향상에 집중하는 비영리기구지만, 탈북민을 돕는 한국인이나 북한과 특수한 관계가 있는 사람에게도 TNKR 영어수업의 문을 열고 있다. 그래서 우리는 TNKR에서 자원봉사 원어민 강사들과 함께 영어를 공부할 학생으로서 인철씨를 초대했다. 향후 국제적으로 그의 메시지를 전달할 때 자유롭게 영어를 쓸 수 있도록, 그리고 북한 관련 이슈를 해결하는 특별 프로젝트에 참여하길 권했다. 그가 목표를 이루는 데 도움을 줄 자원봉사자 팀을 구성하기 위함이었다.
지난 15년 동안, 인철씨는 홀로 1인시위를 하고 국내외의 비영리기구 및 정부 등과 협의하여 아버지의 송환을 위해 노력했다. 이 모든 것을 그는 사재를 털어 진행해 왔다. 금전적인 문제가 발생하자 가족들은 그에게 포기할 것을 권했고, 이 때가 그에게는 가장 힘들었다고 한다.
그러나 그는 포기하지 않았다. 기억조차 잘 안 나는 자신의 아버지. 이 세상마저 그를 잊어서는 안될 일이었다. 그리고 올해 6월17일, 황인철씨는 자신의 가족 및 TNKR 자원봉사자를 포함한 15명의 사람들과 함께 임진각 자유의 다리에서 아버지의 송환을 호소하는 집회를 가졌다.
수적으로만 본다면 이 집회는 그다지 큰 성과가 아니었다. 15명만이 참여한 소규모 집회였기 때문이다. 그러나 지난 15년간 홀로 분투해 온 황인철씨에게는 이 15명이 마치 천군만마와 같았다. 오늘날 많은 사람들이 세상을 구하는 것에 대해서 이야기 하지만, 단 한 명의 사람을 구하는 것도 어려운 상황이다. 단순히 집회에 참석해주고 소액을 기부하는 그 작은 마음 하나 하나가 목표를 달성하는 데 얼마나 큰 힘이 되는지, 다들 잘 모르는 것 같다.
이번 집회에 참석자 중 가장 의외였던 이는 인철씨의 여동생 세실리아였다. 아버지 납북 당시 오빠 황인철씨가 2살이었고, 그녀는 태어난지 수 개월이 채 안된 어린 아기였다. 세실리아는 아버지를 되찾는 것을 포기했었고, 남은 가족이라도 그들의 삶을 살자고 오빠와 어머니를 설득해왔다고 이야기했다. 현재 영국에 거주하고 있는 세실리아는 지난 주 아프신 어머니를 보기 위해 한국으로 돌아왔다. 그리고 이번 집회에 참여해 오빠 곁에 있는 사람들이 정말로 믿을만한 사람들인지 확인할 셈이었다.
4월13일, 우리가 처음 인철씨와 본격적으로 협력을 시작했을 때 함께 찍은 사진 한 장이 있다. 페이스북에 올린 그 사진을 보고, 세실리아는 충격을 받았다고 말했다. 오빠가 만면에 환한 미소를 띠고 있었기 때문이다. 수년동안 오빠가 그렇게 환하게 웃는 모습을 본적이 없다고 했다. 오빠 혼자서 1인시위하는 사진이 올라올 때마다 그런 오빠의 모습을 보는 게 너무 힘들었다고 했다. 그러나 지난 몇 달 동안은 독일, 한국, 스위스, 프랑스, 미국, 심지어 탈북민 자원봉사자에 이르기까지 전 세계 사람들이 오빠를 도와 집회를 계획하고 일하며 함께 즐겁게 미소짓는 사진을 계속 볼 수 있었다.
6월17일 집회에서 내가 세실리아를 처음 만났을 때, 그녀는 마치 꿈만 같다고 했다. 그래서 나는 내 곁에 있던 우리 인턴을 꼬집고 ‘꿈 아닙니다.’라고 말해주었다. 세실리아는 자신의 오빠가 목소리를 낼 수 있게 해 줘서 고맙다고 했다. 아버지가 납북된 사실로부터 도피하려 했다는 그녀는 전 세계 자원봉사자들에게 둘러싸여 이렇게 말했다. ‘이제 손도, 팔도, 다리도, 목소리도 갖게 됐어요. 나약한 작은 소녀가 일어설 수 있게 됐어요.’
뉴스 언론에서는 간혹 인철씨 가족의 이야기를 다뤘다. 그렇게 사진 몇 장을 찍고, 다음 이슈로 넘어가서는 다시 돌아보지 않았다. 인철씨 가족들은 장장 47년을 고통 속에 살았다. 기념일을 챙기고, 성공과 실패를 아버지 황원씨 없이 나누면서.
집회 며칠 후 세실리아와 만났을 때, 나는 그녀로부터 최고의 칭찬을 들었다. ‘당신은 타인의 눈에 보이지 않던 사람이 다시 보이도록 해주는 사람입니다. 다른 사람의 이야기를 들어주고, 그들에게 무엇이 필요한지 알아내서 도와줄 수 있는 사람과 연결해주죠. 그렇게 그들의 목소리가 세상에 들리도록 해 줬어요. 그리고 이제 내 목소리도 세상에 들릴 수 있게 됐습니다.’
케이시 라티그 주니어는 TNKR의 공동창립자이며 현재 서울에 거주하고 있다. (이메일: CJL@post.harvard.edu.)
I can’t begin to express how touched I am by the wonderful things this incredible lady said about me–even my own mother is probably doubting that I’m such an angel. 🙂
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.
(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.
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..
SIGN UP HERE TO ATTEND THE 4/23 ORIENTATION and 4/30 MATCHING SESSION
If you can’t attend both then please don’t apply now, this is intended for people who can join.
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