Category Archives: TNKR

2018-01-02 ‘Will my tutors quit?’

TNKR co-founder and National Director Eunkoo Lee received a phone call from a refugee who joined us recently. Her main comments and questions for Eunkoo:

Are my teachers okay even though I am an ABC level English speaker? They must be having a tough time dealing with me. So they might want to quit?

I was determined to try English only, but when I met my teachers, I guessed that some of them might be willing to use Korean because of my low level. But none of them have used it and one told me that it is against TNKR policy. I think this shows that TNKR teachers understand how refugees need to study English.

I am so happy to continue studying, but I am worried that my teachers will be bored helping a student like me who is so basic at English.

In addition to that student:

  • Eunkoo had three face-to-face interviews with refugees eager to join TNKR.
  • A refugee who is really eager called to ask if he can join the next Matching session. He recently joined us and wants to study more.
  • A refugee who has been studying in TNKR consistently since joining in early 2016 called to ask if she can rejoin soon.
  • A refugee who did not have a good experience in the past now sent a long message saying that she can now understand our approach. At that time (2014 or 2015), she thought there was a problem that we did not have a set curriculum that students had to follow. But she has heard from other refugees about the way the teachers adjust to the students, and she can see that she wasted her opportunity to study with us because she was waiting to be led by the teachers.
  • Plus many nice notes and messages from refugees in TNKR over the holidays and today.

When we have so much activity around us, of refugees reaching out to us, I think about those “experts” who “know” that refugees are passive and need to be led.


Support TNKR (PayPal)

Listen to the refugees in theory, or practice?

Yes, three face-to-face interviews with refugees (I was there for two of them). Even when people hear us say that TNKR is learner-centered and demand-focused, some really smart people will agree with us in theory, then in practice they will recommend we need to do things differently.

  • Refugees don’t ask for Skype, but many people have told me that we should do it anyway. And then some seem to think I am blocking them from Skyping with refugees, when I am just listening to what refugees are asking for when they join us.
  • We have a great curriculum designed by one of our volunteers, but refugees prefer choosing their own path. When I say this, professional educators seem to worry about our sanity. A few have insisted that we need to push the refugees to use the curriculum. When I speak at English teacher conferences, it seems that I am visiting a cult and denouncing their leader.
  • When I tell people that we have refugees choose their tutors, I have professionals and experts insisting that it can’t work out well for a host of reasons.
  • Refugees tell us they don’t want tutors to use Korean, but bilingual speakers try it anyway and we occasionally get messages from refugees telling us that we should not insist on English-immersion.

Over the years, I’ve probably had 500 people ask if they could Skype with refugees. By my unofficial count, there have been three refugees to ask for it. Some do ask for it in emergency situations, but very few ask for it. To accommodate tutors, some do acquiesce.

Back in 2014, we had a trial with Skype and also used it during parts of 2015. The results were not encouraging, and we got complaints from refugees that the Skype classes seemed less effective, that there were many cancellations, and we also noticed that the tutors we accepted using Skype almost never sent in reports and were less connected with our program. 

I recently started asking refugees in interviews if they would like to use Skype. I love what the refugee told us a bit earlier: “No. I studied English through Skype [in a different program]. But the classes were short, we spent half of the time checking the volume and getting set up. It was not a good experience. I really hope I can meet teachers face-to-face rather than dealing with Skype.”

As I wrote recently, I also ask refugees if they want tutors to use Korean with them.

  • No, I hope not. I feel like it won’t help me learn, that I won’t get closer to my goal. I lived abroad for a few months, it took some time but eventually I got used to be in an English atmosphere.
  • Huh? No. I would lose interest in the class. Using Korean and Chinese are not my goal. I already know those two languages. I really hope the teachers will teach me only in English.

Minwoo drops by

I’ve known him for several years, he recently joined TNKR as a volunteer tutor. What caught my attention is that when one of the refugees used Korean, Minwoo politely but sternly reminded him to try English. After that, it was all English!

Almost all of our volunteers say they are willing to help with fundraising, but few do so. Minwoo raised 500,000 won with the Santa Pub Crawl and has now set up a fundraiser.

