Rejecting a dream job - and loving it (The Korea Times, 2014-11-19) by Casey Lartigue, Jr.

Dearest Casey,

During your current trip to the USA to give a series of speeches in New York, D.C., Tennessee and California, you were delightfully blindsided by a job offer that would pay you more than three times as much as you are now making in South Korea.

A few years ago, after a health scare, you began reflecting on your life and decided that you would only do the things that you wanted to do. People who try to pressure you to do things you don’t want to do have a 100% chance of failing. As you tell such people: "I don’t have to eat everything put on my plate.”

People who give advice you reject are told: "I promise, I won’t stop you from taking your own advice.” You value every moment that you are alive, and will enjoy the rest of your life on your own terms.

For more than two years, you have been focused on helping North Korean refugees, typically using your own funds. You are lucky that Freedom Factory and the Atlas Network both came through with support last year, but the support was more honorary than monetary.

When you received that generous job offer, you had another moment to reflect on the things you do. You could return to America, make much more money than you are making now, helping as a donor rather than a busy-bee and organizer. You love the organizations that you are associated with, but the reality is that you are a one-man think tank with a desk at a start-up think tank. You raise the money to pay your own salary; you are your own editor; you do all of your own media; you are your own supervisor and employee; you go out of your way to praise the many volunteers who have joined up with you, knowing that you rely on them more than they could ever know.

You realized that the job you were being offered would give you the opportunity to have an organization support you fully. Your main task would be to become a talking head on TV, debating and discussing issues of the day. It would be more glamorous than the things you are doing now. As you often tell friends: "Being alive is the only thing more important than being on TV.” Instead of helping feature North Korean refugees and to provide them with assistance to help them find their own paths in this world, you would be featured, groomed to become a talking head. You would have an entire media team, production team, editors, probably a full-time assistant, and other (research, financial, structural) support.

The job offer that you received would pay you enough that you could easily do some of the activities you are engaged in, but do them first class with colleagues tasked with supporting you rather than what you are doing now in relying on donations, minimal financial support, and the many volunteers who have come into your life in the last few years. When you say that you are engaged in NK activism because you want to do it, you mean that. It is out of joy. You have turned down other great job opportunities. When people ask why you are doing it, why do you spend so much time helping North Korean refugees, you usually answer, "Because it should be done. And when I think something should be done, I either do it or find someone else to get it done.”

The ``interview” you suddenly had was certainly unconventional ― you were interviewing and examining them more than they were interviewing you. Job applicants are usually passive, trying not to trip up to eliminate themselves. Not in your case. You wanted to make sure it would be a good fit for you, and for them ― in that order of importance. Yes, they are the ones with the money and the job, but it is about your life and how you are going to live it.

Before the unexpected interview was over, you turned down the job offer. You will probably be more reckless and active when you return to South Korea. Next month, you will be starting your second year with Atlas and Freedom Factory, with the challenge again of raising your own salary and getting things done with people who happen to come into your life and answer your call for help. You will know that you could have returned to America, coasting as a TV political talking head, but you are at peace with that decision now and sure you will be fine with it a year from now when your latest one-year contract will be up.

Co-director of the Teach North Korean Refugees Project--monthly English Matching session

International Adviser to the Mulmangcho School (for adolescent North Korean refugees) 
Speaking at North Korean Freedom Awareness Week
Speaker at "Road to Life" rally during 2013 North Korean Freedom Awareness Week 

with my co-director Lee Eunkoo at a workshop on North Korean refugee issues.

Moderating a session with Shin Dong-hyuk and Blaine Harden of Escape from Camp 14.


Website launched: TeachNorthKoreanRefugees.org

Thanks to my co-director, Lee Eunkoo, and my special assistant, Suzanne Stewart, for their additions, corrections, and assistance in setting up the Teach North Korean Refugees website.


Mike Bassett's attacks

I was responding to Mike Bassett's many lies about and ad hominem attacks on Yeonmi Park and me. But I have had several people, including people who know him personally, tell me that he is having emotional and mental problems. He recently got married but one friend says he is probably suffering from PTSD and that he has gotten more paranoid as of late. Bassett has admitted to having a brain injury resulting from injuries he suffered in the military. Unfortunately, he has become obsessed with and targeted Yeonmi Park.

Based on his rantings on his Website, published by the Korea Observer and The Diplomat, it sounds like he needs help. At the least, his friends need to talk to him, convince him to leave Yeonmi Park alone, and to focus on doing something good, such as helping other veterans suffering from problems.

From an interview he gave with Heartland Community College.

