Tag Archives: Teach North Korean Refugees

3 speeches, 2 countries, 3 cities, 6 days

Thanks for your interest in Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR)!
 
Upcoming events
 
* Casey Lartigue at TNKR Fundraiser hosted by the North Korea Network (DC, 5/26/15))
 
 
 
* TNKR TBA (6/15)
 
 
 
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Here’s recent media in English
 
Here’s recent media in Korean.
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 Korea University Casey Cherie May 30 final  TNKR

Casey Lartigue speaking at Korea University conference (2015-05-30)

Casey Lartigue Jr., co-founder of the Teach North Korean Refugees project, will be one of the speakers at the “Building Global Learning Community through Communication, Trust and Networking” conference on May 30th 2015, at Korea University in Seoul, Korea. 30,000 won for adults, 20,000 won for students.
http://www.aceofkorea.or.kr/

May 30 conference

2015 ACE of Korea International Conference FINAL

file-page1 file-page2

 

FINAL FLYR KOrea university

The American Known in North Korea (Casey Lartigue in Catalyst Asia)

3(a) credit to Josh Schenkkan

Text and photo by Josh Schenkkan

Casey Lartigue has been working as an advocate for individual freedom all his life. As an advocate for educational choice in Washington, D.C. he was well known — notorious, even. With some pride, he remembers meeting Justice Clarence Thomas of the U.S. Supreme Court at an event in Washington; Justice Thomas already knew him by name as “that young man at the Cato Institute causing so much trouble.”

For his efforts and his notoriety, Lartigue considered himself an activist par excellence — until his first meeting with North Korean refugees made him reconsider everything. “I felt like I was somebody who got deeply involved, and then [I met] somebody who had to rescue themselves,” he says. “I suddenly felt like I was the freedom advocate from the cocktail party.”

Lartigue began a journey towards becoming one of the most known activists for North Koreans in Seoul. He’s been involved in the rise of two of the most publicized defectors of the past decade, Park Yeonmi, who has been featured in The New York Times and The Guardian, and Lee Hyeon-seo, whose 2013 TED talk has been viewed almost four million times. He serves as the volunteer international adviser for the Mulmangcho School, which provides education and therapy for young refugees from the North. Most notably, he cofounded and runs Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR), an organization that matches teachers across a broad range of disciplines with refugees looking for help.

TNKR is unique among other similar programs in both its model and its ambition, which bear Lartigue’s signature emphasis on choice. Whereas most tutoring programs assign only one or two English teachers to each refugee without giving the students any say, TNKR allows the students to select their own tutors, and take as many as they want.

(According to Lartigue, Park, who was involved in the program, had 18 tutors over 8 months, and was at one point studying English over 35 hours a week.)

The emphasis on choice is about empowering the refugees, but it’s also “about taking away the excuse,” Lartigue says. He noticed a high attrition rate in other programs, in part because of refugees’ dissatisfaction with their tutors, who turned out not to be able to provide them with what they were looking for. Some teachers didn’t speak enough Korean to properly explain concepts, for example, while others spoke too much. Lartigue guessed that if refugees were able choose they’d be more likely to stay involved.

As he suspected, retention in the program has been marked. But what he didn’t expect was the variety of things that the refugees were looking for other than English instruction; due to demand, the program now offers language tutoring in Spanish and Latin, and is preparing to offer classes on financial planning, studying abroad and how to deal with the media.

Lartigue named this first track of the program “Finding my Own Way,” because the program had become more than just a way for refugees to learn English; it’d evolved into a means for them to gain the skills they needed to take charge of their lives.

With the success of activists like Park, though, Lartigue saw an opportunity for TNKR to go beyond its original goal of helping refugees help themselves. Though the vast majority of participants only wanted to learn English or other life skills, some were vocal about their desire to fight back against the regime from which they’d escaped. As Park and others had done, they wanted to publicize their experiences, either in North Korea or in their escape into and from China. Lartigue envisioned a matching program modeled off of the first track, where speech coaches would be paired with refugees looking to hone their narratives. With that, the second track emerged: “Telling My Own Story.” So far, roughly 10 of the 156 refugees the program has helped have volunteered.

Lartigue is modest in acknowledging the work he’s been able to accomplish, but as he finishes telling his story, he says there are two things in the last few years he’s particularly proud of. The first involves one of the refugees, who Lartigue had taken to India to speak at a conference, writing an article about TNKR, the help that it provides and Lartigue himself — and then broadcasting it via radio into North Korea. “That, to me, is like a great honor,” Lartigue explains. “ … I’m happy because she’s spreading the message.”

