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Insights on helping North Korea refugees in educational freedom

Casey Lartigue Jr.

Casey Lartigue

travels from South Korea

International Relations Advisor, vivid writer, Public Speaking teacher & Co-Founder of Teach North Korean Refugees

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About Casey

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Our keynote speaker Casey Lartigue is a trusted authority and avid writer on international affairs and education. Lartigue is co-founder of Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR), as well as a columnist with the Korea Times in Seoul. He teaches Public Speaking and Communication at Seoul University of Foreign Studies in Seoul, a member of the Council of Mentors at the Atlas Network in Washington, D.C., and a Goodwill Ambassador of the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Before moving to South Korea, our speaker Casey Lartigue received a bachelor’s degree from the Harvard University Extension School and a master’s degree from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. He then worked as a policy analyst with the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom in Washington, D.C. and was the Research and Communications Manager with Fight For Children. His research expertise from this time includes school choice, teacher quality, and minority education.

The keynote speaker Casey Lartigue has spoken at the National Press Club, Georgetown Law Center, Florida State University, the Austrian Economics Summit in Shanghai, the National Press Club, Harvard Law School, and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He has been a featured guest on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, Howard University Television, and the Rush Limbaugh Show, and has testified before the U.S. Congress on school choice in the nation’s capital. Lartigue has also had a career in radio; he was co-host of “The Casey Lartigue Show” on XM Radio 169 The Power, a regular commentator on National Public Radio’s “News and Notes,” and co-host of “North Korea Today: Featuring Casey and Yeonmi.”

Lartigue’s writings have been published in USA Today, Education Week, the New York Post, Education Week, Forbes, Washington Afro-American, National Review online, Asian Week and the Washington Post. He is also co-editor of the book “Educational Freedom in Urban America”.

See keynotes with Casey Lartigue

    Keynote by Speaker Casey Lartigue

    The American Known in North Korea

    • There have been several radio broadcasts into North Korea about me and my activities related to North Korea. In this speech I discuss lessons I have learned from working with North Korean refugees and why I don’t fear being targeted by the North Korean regime. I would like to inspire others to take practical action to get involved in a cause.


    Keynote by Speaker Casey Lartigue

    Frederick Douglass: A Self-Made Man

    • Frederick Douglass was an american slave-turned-abolitionist, I discuss his major ideas and relevance today, especially in education.


    Keynote by Speaker Casey Lartigue

    Hello Konglish! Helping North Korean refugees find their way and tell their stories”

    • North Korean refugees struggle with adjusting to the outside world after they escape from North Korea. Most of them move to South Korea because they struggle with a surprising barrier: English.


    Keynote by Speaker Casey Lartigue

    Meet North Korean Refugees

    • Gain insight into the experiences of North Korean refugees by listening to their real-life stories.


    Keynote by Speaker Casey Lartigue

    Idea and history of Harvard University: The Harvard University admissions process

    • Is everyone at Harvard a genius? No way! This examines the Harvard University admissions process and its strange, even racist orgins. This speech is always interesting for students applying for college.


    Keynote by Speaker Casey Lartigue

    How to be a good volunteer

    • Not everyone is a good volunteer. This speech examines the ways some people are “lousy” volunteers but have the potential to become good volunteers.


    Keynote by Speaker Casey Lartigue

    Storming the Bastille.

    • This speech examines the importance of committing to a cause in order to have an impact.


    Keynote by Speaker Casey Lartigue

    Slavery, then, slavery now in North Korea

    • This speech draws parallels between slavery in the USA and oppression in North Korea today. This speech examines the need for educational freedom in the urban America and draws parallels with North Koreans escaping to freedom.


    Keynote by Speaker Casey Lartigue

    Sowell Brothers: What’s the right thing to do?

    • This speech analyzes the economic ideas of economists Walter E. Williams and Thomas Sowell. It then analyzes and contrasts those ideas with those of professor Michael Sandel, whose writings are popular in Asia, especially Korea.


    Keynote by Speaker Casey Lartigue

    Why I won’t go to North Korea

    • I am often asked if I have visited North Korea. I explain reasons why I am against going to North Korea. I also cite both sides of the debate about visiting North Korea, including pro and con statements from NK refugees.
Casey Lartigue - video

You can't save the world - here’s what we can do | Casey Lartigue Jr & Eunkoo Lee | TEDxDongdaemun

Watch speaker Casey Lartigue in action!

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Interview with Casey Lartigue

What got you interested in helping North Korean Refugees?

My professional career has been focused on freedom, opportunity and individual choice. I’ve been involved in a variety of causes, but meeting North Korean refugees put me face-to-face with people who had to risk their lives to escape to freedom. Suddenly, getting up to give a “brave” speech didn’t feel so fearless. That put things into perspective for me, I suddenly felt like I had been a freedom advocate who had been giving toasts for liberty, but not doing anything practical to make a difference in the lives of people.

The moment I decided to commit myself to getting involved came on March 1, 2012. About 30 North Korean refugees had been caught in China, they were going to be sent back to North Korea where they were at risk of being tortured or executed. I organized some expats to participate in protests in front of the Chinese embassy in Seoul. The turning point came when I saw a South Korean politician named Park Sun-young holding a hunger strike. Looking at her, I realized that I could do more. That was the moment I devoted myself to helping North Korean refugees. Ever since then it has been like the mafia–it is easier to get in than it is to get out.

What is the biggest obstacle that North Korean refugees face after escaping to South Korea?

There are several obstacles. For some, it is just finding a job. Unemployment rates are about 35%, about 80% of NK refugees reportedly work in one of the 3D jobs (dirty, dangerous, difficult). For some others, English is a surprising barrier. Of North Korean refugees who drop out of college, 32% cite English as the main factor. That’s even higher than the 28% who drop out because of financial difficulties.

How are your keynote presentations unique?

What I hear from audience members is that they learn something practical based on my professional experience and ideas, and that they get inspired to get involved rather than to remain as analysts or by-standers. So many people go to speeches or watch them online to be amused or to learn something. Talk can be great, but it is important to also do something, even if it is just one thing, to put action behind words. Many speakers and analysts are fine with giving a nice speech then moving on to the next audience, but it is great for me when audience members later follow up because they want to get involved in a practical way.

Do you have a favourite experience from your career?

There are three that stand out. First is when a North Korean refugee did a radio broadcast into North Korea that named me as a “Pretty Flower Man” who is helping North Korean refugees adjust to living in South Korea. It was an honor to have a North Korean refugee highlight me like that, publicly and in a broadcast meant to be sent to North Korea. Hearing the wonderful things she said about me was one of those rare cases that someone who benefits from your work takes the time to thank you unconditionally and in a moving way.

Second is when one of the refugees told her sister who is 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 American teachers as you want.”. I have heard a few refugees say this. It is incredible to think that North Koreans enslaved by the regime are being told that they should escape because of the work I am doing.

Third is when I was awarded the “Social Contribution” award by the Hansarang Rural Cultural Foundation in South Korea. I had been delighted to be nominated, then so honored when I won. There are many people doing great work. I had no connection to the organization, so it was surprising because many organizations give out awards to people they already know.

Who or what inspires you most?

Freedom. Life is short, people need to be in charge of their own lives. It started when I was about 12 years old; I read all three of the autobiographies by slave-turned-abolitionist Frederick Douglass. His personal story and arguments in favor of individual freedom, locomotion, and “owning oneself” moved me from a young age.

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Keynote topics with Casey Lartigue