Colleen: Where were you when you were injured?
Mike: I had gotten hurt on one deployment in Kosovo and then I got hurt on another one in Iraq. I just started having brain injury related problems and it was really affecting my life. I couldn't sleep and I couldn't function. It turns out that I also had some broken bones, two that I didn't know about which just goes to show how badly I was injured.
I had broken bones that I didn't know about. I had nerve damage that I didn't know about. It was a lot of stuff that I didn't even know was wrong with me. It was pretty bad.


N. Korea owes S. Korea $961 million by 2037--but what is LiNK doing?

NK News takes on Liberty in North Korea, writing a well-research editorial with sources asking if LiNK has the right priorities, if it is spending its money well, etc.

There's an old joke where an economist walking down the street:
Friend: "Joe, how is your wife."
Joe: "Compared to what?"

LiNK raised a record $1.5 million last year, and since 2010 has spent $1.3 million on its "changing the narrative" campaign.

Is LiNK spending its money well. Well, compared to what?

$724 million: South Korean government loans to NK government, 2000-07, unpaid
$257 million: South Korean government assistance to North Korea during Lee Myung-bak's administration, 2008-13
$199 million: World Food Programme budget for food aid to North Korea, 2013
$150 million: U.N. appeal in 2013
$29.4 million: U.N. appeal for emergency situation in DPRK, 2013
$15.1 million: U.N. humanitarian fund, 2013
$13.3 million: South Korean humanitarian aid to NK in 2014 
$12 million: South Korean humanitarian aid to NK in 2013
$6.8 million: humanitarian aid from South Korean private aid groups, Feb-Dec 2013.
$6.5 million: Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), 2014
$5.6 million: International Red Cross budget, 2014
$3.2 million: WFP emergency aid to North Korea, 2014
$2.1 million: Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), 2014
$1.5 million: Liberty in North Korea budget, 2013
$1 million: World Vision (USA), 2014

If LiNK spent $1.5 million a year until 2037, it still wouldn't spend as much as the international organizations spend on North Korea.

I love the conclusion of one article: "South Korea says the North is required to pay back a total of $961.53 million by 2037."

Michael's Bassett's claims about me

From an interview Mike Bassett gave to Heartland Community College.

Colleen: Where were you when you were injured?
Mike: I had gotten hurt on one deployment in Kosovo and then I got hurt on another one in Iraq. I just started having brain injury related problems and it was really affecting my life. I couldn't sleep and I couldn't function. It turns out that I also had some broken bones, two that I didn't know about which just goes to show how badly I was injured.
I had broken bones that I didn't know about. I had nerve damage that I didn't know about. It was a lot of stuff that I didn't even know was wrong with me. It was pretty bad.


A Meaningful Experience (The Korea Times, Nov 5, 2014) by Casey Lartigue, Jr.

Dearest Casey,
Congratulations! Your colleague Yeonmi Park has been named in the BBC's Top 100 Women in the World 2014. This has meant she has given speeches around the world and been featured in major media such as the New York Times and Huffington Post. This all occurred in the last two weeks of October. Who would have believed she would become so well known internationally?
Actually, you did. You have known it since Feb. 14, 2014, when you spoke together at an international school located outside of Seoul. On the subway coming back from the discussion, you told Yeonmi, one of the 124 North Korean refugees in your Teach North Korean Refugees Project (TNKR), that she had the potential to become a leading advocate for liberty. She didn't believe you, but you offered to help make it happen: "If you don't become a star for liberty, raising awareness and attracting others to get involved, then that will mean I have failed. I feel like a college basketball coach who suddenly realizes Michael Jordan is on his team," you said.
Within two weeks of Yeonmi's debut speech in English, you recruited her to join you as an ambassador of TNKR, a media fellow at Freedom Factory Co. Ltd., and also a co-host of a TV podcast you were planning. That first week, a documentary team came to town and you recommended four refugees as interviewees. They rejected one ― Yeonmi. You pushed them: "Just meet her." They did, and she turned out to be their favorite.

You messaged every TEDx event host in South Korea, but only one responded ― with a polite rejection. You pushed: "Just meet her." They relented, and within 10 minutes of talking with her, the production team was gushing. Six weeks later, the TEDx@hangang audience was astounded.

It happened with other events too ― you pushed for opportunities for her despite hesitation or rejection; then she became a featured speaker. In your first TV podcast together last March, you playfully ignored her in the introduction. She interrupted to ask, "Am I invisible?" Yes, but not for long. A stream of successes came: an SBS (Australian) TV showfeature, a widely republished Washington Post article you co-authored, a slew of documentaries and interviews, the LiNK summit, the Hacking North Korea Summit, the Atlas Network Experience in Hong Kong, the Shanghai Austrian Economics Summit, then her incredible month of October that led to international recognition and awards.

