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Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with…

Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's… (original 2014; edition 2014)

by Suki Kim

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4707331,498 (3.89)87
Title:Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite
Authors:Suki Kim
Info:Crown (2014), Hardcover, 304 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Acquired 2014, Nonfiction, Memoir

Work details

Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite by Suki Kim (2014)

  1. 10
    Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick (Nickelini)
    Nickelini: Both books are compelling, fascinating reads. Nothing to Envy covers a broad scope, and Without You, There is No Us has a tight focus. They explore the North Korean regime from different angles.
  2. 00
    The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson (Limelite)
    Limelite: 2013 Pulitzer winning novel about bleak schizophrenic lives led by North Koreans under tyrannical dictatorship.
  3. 00
    One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn (bks1953)
  4. 00
    Toward peaceful unification : selected speeches by Chung Hee Park (bks1953)
  5. 00
    A Kim Jong-Il Production: The Extraordinary True Story of a Kidnapped Filmmaker, His Star Actress, and a Young Dictator's Rise to Power by Paul Fischer (akblanchard)

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Showing 1-5 of 72 (next | show all)
A Korean-American's account of her time with the "yangban" (ruling class) children of North Korea.
  Kevin.Bokay | Aug 5, 2018 |
I am not by any means anti-memoir, but I think that this book would have worked better as a more objective work of journalism. Part of the problem here is that the author is simply not that interesting. Certainly not in comparison to the goings-on in North Korea! Every time she returned to her feelings of loneliness or her life in New York, I rolled my eyes. I didn't buy this book to read about Suki Kim eating rice alone in her room. Kim comes across as self-absorbed and naive; maybe that's a little unfair since this is a memoir, but by the end of the book she was on my last nerve.

I felt that there were so many questions about the school that were never answered. How exactly did the boys get admitted to it? The book is entitled "My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite," but at other times she eludes to less wealthy boys attending. How do these boys catch the eye of whoever is in charge of school admissions? What kinds of work were these boys expecting to go into? What were their futures expected to be? I also wanted to know more about the school itself, partially staffed with teachers from a Christian missionary program. How on earth did that happen? Did the school know the teachers were also missionaries? Did the teachers ever try to proselytize the students, or were they really content with just "spreading seeds"? (A "seed," for example, would be the viewing of the Narnia movie, which was scrapped anyway.) Why was a school for the "sons of North Korea's elite" using teachers who were also Christian missionaries?

Maybe Kim couldn't get the answers to all these questions. But a more structured, less impressionistic account would have been far less frustrating. ( )
  GaylaBassham | May 27, 2018 |
Traveling internationally, even the small amount I've been able to do, is wonderful but alienating. The language is different (even when it's the same), the food is different, the entire pattern of life is different. And that's in first world, Western countries. I can't even imagine what it must be like to go to North Korea. It must be like going to the moon.

Suki Kim, author of Without You, There Is No Us, emigrated to the United States from South Korea with her parents when she was about 13 years old. She became a writer and a habitual wanderer, ending up on a few news trips to North Korea. When an opportunity came up to go there on an extended sojourn by joining the teaching staff of a missionary group running a university, she jumped at the chance. And so she found herself at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), teaching English to upper-class North Korean young men for about six months before returning to the U.S. and writing a book about her experiences there.

This is a memoir, so Kim's family history and personal struggles during her tenure at PUST are recounted along with what it's like to be one of very, very few foreigners living in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The teachers (all missionaries apart from Kim) are effectively imprisoned on campus, only allowed off the grounds for carefully arranged and supervised outings. They are constantly wondering if revealing even small details about life outside the DPRK to their students will lead to their deportation (in the best case) or imprisonment (in the worst). They know their use of limited internet is being constantly monitored, so they have little contact with the outside world. Kim cares for her students, who are eager and obedient learners, while simultaneously being horrified by how easily and often they lie to her. She wonders if they are informing on her for even the smallest line-crossing. She loves them, but she can't trust them or anyone else.

I'm not usually drawn to memoirs, but information about how the hermit kingdom works on the inside, even on the limited scale Kim was able to experience, is fascinating. I'm honestly boggled that a country in our hyperconnected day and age manages to be so isolated from the world around it. You have to think that it'll end one day, that either reunification will happen or it will re-enter the global community as its own country. And when it does, what will North Korean citizens think? Kim's students, the best and brightest the country has to offer, struggle to write essays because the concept of supporting a thesis with facts is so foreign to them. How will the North Korean populace cope with an outside so different than they had been led to believe? ( )
  500books | May 22, 2018 |
Excellent writing and eye-opening. ( )
  debbiesbooknook | Apr 27, 2018 |
Wow. I read a lot of different books every month, and seem pretty immune to being blown away by most books, but this one was rather unsettling. The very first person I knew from Korea, a gal I met in college, was a refugee from North Korea, a woman who escaped somehow as a child and was scarred deeply by her experiences in North Korea and in the course of her escape. So, I have had some idea as to how bad it is inside North Korea even before reading this book. I've read a bit of an English translation of some of the Juche texts, too, but it is difficult to imagine the bizarre world North Korea has become just from reading those texts. Without reading a book like this memoir, it would be difficult to fathom how completely isolated the people of North Korea are from the rest of humanity, not just in terms of physical separation, but also in terms of technology, culture, and basic knowledge. Even after reading this book, I still can't quite imagine how it would feel to live in such a world, where there are no facts, just information passed down from god-like authorities, information that can change on a whim, and that need not correspond to reality in any way in order to be treated as true.

The world of Suki Kim's book is that of North Korea just before Kim Jong-Il died and his son Kim Jong-Un took power, and the world has been watching, puzzled and vaguely hopeful, waiting for some sign that the new leader has more sane intentions for his country than his father had. So far, though, the veil across North Korea remains as intact as ever, and after reading this book, I wonder how much we can ever really believe of whatever we think we know of North Korean intentions and of their understanding of the world. Somehow I doubt this is a problem that will just fade quietly away in my lifetime, but at least brave writers like Suki Kim can occasionally obtain for us a glimpse at life inside this decidedly insane country, even if the impact their books have on North Koreans remains entirely undetectable from the outside. ( )
  JBarringer | Dec 30, 2017 |
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At 12:45 P.M. on Monday, December 19, 2011, there was a knock at my door.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307720659, Hardcover)

Award-winning novelist Suki Kim's haunting memoir of teaching English to the sons of North Korea's elite during the last six months of Kim Jong Il's reign — 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."
Every day, three times a day, the students march in two straight lines, singing praises to Kim Jong Il and North Korea. It is a chilling scene, but gradually Suki, too, learns the tune and, without noticing, begins to hum it. The year 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 Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST)--a prisonlike complex 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. Although she's covered North Korea as a journalist for years, the short, regimented foreign press tours reveal very little of the repressive regime, and so she has chosen to live for six months under its 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 not only from her minders but from her colleagues--evangelical Christian missionaries who don't know that Suki doesn't share their faith. But she soon grows attached to her students, whose naivete and obedience to the regime she finds heartbreaking. Over time, she cautiously hints at the existence of a world beyond their own--at such exotic activities as skiing or surfing the Internet 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 outside the university walls, sharing their anxieties about girls and their longing to see their families. 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:57 -0400)

"A ... memoir of teaching English to the sons of North Korea's ruling class during the last six months of Kim Jong-il's reign"--Amazon.com 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. Suki Kim 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."… (more)

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