Suki Kim says of her chilling memoir, "It was a world where they invented their own truth and I had always been obsessed with it. So in 2011, I managed to get a job teaching English to the 19-year-old sons of North Korea’s ruling class at a brand-new university staffed only by foreigners. I lived on a walled campus with the students and ate all my meals with them, and was constantly monitored by minders. I kept notes whenever I could, erasing everything from my computer and keeping it on USB sticks, which I carried on my body. What I wrote would become Without You, There Is No Us.
According to the December 11, 2014 NY Times review, "the book takes its title from a patriotic song extolling the Great General Comrade Kim Jong-il, whose death was announced on what happened to be the day of the author's final class in the Democratic People's Republic. The book reminds us that evil is not only banal; it is also completely arbitrary."
The reader will be amazed to read about the shocking technological backwardness of Kim's students, even though the institution they attend is the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. The students do have access to an internal network, or intranet, but it’s not connected to the Internet, and they use their computers mostly as dictionaries.
Kim can’t help wondering whether she has literally endangered her students by giving them a sense of hope. “I hope they have forgotten everything I inspired in them,” she writes.
Suki Kim was born and raised in Seoul. She lives in NY and has been traveling to North Korea as a journalist since 2002.
For more enticing tidbits about what lies ahead in Without You, There Is No Us, click on the following links to go to the NY Times review or to Suki Kim's website. I recommend her photo album from North Korea.