Casey, we know this is not your first rodeo. In 2012, you were co-chair of the committee to get Hyeonseo Lee onto TED (congrats, she was spectacular). You were also a close adviser to North Korean refugees (Yeonmi and Hyeonseo) who spoke at the Oslo Freedom Forum in Norway on Oct. 21. Two other North Korean refugees (Yeonmi and Jihyun Park) later spoke before the UK Parliament on Oct. 29 as students in the TNKR project you co-founded with Lee Eun-koo.

Friends and foes ask how you did it. Your strategy was simple: 1) Work with anyone and everyone to increase Yeonmi's opportunities, instead of restricting her simply to the Freedom Factory. You would remind her, "Never miss an opportunity to be fabulous." 2) Her English had improved from your first meeting in December 2012, but she sharpened it by studying more than 35 hours a week last winter with volunteer private tutors she met through TNKR. 3) Be on call 24/7 to help her.

You warned her from the beginning that talkers and stalkers would target her, questioning her story, motivation, sincerity, associates. She assured you that she could handle it ― their words, no matter how hateful, couldn't compare with the terror of escaping North Korea, the '"hell" she experienced in China, brushes with death while crossing the Gobi desert to freedom, and threats from the North Korean regime.

Yeonmi opened up, crying as she told you at a café about her mother being raped by a Chinese broker their first night in China, about the ways her family suffered. You talked for a long time on May 1 when she was informed by South Korean law enforcement that she had been put on North Korea's target list, and then on Sep. 5 (your birthday) when she was placed at the top of the DPRK's target list. Was it worth the risk? She concluded then that it was, but you re-consider this from time to time because of the threats and attacks.

When you first started collaborating with Yeonmi, you told her that you had three "rules" for projects: 1) Be proud of what we do. 2) Let's not get sued. 3) Let's have fun.

The world is now seeing what you saw on Feb. 14. Proud? Yep. Sued? Not yet! Had fun? Oh, yeah.

* * *

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.
original Korea Times link

2012-12-07: first meeting. She could barely speak Eng
2012-12-07: first meeting. She could barely speak English, she barely spoke
2012-12-07: first meeting with Yeonmi. Hyeonseo (on Yeonmi's right) and Yeonmi were featured speakers at last month's Oslo Freedom Forum.

2013-06-19: as Yeonmi was preparing to go overseas, she joined the English Matching program (now, TNKR) for about a month.
2013 (May or June): as Yeonmi was preparing to go overseas, she joined the English Matching program (now, TNKR) for about a month.

2014-01-18 Yeonmi rejoins Teach North Korean Refugees, collects several teachers, studies like a maniac. Here she is with 3 Harvard graduates who were her teachers and mentors.
2014-01-18 Yeonmi rejoins Teach North Korean Refugees, collects several teachers, studies like a maniac. Here she is with 3 Harvard graduates who were her teachers and mentors.

2/14/14--Yeonmi takes a deep breath, then begins her debut speech in English.
2/14/14--Yeonmi takes a deep breath, then begins her debut speech in English.

Yeonmi was a replacement speaker at "Don't Ask My Name," hosted by Casey Lartigue of Freedom Factory a month after he heard Yeonmi's debut speech in English.
3-15-14: Yeonmi was a replacement speaker at "Don't Ask My Name," hosted by Casey Lartigue of Freedom Factory a month after he heard Yeonmi's debut speech in English.
3-17-14: "Am I invisible?" Yeonmi was then, but the whole world sees her now.
3-17-14: "Am I invisible?" Her first words on the podcast we launched then. Yeonmi was invisible then, but the whole world sees her now.

2014-04-26 When Yeonmi wasn't yawning in her university classes, she was studying intensively with English teachers. At one point, it was more than 35 hours a week.
2014-04-26 When Yeonmi wasn't yawning in her university classes, she was studying intensively with English teachers. At one point, it was more than 35 hours a week. I joined this class with Lolu Ayo--3 1/2 hours of non-stop English engaging English studying.

2013-06-04 the TedX team initially rejected her, but you suggested that they meet Yeonmi. Within 10 minutes, they were gushing about her.
2013-06-04 the TedX team initially rejected her, but you suggested that they meet Yeonmi. Within 10 minutes, they were gushing about her.

2013-07-19: Sharing the stage at the Shanghai Austrian Economics Summit. They also took some time to embrace her, then she became the star of the conference.
2014-07-19: Sharing the stage at the Shanghai Austrian Economics Summit. They also took some time to embrace her, then she became the star of the conference.