And the second?

“One of the refugees told her sister [still in North Korea]: ‘Come to South Korea. Don’t believe what they say about Americans. There’s a nice American here who can help you study English. You can get as many teachers as you want,’” Lartigue says, with some disbelief.

“I’m like, now this program is a selling point about why you should escape from North Korea.”

***

profile of Casey Lartigue by Josh Schenkkan

Catalyst Asia

2015-04-21 I hate “Somebody” (The Korea Times)

No matter how long your to-do list may be, there is someone with an even longer one: “Somebody.” With the amount of work waiting for him or her, I don’t blame “Somebody” for hiding.

Whenever there is a problem, many people want Somebody to do something about it. Somebody needs to heal the sick, clothe the naked, feed the hungry, help the farmers, educate even the uninterested, pay $15 an hour to all, etc. Somebody never quite does assigned tasks. Unlike Big Foot getting spotted walking around lakes and forests, there aren’t any grainy photos of Somebody slacking off.

While Somebody is the would-be-fix-it-all-savior, there is a different figure causing trouble: “Society.” Whereas Somebody usually needs to do something, society gets blamed for causing trouble.

Society allows bad things to happen and doesn’t care; Somebody gets called to fix Society’s problems. I am starting to suspect this is a tag-team, like an arsonist partnering with a fire-fighter.

As part of Society, you are also to blame. You can’t say you were taking a nap or working overtime when Society caused climate change, homelessness or got teenage girls pregnant. You are guilty ― and Somebody needs to do something about that, too.

A collection of Somebodies called on to fix problems are politicians, although the government’s track record at solving problems is spotty, at best. Entrepreneurs who solve problems never quite live up to the dreamy Somebody who will one day cheerfully fix things for free.

I even occasionally get identified as somebody who can fix problems, but it is usually by people who, after praising what I do, will suggest I am still not doing enough.

For example, when South Koreans learn about my project connecting North Korean refugees with volunteer English tutors, I am often asked why I don’t provide similar opportunities for South Koreans. I am getting kinder and gentler as I age, so I’ve stopped telling such questioners that I’m not stopping them from doing what they’ve asked. Instead, I give them suggestions based on my own experience.

First, I recommend that they join the volunteer group Korea International Volunteers. It was founded by James Kim, I was the founding assistant organizer. He’s one of those good guys who always puts aside time to help others in need, such as organizing volunteers to serve hot meals to homeless people and to tutor low-income children at orphanages and community centers in South Korea. That’s a great starting point for getting involved.

Second, I tell them about HOPE (Helping Others Prosper Through English). Edward M. Robinson is the V.P. of Operations/Project Director, I’m the International Adviser. HOPE offers free tutoring for low-income children and also arranges special events. If you are looking for someone to host a Christmas, birthday or Halloween party, then contact Eddie, he was a professional party planner in the USA and has hosted some great events for children here in South Korea. HOPE is always seeking volunteers and donors, so it is possible to help build up a local organization providing free tutoring for South Korean youngsters.

Then, the big finale: I surprise questioners by informing them that my volunteer Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR) project already includes South Koreans. The focus of TNKR is on the more than 150 North Korean refugees who have come through the project so far, but we have also connected almost 20 South Koreans (who work at North Korean related NGOs or volunteer in some other way) with free English tutors.

I suppose that I should take it as a compliment that people gently complain at me, for a few reasons. One, they flatter me, as 19th century American abolitionist Frederick Douglass said of Monday-morning quarterbacks in his day: “They compliment me in assuming that I should perform greater deeds than themselves.” Two, they apparently believe my volunteer project is so valuable that more people should benefit from it. Three, instead of pushing the government to do what my project does, they point to me, an American, with a small-scale volunteer project, as somebody who can get things done.

I have been saying it for years at staff and planning meetings: I hate Somebody. I learned long ago to eliminate Somebody from my activities, because Somebody turns out to be “Nobody” when it is time to move from idea to action.

After informing questioners about those activities as ways of helping South Koreans, I invite them to start their own projects. I promise to help my questioners if they get started.

I have yet to have any takers. Stealing a line from Rev. Jesse Jackson, I tell them, “You are Somebody!” You can get things done, you don’t need to wait for the President or me. But I am starting to suspect that “Somebody” in their minds means “Somebody Else.”

The writer is the Director for International Relations at Freedom Factory Co.in Seoul and the Asia Outreach Fellow with the Atlas Network in Washington, D.C. He can be reached at: CJL@post.harvard.edu.

http://koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2015/04/626_177488.html

Defecting from North Korea’s middle class (Groove Magazine, 4-17-2015)

Groove Magazine has a nice feature on two of the participants in the Teach North Korean Refugees project.

