March 25th 2017


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COVER STORY Decentralisation: an undeveloped country

CANBERRA OBSERVED Millennials feel they've been left out in the cold

EDITORIAL Gas, power crises are due to renewables obsession by Peter Westmore

WESTERN AUSTRALIA Barnett election wipe-out delivers WA to Labor

MULTICULTURALISM First among equals or an also-ran culture?

WEST AUSTRALIAN LAW Domestic-violence laws disregard basic rights

INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS Fair Work Commission's disastrous penalty-rates decision

OPINION Trump-Russia allegations are smoke and mirrors

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Don't laugh: this is serious. Revival of Maoist play is a propaganda coup in Victoria

RURAL AFFAIRS Without new dams in the Basin, we're up the creek

CULTURAL HISTORY Pascal without pressure

OPINION Scope for regeneration as Me Generation shuffles off

MUSIC Dying for exposure

CINEMA Kong: Skull Island: Ape-ocalypse Now

BOOK REVIEW How maritime England lost America

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Without You There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea’s Elite

Suki Kim

$33.99


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(Crown, New York, 2014)
Hardback: 304 pages
Price: AUD$33.99

 

Book description

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 tantalising 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 of the privileged young men she calls “soldiers and slaves”.

About the author

Suki Kim is the author of the award-winning novel The Interpreter. She has been traveling to North Korea as a journalist since 2002, and her essays and articles have appeared in the New York Times, Harper’s, and the New York Review of Books. She has been the recipient of a Guggenheim, a Fulbright, and an Open Society fellowship. Born in Seoul, she lives in New York.


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