2013-07-26: Before Tedx speech, she was really nervous. You bought her a pair of boxing gloves for "fighting," she began punching, said she relaxed.^^
2013-07-26: Before Tedx speech, she was really nervous. You bought her a pair of boxing gloves for "fighting," she began punching, said she relaxed.^^

2013-09-06 at the Atlas Network Experience. The night before, she had been informed by law enforcement in South Korea that she had been placed at the top of NK's target list.
2013-09-06 at the Atlas Network Experience. The night before, she had been informed by law enforcement in South Korea that she had been placed at the top of NK's target list.


Casey Lartigue mentioned in Korean-language article about Yeonmi Park

What an honor! I'm mentioned at length in an article about Yeonmi Park in the Chosun-Ilbo, the largest newspaper in South Korea.


박씨는 북한의 실상을 알리기 위해 영어를 공부하기 시작했다. 지난 2009년엔 알파벳만 아는 수준이었지만, 탈북자들에게 영어 교육을 하는 미국인 케이시 라티그를 만난 이후 꾸준히 공부해 지금은 유창하게 영어를 구사한다.

당시 박씨는 미국 드라마인 ‘프렌즈’의 전회를 20번씩 반복해 보는 일도 있었다고 한다. 하루에 9시간 씩 영어를 공부했다. 케이시는 박연미씨 외에도 117명의 탈북자에게 영어를 가르치고 있는데, 박씨는 그 중에서도 가장 성실한 학생이었다고 한다. 박씨는 이후 미국과 코스타리카로 자원 봉사활동도 다녀왔다.

Casey Lartigue, with Yeonmi Park, in Hong Kong recording a TV podcast.


Teach North Korean Refugees Project

On November 1, we will be holding the 20th "Teach North Korean Refugees Project" session. The project launched in March 2013 when Casey Lartigue Jr. and Lee Eunkoo matched 5 North Korean refugees who were teachers in North Korea with 5 English speaking volunteers. The refugees wanted to improve their English in order to improve their chances to become teachers in South Korea. We met at a Toz in Gangnam, matching them.
We have directly matched at least 117 NK refugees and 8 South Koreans who assist NK refugees with 164 English speaking volunteers. We have since hosted numerous sessions with a number of themes matching NK refugees with volunteer English speakers:
* Staff at NGOs helping NK refugees (to help refugees working at NGOs and also helping NGOs build up their capacity) * special summer or winter study sessions (for students who have more free time during the break, look for another session in late December and early to mid January 2015) * Bring or recommend a friend (so many refugees recommend there friends, so we have held two sessions focused on them). * Refugee ladies on TV cable show * Open sessions * Newcomers or beginning speakers (we had two ladies who just gotten out of Hanawon 3 weeks before that join our session) * Rematching sessions (for refugees who lost their teachers for one reason or another)
alumni upload 1 finalWe have two main tracks:
1) For self-improvement. Some want to study for standardized tests, business English, writing, pronunciation, travel. Most of our time is spent on them because they are 90 percent of the refugees who enter our project. Most of them have no desire to become advocates, many are low-profile and just want to improve themselves to make themselves more competitive in this world.
2) to become advocates. We have had a few refugees who also had potential to become advocates for NK human rights.


An Ambiguous Man (The Korea Times, October 22, 2014) by Casey Lartigue Jr.

By Casey Lartigue, Jr.

I should expect it, but I occasionally get blind-sided in political discussions: A critic will bring up my race.

I'm not saying that race is always irrelevant, but I reject it as a legitimate point in discussions about economic policy or North Korea. In most cases, the people who bring up my race in non-racial discussions are progressives (and usually white, although some blacks join in).

It first happened to me in print back in the 1990s when a columnist wrote a three-part series denouncing me as a sellout in response to a commentary I wrote about excessive government spending.

Based on my interactions, self-identified libertarians and conservatives will typically ask: "What was said?" Self-identified liberals and progressives will typically ask: "Who said it?"

That is, who is the speaker? Who supports her? Is there a corporation/foundation/chaebol in his background? The dancer's background gets more analyzed than the actual dance.

I rarely got such attacks when I was a college student engaged in numerous activities. 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, the ''Harvard 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 left Harvard, but Harvard hasn't left me. I enjoyed going across different groups and ideologies, learning, but not choosing a side, label or political party. To this day, I rarely vote, sign petitions, or affiliate with a political party or politician.

I didn't realize it then, but to liberals and progressives, I had permanently chosen the wrong side once I joined the Cato Institute.

It didn't matter, for example, that I was one of the key players helping to create a school voucher program for 1,700 low-income children in Washington, D.C. A leading progressive talk-show host dismissed me as ''working against the interests of black people." I got calls from sympathetic and disgruntled school system employees warning me that public school advocates were investigating me and had launched a campaign to find ''dirt" on me.

