Without You, There Is No Us
My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite
This book can be downloaded and read in Apple Books on your Mac or iOS device.
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
Every day, 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 sent to construction fields—except for the 270 students at the all-male 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 watchful eye of the regime.
Life at PUST is lonely and claustrophobic, especially for Suki, whose letters are read by censors and who must hide her notes and photographs not only from her minders but from her colleagues—evangelical Christian missionaries who don't know or choose to ignore that Suki doesn't share their faith. As the weeks pass, she is mystified by how easily her students lie, unnerved by their obedience to the regime. At the same time, they offer Suki tantalizing glimpses of their private selves—their boyish enthusiasm, their eagerness to please, the flashes of curiosity that have not yet been extinguished. She in turn 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. But when Kim Jong-il dies, and the boys she has come to love appear devastated, she wonders whether the gulf between her world and theirs can ever be bridged.
Without You, There Is No Us offers a moving and incalculably rare glimpse of life in the world's most unknowable country, and at the privileged young men she calls "soldiers and slaves."
From the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
© Publishers Weekly
Really fantastic book. I've always been fascinated by North Korea and how the government controls its citizens.
Kim does a superb job of putting the daily life of these students into words, and it offers a rare glimpse of what's in the mind of North Korean citizens. You also get the true sense of dread she must have felt in the moments she knew she was being spied on or watched carefully. Definitely a recommended read for anyone curious about the DPRK.
The light that Suki Kim shines on the people of North Korea, those that are oppressed and those who do the oppressing, should be a wake-up call for people who view Kim Jong-un as just a crazy guy with a bad haircut. Thankfully there a few brave souls willing to risk everything to show the world the truth.The most heartbreaking part of the book is that we may never know what became of the students so lovingly introduced to us through this book.
The extreme right and left of this Country could learn much about where we could be headed if we continue down our present path of "us vs them" and not begin to build our country as a team. Ms. Kim's book is extremely frightening and, sadly, shows how inhumane humans can make one another by teaching hatred and only advancing one's own objectives.
- Category: Asia
- Published: Oct 14, 2014
- Publisher: Crown/Archetype
- Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
- Print Length: 320 Pages
- Language: English