The Korea Herald


North Korean refugees to share their stories at joint panel event

By Korea Herald

Published : July 26, 2016 - 17:19

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North Korean refugees will share their stories at a panel event with scholars, activists and volunteers.

The mini-conference, hosted by Teach North Korean Refugees and Seoul University of Foreign Studies, will feature two panels.

The first panel, organized by the university, will feature academics while the second panel, organized by TNKR, will focus on three refugees and their plight.

“We have three different aims: to raise awareness about North Korean issues, given an opportunity for refugees to practice their speech skills in front of a live audience, and inspire people to get involved,” TNKR co-founder Casey Lartigue said.

The refugee speakers will include North Korean-American Cherie Yang and Hwang In-Cheol, the son of a man who was on the 1969 airplane hijacked by a North Korean agent. Lartigue said he was telling his story to help efforts to get his father freed.

Cherie Yang (Judd Weiss) Cherie Yang (Judd Weiss)

Founded in 2013, TNKR aims to help North Korean refugees tell their stories and improve their life skills to connect them with more opportunities.

“We have been doing this for a little more than three years and we have matched 250 refugees with about 440 volunteers,” Lartigue said.

TNKR encourages all of their volunteers who join the program to hold events and crowd source funds.

They have recently received help from a yoga teacher, a Zumba dance instructor and one man raised $500 by riding his bicycle from Busan to Incheon.

The funding will go toward TNKR’s in-house tutoring program, which has 70 refugees on its waiting list.

There are two aspects to the program. Track one focuses on teaching English and track two is for refugees who want to engage in public speaking.

“They come to us because we provide a safe zone for studying -- it doesn’t have to be about answering questions about North Korea,” Lartigue said.

Lartigue said that the refugees gain confidence from these speaking events, as it allows them to practice in front of a live audience and bond with their teachers.

The conference will be held Saturday from 2-5 p.m. at Seoul University of Foreign Studies.

Entry costs 10,000 won per person in advance or 15,000 won at the door.

By Tang Li, intern reporter (