I ignored the "what's your ‘-ism'" attacks and continued focusing on increasing educational freedom for low-income children, collaborating with Democrats in Congress, a Democrat governor, and the Democrat Mayor of D.C. (I was the substitute speaker for Mayor Williams at a community event, the first and probably last time anyone from Cato will do that).

The only "-ism" that matters to me is metabolism. Political labels are like shortcuts: They can get you to your destination quickly, true, but they can also take you in the wrong direction.

I recently passed my 10th anniversary of not working at the Cato Institute, but progressives still attack me like I was the institute's founder. Or they respond with their "heads-I-win, tails-you-lose" argument by dismissing me as a paid flunkey.

Other organizations I have worked for and been affiliated with ― Fight For Children, the Washington Scholarship Fund, the Frederick Douglass Memorial and Historical Association ― don't matter to the critics because I allegedly committed the original sin. In short: Whose side are you on? Who supports you?

I recently had a critic challenge me for quoting 19th century abolitionist Frederick Douglass' comment: ''I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong" in my defense of NGOs.

I first read Frederick Douglass' three autobiographies when I was about 10 years old. As a teenager in Texas, I saved enough money to buy First Editions of his books published in 1845, 1855, and 1881 and was persistent enough to convince my parents to drive me to Douglass' former home in Washington, D.C.

I couldn't express my feelings when I was invited in 2003 to give the keynote address at the Frederick Douglass home in 2003 and later was invited to join the Board of Trustees of the Frederick Douglass Memorial and Historical Association. Despite that history and connection, I get challenged by progressives and ideologues when I quote Douglass.

I used to engage them, but now I keep on keeping on. When critics target my race in non-racial discussions, I will just note that on my birth certificate issued by the state of Texas that my parents were both listed as ''Negroid."

People try to nail a political label onto me, and I move on. When people guess I may be as young as 30 years of age (Haha!), I tell them they are correct no matter which age they guess. I prefer to be an Ambiguous Man judged by my actions rather than arbitrary characteristics. That is even though my critics blinded by rage keep blindsiding me by bringing up my race in non-racial discussions, engaging in ''follow-the-money" games, or trying to nail a label on me.

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.



Yeonmi Park Fall 2014 tour (Europe and USA) media roundup

BBC World Service--"21-year-old Yeonmi Park and her epic escape from North Korea"
BBC Radio--"Lies cannot last forever"--North Korea defector on her home country
Independent (UK)--"When Silence is not an option" Yeonmi Park profiled by the Independent (UK)
Yahoo News--"Escaping North Korea: one refugee's story"
Al Jazeera--"A Life in Exile, escaping North Korea" http://m.aljazeera.com/story/20141015154253291240
Al Jazeera Facebook page--https://www.facebook.com/aljazeera/posts/10152867626258690
Radio Free Asia--"탈북자 박연미 씨, 유럽서 북 인권 고발"
Lollipop--"Pretty law student becomes international celebrity after daring escape from North Korea"
Huffington Post--"One Young World Conference That Established The First Rape Clinic In Somalia, Kicks Off In Dublin"
One Young World--"Dublin welcomes young leaders from 194 countries to One Young World"
Giirl Meets World--"What is it really like in North Korea?"
Public Radio International--"She risked her life to defect from North Korea — now she wants the world to hear her story"
Yeonmi Park
Yeonmi Park


Tourism to North Korea, pro and con

(Malaysia) Yangtze Cruise and Tours Sdn Bhd president Tan Han Soong said contrary to many reports on North Korea, the country had much to offer.

“North Korea is a good place to travel and it’s near China, so there are more opportunities. There is no AIDS, no theft and no beggars, and the people are educated. Pyongyang is really beautiful, with many high-rise buildings. In August and September last year, more than 1,000 people (from Malaysia) travelled to North Korea and the feedback has been very good."
(Hat tip to Kelvin Hew)

UN COI findings about North Korea
“These crimes against humanity entail extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation,” the report says, adding that “Crimes against humanity are ongoing in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea because the policies, institutions and patterns of impunity that lie at their heart remain in place.”

North Korea Today, featuring Casey and Yeonmi, "Tourism to North Korea."


Yeonmi Park profiled in London Telegraph

Here's a very nice profile of Yeonmi Park in the London Telegraph.

]Yeonmi Park, London Telegraph
Yeonmi Park, London Telegraph

Escape from North Korea: 'How I escaped horrors of life under Kim Jong-il'

Yeonmi Park, a young woman who fled North Korea after seeing friends and family tortured and killed, tells her harrowing story


Mulmangcho FAQ

Every Sunday, a group of volunteers go to Yeouj to teach and mentor some children who escaped from North Korea. You are invited to join us. To do this, please send A) copy of your resume or a bio with the B) Application that we can share with the founder of the school before you help out.