When Kim Chol-soo and his wife, Kim Young-ok (not their real names), first arrived in South Korea they had doubts about their new life. It was not what they had expected. Worries over finances arose soon after their arrival, and the government-provided apartment failed to offer them the same comforts as their home back in North Korea. Their first few months living in the South were difficult — a far cry from the life they had just left behind.

(snip)

DylanGoldby-0004

 

 

 

2015-04-17 Daejeon-MBC features Teach North Korean Refugees project

The Teach North Korean Refugees project featured on MBC-Daejeon and MBC-Seoul.

북한이탈주민을 보듬기 위한
우리 사회의 노력을 전하는 연속보도,
마지막 순서입니다.

북한이탈주민들이 우리 사회에 적응할 때
대부분 자신감 부족으로 어려움을 겪는데요.

이들에게 무료로 영어를 가르치며
자신감을 키워주는 외국인 봉사 단체가
있습니다.

KakaoTalk_20150417_134833974 KakaoTalk_20150417_134836035 KakaoTalk_20150417_134839817 KakaoTalk_20150417_134842251 KakaoTalk_20150417_134856897 KakaoTalk_20150417_134859560 KakaoTalk_20150417_134900738 KakaoTalk_20150417_134902167

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2015-03-29 Visiting Kyla’s TNKR tutoring session

1 (1)After another busy week of sucking the marrow out of life, this morning I slowed down to attend one of the Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR) study sessions. These are always delightful, but this one was extra special because Kyla Hoggard has been tutoring one of the refugees weekly for five months.

Some of the matches fall apart shortly the first week because someone realizes they have forgotten something in his or her schedule. Others have big changes in their lives Some teachers just don’t have enough interesting material to teach one person for months or they get bored with one another. So 5 months of weekly tutoring is quite an accomplishment.

4
Kyla (left) introducing herself at TNKR English Matching session in October 2014. TNKR co-directors Casey Lartigue (center) and Lee Eunkoo (right).

Kyla makes the trip from Suwon to downtown Seoul by 11 a.m. every Sunday, so clearly she is committed to tutoring in TNKR.

It is also a learning experience for me to see how the classes are conducting, advice that I can give to other tutors and refugees in order to make TNKR stronger.

TNKR October 2014 English Matching session
TNKR October 2014 English Matching session

* * *
Oh, and I have been directly connected by another refugee who wants to join TNKR.

2015-03-28 TNKR’s Angels

Back when Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR) first started in 2013, we weren’t very organized. But we have had some positive signs:

* After a few months, we heard that refugees who had been in the project were referring friends to us.
* Refugees began to return to us.

The latest development that we just heard about:

* Another South Korean has recommended TNKR to a North Korean refugee!

We take this to be a very good sign about the level of respect and increased name recognition for TNKR.

This week, my co-director and I had a few meetings with North Korean refugees who want to enter the project (including a male who declined to be photographed and asked us not to explain details about him). We heard many great things about our project.

And we got to hear some great stories from North Korean refugees who are determined to improve their English. In one case, a newcomer was so enthusiastic that I couldn’t help but to have an impromptu English lesson with her. I am not a real teacher, I did my best to teach her, but I made it clear that her real tutors and coaches would be 1000 times better than I am. She is so ready to study English, she is clearing her schedule in anticipating of focusing on English like never before.

And another one who just started with us is throwing herself into studying English. I tried to give her some advice, but made it clear that I am not an expert.

We also had a great meeting with a North Korea expert who is advising us about an organizational change that we will be announcing soon.

One of the refugees is not the least bit interested in being a public speaker, but she needs to be able to present herself in English for business reasons. It is good when they come to us with specific goals, it will make it easier for her to match up with proper English helpers.

I am especially proud because refugees have been reaching out directly to me. One said she wasn’t sure that I would answer her plea for help, then was so shocked when I quickly connected her with my co-director, and we moved quickly to get her into the project.

And the praise for me, wow. One called me an “angel.” Then she said the same thing about Eunkoo.

Another refugee said we are changing her life, making her feel that she can reach her goals (she has wanted to study English since she arrived, but hasn’t found the right situation). And a male refugee said he can’t believe an American is leading this kind of helpful project for North Korean refugees.

We also have some respected South Koreans in the NKHR field who have reached out to us recently to let us know how much they support what we are doing and offered their expertise to us.

It has been another great week for TNKR, and apparently next week will be even better…

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