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

Tekijä: Suki Kim

JäseniäKirja-arvostelujaSuosituimmuussijaKeskimääräinen arvioMaininnat
8438726,034 (3.89)99
Biography & Autobiography. History. Politics. Nonfiction. HTML:A haunting account 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 gone undercover as a missionary and a teacher. Over the next six months, she will eat three meals a day with her young charges and struggle to teach them English, 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 a
… (lisätietoja)
  1. 10
    Suljettu maa : elämää Pohjois-Koreassa (tekijä: 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
    A Kim Jong-Il Production: The Extraordinary True Story of a Kidnapped Filmmaker, His Star Actress, and a Young Dictator's Rise to Power (tekijä: Paul Fischer) (akblanchard)
  3. 00
    Toward peaceful unification : selected speeches (tekijä: Chung Hee Park) (bks1953)
  4. 00
    Ivan Denisovitšin päivä (tekijä: Alexander Solzhenitsyn) (bks1953)
  5. 00
    Orpokodin poika (tekijä: Adam Johnson) (Limelite)
    Limelite: 2013 Pulitzer winning novel about bleak schizophrenic lives led by North Koreans under tyrannical dictatorship.
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englanti (86)  saksa (1)  Kaikki kielet (87)
Näyttää 1-5 (yhteensä 87) (seuraava | näytä kaikki)
This is a memoir/investigative piece by Kim, who spends two semesters in North Korea teaching English to elite college men. The tension this entire book is under is sometimes dizzying. Kim walks a careful line between winding to find out as much about North Korea as she an and not wanting to arouse suspicion. She wants to tell these young men as much about the outside world as she can, but is held back both by restrictions on what she is allowed to teach/discuss, as well as the fear that she might make them more miserable in the end, as they currently seem to buy into the myths of North Korea's superiority over the rest of the world. (As for what current means in the context of this book, it ends shortly after the death of Kim Jong-il in 2011.) Add in that the school is run by Evangelical Christians (which she is not), and that all of her emails, phone calls, and most conversations are monitored, and the levels of secrecy, self-censorship, and faked opinions/identity/facts, quickly become suffocating.

I wish I hadn't left this on my shelves so long before reading it, but I am glad to have read it now. Reading it right after my Scientology binge was interesting, as there were a lot of unexpected parallels in the cult of personality and some of the mind/reality control. (Obviously, there are a lot of differences, too. But maybe only because LRH was never successful in taking over an entire country.)

An intriguing counterpart to all of the memoirs of defectors and refugees. ( )
  greeniezona | May 29, 2023 |
Without You There Is No Us/Suki Kim This description of the author’s time in North Korea allows us to enter a world we know little about. While there are some details I want to know more about, she includes a lot of interesting small details. She talks enough about herself to want me knowing more but not to satisfy me.I'm entirely fascinated by North Korea. It's a location very few people are lucky enough to enter, and I was extremely jealous of Suki. However, this book is hard to read as memoir. At times it feels like there’s either too much or not enough detail about the author herself. We hear a lot about her love life and how she feels lonely, but we don’t get specific details about how she had recently broken off an engagement or about how she got to know the person she’s rekindling a flame with. I'd want her to either cut all of her personal life out or make it relevant and work it in.is is a very real look at a lifestyle very few others can imagine. As it stands, this book is about Suki and about North Korea whereas it would be much easier to read if these details intertwined.There are many details that lend this book a feeling of reality, small things like these are juicy, but these details are all that really keeps the book moving. Some details that are thrown in could be expanded more. I think it'd be more interesting to interview the author to really get a sense of what each reader individually would be interested in. ( )
  whakaora | Mar 5, 2023 |
Eleinte úgy éreztem, lyukra futottam – szerettem volna valami elemzést olvasni Észak-Koreáról, ehelyett kaptam egy elemzést egy koreai-amerikai hölgy távkapcsolati nehézségeiről. Aztán rájöttem, hogy ezt a könyvet nem szakirodalomként, hanem szépirodalomként helyesebb olvasni (mert van egy kapcsoló a fejemben, amivel ezt szabályozni lehet, bizony), és onnantól kezdve már működött a szöveg. Nyilván nem volt hátrány, hogy Suki Kimnek különben remek, szenzitív stílusa van, és hogy végül tényszerűen megérkezett az észak-koreai elit egyetemre, amit a fülszöveg beígért nekem. Meg aztán a szerző valójában nagyon is tisztességesen jár el – hiszen ő újságíró, nem pedig gazdaságtörténész vagy szociológus, és vélhetően mindenki úgy jár jobban, ha nem is álcázza magát annak. Publicistának viszont tényleg ügyes, úgyhogy írjon csak arról, amit lát, ne mélyelemezzen, ha nem akar – majd mélyelemzek én. (Ha akarok.)