Q: What is the Mulmangcho School?
A: It is a small alternative school for young refugees from North Korea. It was opened in September 2012 by Prof. Park Sun-Young.

Q: What does "Mulmangcho" mean?
A: It means "forget-me-not." Prof. Park says she wants to remind people that we should not forget about North Korean refugees after they have successfully escaped.


Q: I'm a first-timer. I have no idea what I should prepare.
A: First-timers are not expected to lead a class. It would be great if you could prepare a game or activity that can last 15 to 30 minutes. There are usually at least two or three veteran teachers to lead the class or classes, so you might want to join the Facebook group so you can monitor messages during the week and get to know some of the regulars.


Q: Yeoju?
A: Getting there:


Part 1: arrive at the bus station and buy a ticket.

Easy explanation: Go to the old bus terminal (where the Express Bus Terminal subway station meets at subway lines 3, 7 and 9), buy a ticket to Yeoju, go to Platform 23 to catch the bus. Check here for step by step directions.

More difficult, detailed explanation:
From the Express Bus Terminal (meets at subway lines 3, 7, 9) take exit 2.
Take the escalator or walk upstairs. When you get upstairs, you will see Dunkin Donuts immediately. The easiest way is to turn left, walk for about 15 seconds, then take the escalator up.
From there, turn left, walk about another 15 seconds, you will see another Dunkin Donuts. You can (A) wait there for us or (B) walk past the Dunkin Donuts, turn right and walk out the doors. Walk straight, you will walk through a new set of doors, walk straight until you get to the ticket window.

For first-timers sure they will get lost: After you exit from the subway, then contact me. I can meet you at the Dunkin Donuts that is at the top of the stairs. And if I happen to be out the week you are going, then I will make sure there is someone else there to meet you.

Part 2: Get on the bus

After buying the ticket, your next challenge is to get Platform 23, that's where the bus goes to Yeoju.
I don't want to complicate things, but FYI, there is more than one window to buy a ticket. The key is to buy a ticket going to Yeoju, and to get to Platform 23, that's where the bus waves good-bye to Seoul.

Part 3: Arrive at Yeoju bus terminal

The bus ride takes about an hour and 10 minutes, to arrive around 10:30. From the Yeoju bus terminal, wait for the ride to take you to the school to start teaching around 11.

Part 4: Returning

We typically return to the Yeoju bus station to catch the 1:20 bus, returning to Seoul by 2:30.


Q: Wonderful. I can't wait to go there to take a million photos and then post the names of the kids all over the Internet.
A: Whoa, slow down! They are fine with taking photos. But never, ever, ever mention the names of the kids. Some of the young adults have gotten on Facebook, but I still advise caution. Even if someone else happens to mention the name, don't use that as an excuse for you to do so. As I'm sure your mom told you: If everyone else jumped in a river (or off a mountain), would you do the same thing?


Q: Okay, I'm in. What do I do next?
A:  Sign up
 Sign up and send a message to cjl@post.harvard.edu to confirm your interest. Please take your RSVP seriously--the van comfortably fits 7, so if you flake out, it could mean that a non-flake could have joined to help out.

Q: Great, the more I hear, the more I love it. This will be a great a chance for me to conduct interviews for my thesis.
A: Ah...please remember to keep the focus on the students and helping them improve their English. 
Some of them come from broken homes, some are orphans, some have relatives still trapped in North Korea or other circumstances. 


Q: What's the dress code?
A: It is Sunday morning, so we understand that not everyone is ready for a fashion show.

My suggestion: Dress the way your mom would dress you. If that is business casual or business clown, that's fine. During the summer, some teachers wear shorts. In my case, I prefer a tuxedo and top hat, but that's just me.

Be aware: The International Adviser to the school is not photogenic, but he still likes to take a group photo each week.

In summary: There is no dress code, we will almost always allow you to teach, although I may give your mom a call...


Q: Why do you need my resume?
A: It is required of all first-timers. Nothing personal, we have them on hand when the founder of the school asks. A standard resume is fine. If you want to update, it is nice to know about interests or skills of volunteers.

Q: Do I need to give you a local phone number?
A: If you have one, yes. If you have a local phone number, then put that one on your resume. Not an overseas phone number...


