Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Real Life Dystopian {North Korea}

Without You There is No Us | By Suki Kim

My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite

4/5 Stars
Globetrotting with Books: North Korea: Without you There is No Us, Suki Kim. This fascinating book on a grim subject reads like a dystopian. Except this dystopian does not have an ending. Or a revolutionary, yet.

There is a debate over whether this book is a memoir or not (The author argues that it is a piece of investigative journalism, Read: The Reluctant Memoirist). But honestly, this fascinating book on a grim subject reads like a dystopian.  

It has the same format though. A mass of people living in a captive space, cut out from the outside world, led to believe that what they have is truly the best, that it is terrible outside the walls, and that they owe their survival and everything to the Eternal Leader.

Except this dystopian does not have an ending. Or a revolutionary, yet. 

We know that North Korea is a locked Nation. A Gulang posing as a Nation. Almost no one gets out. And the only people going in are the ones given a prescribed story & a press package. 

So what happens when the author goes undercover as an English Professor to an all boys school for North Korea’s Elite children, in Pyongyang?

Picture teaching a class of 20 year olds who don’t know the concept of passports or insurance. Don’t know what is the UN, Taj Mahal or the Pyramids. Don’t understand the concept of job interviews because jobs are just assigned to them. 

And although they study in an Institute named Pyongyang University of “Science and Technology”, they’d never even heard of the internet, let alone have access to it. 

While Egypt’s revolution began on Facebook, these students have never heard of Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg.

You already KNOW that their ignorance is deliberate and that North Koreans are kept aloof, suppressed and naive under the brutal dictatorship of their Eternal Leader. 

Yet the extent is surprising, almost shocking.

Suki Kim is one of the millions who lost a family member in the brutal 3  year Korean War which followed the split of Korea into North & South. Her mother narrates the story over & over again and you can’t help but feel the goose bumps.

She grew up in both South Korea & America and her curiosity and pull towards North Korea is more than an emotional one. Seoul was only a few hours away from Pyongyang, yet they could never contact her uncle again. They don’t even know whether he made it through the War, the Famine in the 90s or just regular life. 

But being an English Professor in Pyongyang was not easy amidst extremely strict rules & heavy duty monitoring. Not fun when every email you send (the teachers were thankfully allowed internet access!) is read by a monitor.

On top of that, the students’ vehemence in believing that their country is  superior & simply the best in everything from food to apples to language is pitiful, almost comical.

Does Suki Kim manage to expand the students’ awareness? Does she find a human connection? Does she indeed spark a revolution in spite of the fact that every North Korean was drilled to hate Americans & South Koreans?

And did she find her uncle after all?

When will this dystopian have an ending?

Globetrotting with Books: The Series & Link Up

More Books Exploring Countries & Cultures:

 Dominican Republic |   Bulgaria  |  Pakistan  | Turkey  |  Iran  |  
 North Korea |  Indonesia |  Full List (+Linky) 

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Until later! Stay in touch!


  1. Fascinating subject and country, it's hard to even get your head around what it must be like to live there so cluelessly. It sounds like an interesting read #bigpinklink

  2. This sounds like a very interesting read. I have often wondered about North Korea because it is such a closed community that one knows very little about it at all. Thanks for sharing with #bigpinklink

  3. I've got to be honest - I haven't even managed to pick up a book (let alone read one) since having Arthur .... I really wish I had the time but I don't, and when I do read I get so engrossed in the story it's like the world doesn't even exist....not possible with a toddler lol! #fartglitter

  4. Sounds like a fascinating book. I have always been intrigued by North Korea and how closed and isolated their country and citizens are. It must be such a different world to the one that we are accustomed to. Interesting post. Thanks for sharing with #fartglitter x