Amúgy külön értéke a műnek, hogy nem az emigránsok oldaláról közelíti meg Észak-Koreát, hanem röpke betekintést nyújt a pártfunkcik gyerekeinek világába – vagyis azokéba, akik majd az ország krémje lesznek, ha a Bölcs Vezér nem végezteti ki őket addig (ami amúgy szokása). Nyilván van egy olyan erős (néha túl erős) üzenet, hogy ezek a srácok épp olyan fiatalok, mint bárki más, és ha a hatalom nem telepedne rájuk az agyleszívó propagandájával, talán még normális életet is élhetnének – így viszont a legerősebb érzésünk irántuk a szánalom*. Merthogy ezek a fiatalok egy olyan helyenként brutális, helyenként pedig nevetségesen groteszk nyomásnak vannak kitéve**, ami még a Kádár-korszak ismeretében is valószerűtlen hatást kelt. Ezeknek az elemeknek a visszafogott, mégis érzékletes megjelenítéséért mindenképpen érdemes volt elolvasni ezt a könyvet. Mindenesetre tapasztalataimat, remélem, nem kell majd hasznosítanom.

* Az például, hogy ezek az egyetemisták nyakra-főre hazudoznak amerikai tanáraiknak arról, hogy milyen vagány dolgokat csináltak hétvégén (holott épp krumplit gazoltak hajnaltól sötétedésig a nagyvezír parancsára), nagyon emberi. Én legalábbis csak úgy tudom értelmezni ezt, mint a szégyen és a megfelelési kényszer megnyilvánulását valakivel szemben, akinek nyilvánvalóan teljesebb élete van.
** Már maga az is milyen groteszk, hogy a fiúk angolul tanulnak, holott ha százból egy közülük átlépheti majd a határt, akkor már sokat mondtam. Ilyen erővel akár óegyiptomi dialektusban is megtanulhatnának beszélni, hisz kábé ugyanannyi óegyiptomi kószálhat per pillanat Észak-Koreában, mint angolszász. ( )
  Kuszma | Jul 2, 2022 |
I've read several books about North Korea now, fiction and non-fiction, but this is the first memoir I've read, and I have to say it is the saddest book about that enigmatic place that I have read. Suki Kim takes us inside the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, where she taught English to the sons of North Korea's elites for two terms in 2011. More so than any other book, Kim's tale demonstrates how the North Korean people are trapped by their imposed Juche culture, which makes it nearly impossible to even comprehend a world where there is more to life than the Great Leader and his works. ( )
  nbornstein | Mar 5, 2022 |
I didn’t even know about this book until a couple weeks ago when I saw someone’s review of it on their blog. And as someone who has never read any book on this subject, I thought why not. But now I’m having trouble articulating what I feel.

This is a memoir of the author who worked as an English teacher in a university in North Korea. I have no clue about the DKRK at all because I’ve never read books on the subject, except listening to the sensational news items about its current leader. So I definitely went in to this to understand how the country works, from the perspective of someone who got to experience it atleast for a time. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise, but the narrative is pretty bleak. The constraints on freedom, being completely cutoff from the world, being scared to even email family members who live in other countries, the same exact routine everyday - I could feel in the author’s words her despair over what was happening and how helpless she was feeling. At the same time, she is also surrounded by evangelical Christian professors whose aim is completely different, and I thought there were quite a few parallels between the DPRK regime and the religious professors, especially in the way they tried to control what could be taught and what couldn’t, how to manipulate the thinking of other people, and how they believed in their own made up reality which had nothing to do with the real world.

It’s a world unto itself and just like the author, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to pity her students who were so brainwashed about the greatness of their country that they couldn’t accept anything else from their professor, or if I should be angry that they were just being willfully bling to all the faults. It’s hard to judge them by our moras and standards, because the consequences for them even asking a question about the outside world can be too much and their living in denial (willfully or not) is probably their best survival mechanism.

I don’t know if it was the nature of the book or the writing style, but I felt like the author’s despair permeated my head too and I have only felt dreary day after day since I started it. It obviously doesn’t help that the outside world is currently scary as hell because the pandemic is wreaking havoc in my country, and I’m trying to live in denial so that I may keep my sanity. But I have to mention that the author does get very repetitive at times, which might bore us as a reader, but I also thought it reflected the kind of repetitive life she had to live there. The audiobook helped in making me want to continue reading, because I’m pretty sure I would have ditched it if it was a physical copy.

In the end, I think this is a unique perspective because we see how the life and education of the children of the elite in NK is, and how insular and manipulative their lives are. I just think you need to be in the right mood to read it, because it’s not very engaging and it’s bleak nature can put off a reader, despite the bleakness being a major feature of life in the country and the feeling is completely unavoidable. ( )
  ksahitya1987 | Aug 20, 2021 |
Näyttää 1-5 (yhteensä 87) (seuraava | näytä kaikki)
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Biography & Autobiography. History. Politics. Nonfiction. HTML:A haunting account 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 gone undercover as a missionary and a teacher. Over the next six months, she will eat three meals a day with her young charges and struggle to teach them English, 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 a

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