Q; This is some great info. Where can I find more?
* On the scene report by Alyssa Green: http://theinexhaustiblevariety.blogspot.kr/2014/01/volunteering-at-mulmangcho-school.html
* "Open Door to N. Koreans"  http://freedomfactory.co.kr/bbs/bbsDetail.php?cid=liber&wcode=1329&pn=2&idx=3493 (Mulmangcho students had their visas rejected by the U.S. government) 
* Video of Mulmangcho students at one year anniversary http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDbTeXpI4yA
* Mulmangcho founder Park Sun-Young profiled in Korea Herald http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20140214000767


Teach for North Korean Refugees

Directors: Casey Lartigue, Jr., and Lee Eunkoo

Ambassadors: Park Yeonmi, Cho Joo Yeon, Sodam Jeong, Pam Davidson

Former team members: Yeonhee Han, Victoria Oh

Teach for North Korean Refugees based at the Mulmangcho Research Center in Bangbae-dong holds regular sessions matching North Korean refugees with English-speaking volunteers. Below are some common questions (with my sometimes uncommon answers):


Q: What is "Teach for North Korean Refugees?"
A: I’m glad you asked! This is a wonderful volunteer project that gives North Korean refugees a chance to improve their English and volunteers the opportunity to help them while also doing something good.

Q: What is a typical matching session like?
A: Scroll down below this FAQ for some photos and a video.
Typically, volunteers and refugees introduce themselves, explaining what they want to get out of the project. Everyone should explain mention when and where are the most convenient times and places to study. Teachers introduce themselves first, then refugees. They they match. After that, we go out for dinner.

Q: How will the organizers match the refugees and volunteers?
A: We don’t! We allow the North Korean refugees to select their tutors. We have found that they are more committed to the program when they make the selections themselves. The goal is to allow tutors and refugees to make the best matches possible.

Q: What's the dress code?
A: Dress so your mother wouldn't be embarrassed. We don't enforce a dress code, but obviously, this is an important event in the lives of our North Korean refugee friends, so try to have some pride as you are getting dressed in the morning.

Q: When will the session be finished?
A: Depending on when most people arrive, how many refugees and tutors, how long everyone talks, if it seems that everyone is familiar with the expectations and has read the FAQ...typically the sessions last between 70 to 100 minutes. You are welcome to leave at any time, and we can inform you later if any refugees chose you. We typically go out to eat together after the session.


Q: What are the qualifications of the tutors?
A: We are not as rigorous as some of the other programs out there, we admit it. You should be a fluent or high-level English speaker. It also helps if you shower regularly, brush your teeth, your appearance doesn’t scare small children, etc. But if you have been seeking an English teacher for yourself, then you probably wouldn't qualify and probably won't be selected by a student.

Q: This sounds great. How do I apply?

A: 1) Make sure you have read all of the FAQs above and below! 2) Fill out a TNKR Teacher Volunteer Application here:  http://goo.gl/forms/tWzTw6Ci1D  3) We can only take so many volunteers per matching session so look for a confirmation email from TNKR.Secretary@gmail.com, if you are confirmed you will be asked to reply with a resume.  4) Join the Facebook group for updates, join the particular Facebook Event page for the matching session you plan to join, and friend me! 5) The day before your session, look for and reply to a confirmation email from TNKR.Secretary@gmail.com we just want to make sure you didn't forget! 

Unsolicited advice about resumes (submitting here and other places):
* You might want to put your first and last name in the subject. I have received many creative resume titles, such as, "Resume." Or "Resume 2014." When those resumes get downloaded, it isn't very easy to distinguish one from the other. If you are applying for a job, with 10 out of 50 resumes with the title "Resume," you can imagine that you could easily get lost in the shuffle.
* I'm happy when people have me in mind, it always boosts my ego, but I have received many resumes with the subject line "For Casey" or "Casey."
* I know that people want to protect their cell phone numbers, but a resume with your phone number in Texas is not very useful in case I actually need to call you or add you to Kakao. Not that I would ever do such a thing. My colleague Eunkoo goes through the resumes and deletes your personal info before we pass it on to the refugees.

Only those invited are allowed to attend. Uninvited or unapproved friends will be considered to be gate-crashers and will be asked to leave.

Teach for North Korean Refugees--Facebook group

You are welcome but not required to send in supporting materials (videos of you teaching, teaching materials, syllabus) to make your case to the refugees. Please don’t ask me what you should send, that is up to you! Just think about the question: What would I like to present about myself that would make the refugees want to select me as a tutor? Then do that.


Q: How long do I gotta teach?
A: We ask for 1) a 3 month commitment 2) meet at least twice a month 3) meet for at least one hour at each session 4) avoid socializing for the first three months.

Q: What if I want to do a language exchange with the student who selects me?
A: If you want that then please find a different program! This is intended to help North Korean refugees improve their English. If you are a fluent Korean speaker or are trying to learn Korean, that is also excellent. But this program is not the time for you to use Korean except in extreme situations or with a refugee who needs such language help. Please, remember not to let it become a Korean-language discussion, that will defeat the purpose of this program.

Q: What is the minimum level of Korean fluency?
A: None is required. It depends on the North Korean refugees. Some of them want tutors who are bilingual, some of them want English-immersion. Because we encourage them to select more than one tutor, some choose both bilinguals and English-only teachers.