His statement:

◆Why we donate for Teach North Korean Refugees Global Education Center – TNKR◆
// TNKR (탈북민 영어교육 봉사 단체)에 기부를 하는 이유

Not many people know about the reality of North Korea. Kim Jeong Eun or the nuclear weapons are not everything about this country.
If North Korean refugees can speak English, they could make a great and heartbreaking speech like Yeonmi Park ( and raise awareness of the people of North Korea. She learned English at TNKR.
// 많은 사람들이 북한을 떠올릴때 김정은, 또는 세뇌당하거나 세상과 단절된 북한사람들 혹은 연변마저 떠올립니다. 북한사람들도 다같은 사람들이며 극소수를 제외하면 지금 이순간 까지도 참담한 현실을 겪고 있는 국제 난민이나 같습니다. 탈북민이 영어를 자유롭게 구사할수 있다면 영상의 박연미씨와 같이 강단에 설수 있고, 세계를 향해 목소리를 높일수 있습니다. 저희가 이번에 기부할곳으로 선정한 TNKR 은 탈북민에게 무료 영어교육을 하는 단체로서, 박연미씨가 영어를 배운 곳이기도 합니다.

















The Teaching Machine Returns!

That’s right, Grace Lee is back. She was a junior in high school when she convinced me that she could tutor refugees. As soon as the student sat down, she would do a quick assessment, then start teaching like a hurricane. She would teach but also constantly push the students to use what they had learned. We were then based out of the Freedom Factory office, she was teaching six hours a day, but had said she would like to tutor 8 hours a day. I said that might be too much, that the government might investigate me.

She has returned each summer or winter, and she says she will be back later this month to tutor, no kidding, from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm every day, with just one hour off for lunch.


Goodbye, Sooyeon…

Sooyeon, a tutor helping refugees on the waiting list, is now leaving us. She was really energetic in teaching. Hard to believe she is just a year out of high school. Unlike other tutors who make excuses about needing Korean, she never once used it.


Youngmin Kwon, Academic Adviser, Refugee Adjustment Transition Mentoring Program

Can there be a TNKR post without Youngmin? He is still saying he is Academic Adviser of In-house tutoring. But eventually he will memorize whatever new fancy name we come up with for refugees studying while they are on the waiting list.


New Trilingual Volunteer!

She learned about TNKR because of Yeonmi Park’s One Young World speech, then she began reading about North Korean refugees more deeply after that. After two decades of being with non-profits and engaging in volunteering, I have noticed that some volunteers who show up have already done reading about the organization they are joining or hope to join, and some others show up not even sure about the basics. Meru has watched many of our videos, read articles about TNKR, and was already familiar about many things about TNKR.


2018-01-03 Korea Times: N. Korean refugees to speak on plight by John Redmond

Waiting to get a full copy of this USA Today article.


South China Morning Post: Son of North Korea hijack victim still campaigns for father’s return nearly 50 years on – but pleas fall on deaf ears


2016-07-02 orientation with refugees: “TNKR is the best!”

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!

image image image image image

나홀로 걷던 길, 이제 동료들과 함께

나홀로 걷던 , 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.

ys 11


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.’

우리는 이들의 목소리가 계속 세상에 울려 퍼지도록 노력할 것이다. 많은 사람들이 황원씨의 송환을 촉구하는 온라인 청원서에 서명해 동참하고, 올 12월 개최할 또다른 집회에도 참여해줬으면 하고 기원한다. 돌아오는 12월 집회는 대한항공 NAMC YS-11기가 하이재킹 당한 1969년 12월11일을 기리는 행사다.

Hwang baby

케이시 라티그 주니어는 TNKR의 공동창립자이며 현재 서울에 거주하고 있다. (이메일:

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

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.

2016-03-25 Welcome to TBS eFM 101.3 listeners

You can find more information about the NGOs mentioned in Chance Dorland’s report.

The NGOs

* Justice for North Korea (JFNK)WebsiteFacebook
* Transitional Justice Working Group (TJWG): Facebook 1, Facebook 2, in Korean
* Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR): WebsiteFacebook
* Unification Media Group (UMG) WebsiteFacebook
* Association for Family Members of the KAL Kidnapping Victims
(KAL 1969) Wikipedia
* International Coalition to Stop Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea (ICNK): WebsiteFacebook
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Blog posts: Emma Foster, Casey Lartigue Jr.,

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2016-03-22 Atlas leadership academy grad brings life skills to North Korean refugees


March 22, 2016

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.”