In this astonishing book, Suki Kim tells her story of teaching English at the all-male Pyongyang University Student’s Union in the very heart of North Korea. Revealingly, she details how it was possible to live within these walls and tell ourselves that we were fortunate to witness history being written before our eyes as we became part of the regime’s intricate web of propaganda. But as Suki does so, she slowly begins to discover what makes ordinary people choose darkness over light.
Suki Kim is a prize-winning author and journalist who has produced three best-selling books. In Without You, There Is No Us, she gives us an unforgettable portrait of her experiences teaching English in North Korea – before, during, and after the meltdown that followed the death of its leader Kim Jong-il. A must-read for anyone interested in the political dynamics behind this notoriously secretive country.’e; A haunting memoir of teaching English to the sons of North Korea’s ruling class.
As part of her mission to understand why North Korea is the way it is, Suki Kim sneaks into North Korea and embeds herself deep in the heart of its culture to teach English at a school for the sons of North Korea’s ruling class. She lives among them and risks everything as she grapples with her own more significant questions: How could a whole people allow such oppression to be inflicted on them? What led their country down this path? How can they be stopped?
A haunting memoir of teaching English to the sons of North Korea’s ruling class during the last six months of Kim Jong-il’s reign and witnessing their transformation, Without You, There Is No Us chronicles Suki Kim’s surreal existence inside a repressive regime that forced her to play an elaborate game of lies.
About Without You, There Is No Us Book
A haunting memoir of teaching English to the sons of North Korea’s ruling class during the last six months of Kim Jong-il’s reign
Three times a day, the students march in two straight lines, singing praises to Kim Jong-il and North Korea: Without you, there is no motherland. Without you, there is no us. It is a chilling scene, but gradually Suki Kim, too, learns the tune and, without noticing, begins to hum it. It is 2011, and all universities in North Korea have been shut down for an entire year; the students are sent to construction fields – except for the 270 students at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), a walled compound where portraits of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il look on impassively from the walls of every room, and where Suki has accepted a job teaching English. Over the next six months, she will eat three meals a day with her young charges and struggle to teach them to write, all under the regime’s watchful eye.
Life at PUST is lonely and claustrophobic, especially for Suki, whose letters are read by censors and who must hide her notes and photographs from her minders and her colleagues – evangelical Christian missionaries who don’t know or choose to ignore that Suki doesn’t share their faith. She is mystified by how easily her students lie, unnerved by their obedience to the regime. To them, everything in North Korea is the best, the tallest, the most delicious, and the envy of all nations. Still, she cannot help but love them – their boyish enthusiasm, their eagerness to please, the flashes of curiosity that have not yet been extinguished.
As the weeks pass, she begins to hint at the existence of a world beyond their own – at such exotic activities as surfing the Internet or traveling freely and, more dangerously, at electoral democracy and other ideas forbidden in a country where defectors risk torture and execution. The students, in turn, offer Suki tantalizing glimpses into their lives, from their thoughts on how to impress girls to their disappointment that soccer games are only televised when the North Korean team wins. Then Kim Jong-il dies, leaving the students devastated and leading Suki to question whether the gulf between her world and theirs can ever be bridged.