Also…we do stay in touch with the refugees. They may humor you by talking with you in Korean, but they may quietly complain to us about teachers speaking to them in Korean.

Q: Can we study using Skype?
A: Certainly. But we do require that you attend a matching session if we don’t already know you. We also suggest alternating between face-to-face and Skype sessions.

Q: What if I just want to have conversation, not teach TOEIC, TOEFL, or grammar?
A: Communicate that. We have some higher level speakers who don’t want to study grammar, but want conversation and to be corrected. Some want to study grammar intensively. Others want to study for a particular test or major. A key thing about this program is communication. That’s how we get good matches—from both sides communicating.

Q: What if I want to teach something specific that you haven’t mentioned?
A: Please let us know that when you apply! We can communicate that to the refugees in advance. But if you wait to surprise us at the matching session, by saying that you want to teach about 19th French literature, then I can’t promise that anyone will be interested in that.


Q: What if I can’t commit to three months?
A: Then communicate that to us. There are some refugees who are delighted to meet more people, to study as often as possible, so just let us know. We won’t try to block you, we will leave it up to you, but please be kind enough to give the refugees accurate information so they can make the best possible decision. If you are going to be leaving in a month, but can only teach once…well, don’t waste our time. But if you are going to leave in a month, and can meet with the refugee twice a month during that time, then communicate that, you may have refugees fighting over who can get you.

Q: How many refugees may I teach?
A: As many as your schedule and energy level can handle. And it depends on how many refugees select you. If you are someone with a free schedule, then communicate that.


Q: Where do we hold these study sessions?
A: That is up to you and your student! Some people meet at coffee shops, some at study centers, others come up with other arrangements.

Q: What if I don't live in Seoul?
A: It is fine, even if you are coming from Jupiter, as long as you can get to Seoul at least twice a month. You may be able to work out Skype sessions with your student, but at least in the beginning, we expect face-to-face sessions.


Q: What if my student keeps canceling?
A: Let us know. It is possible to switch matches, to find new ones, or to find a solution to the problem. Remember, the goal is to have good matches.

Q: What if my student wants to quit?
A: Don’t let them quit easily. Some need extra encouragement. The dream of a private tutor bumps up against the reality of actually improving their English. If you notice problems, communicate with us. There is no shame in having to switch students or making a change.

Q: What do the directors do?
A: They recruit and organize, and think about this more than anyone, including the refugees.

Q: What do the Academic Advisers do?
A: They keep tabs on every group we match. It is important for tutors to send them short reports about every session. This is not to monitor or punish—it helps keep us connected, a better understanding of the needs of everyone, and will let us know if there is a problem that must resolved.
Please don't force the advisers to chase you. Please answer their questions, be responsive.


Q: What if I want to teach children rather than adults?
A: Then ask Casey about the Mulmangcho program. He can talk all day and night about it, and he usually does so until someone cuts him off.


Q: I signed up, but there's a waiting list. May I join the session anyway?
A: No. You will be considered  gate-crasher. The focus is on the teachers and tutors in the session. And use your brain. Get together a group of your friends, contact us, propose one or two different days and times, and we may be able to collaborate on a session.


Many teachers are really curious to learn about the refugees, but we suggest that in most cases, it really isn't relevant to you teaching them English. Of course, if you have a refugee who is high level and has a chance to give speeches, yes, the refugee needs to talk about their own stories. But if you are teaching a refugee the alphabet, then there is no reason to get into curiosity questions about their lives.

Q: What if I want to use this as a research project, recruit students for my documentary, or engage in other activities that have nothing to do with English teaching?
A: Propose it! We may be able to work it out. We have some talented teachers, some of them have agendas other than teaching. Let us know. But there is no reason for you to keep the secret from us. For the three month commitment when you start, focusing on English teaching.


1) Teach in Korean without informing us of the need and with the agreement of the student in advance.
2) Don't submit reports about your classes.


Q: Can I get a certificate for teaching in this program?
A: If you give us constant updates, stay in touch with us, and we get feedback from your students, then yes, we can give you a certificate or a letter of recommendation. But think about it: If you never contact us, how can we endorse you or even know if you were meeting?

A final note: The NK refugees that we are introducing to you are some of our friends, recommended to us, or acquaintances in some way. Based on experience, it seems that the teachers realize what a special thing this is and treat them with the care that we expect. If you are just curious about meeting North Korean refugees, looking to have some stories to tell back home, or looking for something exotic to put on your resume, then this project is not for you. We want people who will take this seriously and do their best to help the North Korean refugees improve their English.

I Remain,

Casey Lartigue, Jr.

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