Suki Kim: This is what it's like to go undercover in North Korea
Suki Kim - Writer
Suki Kim's investigation, "Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite," chronicles her six months undercover in Pyongyang during Kim Jong-Il's final six months. She worked as a teacher and a missionary in a university for future leaders -- all while writing her book. Full bio
of Kim Jong-Il's life,
in South Korea, their enemy.
North Korea a few times.
that to write about it with any meaning,
beyond the regime's propaganda,
of Science and Technology
who cooperate with the regime
of the North Korean elite,
which is a capital crime there.
expected to be the future leaders
dictatorship in existence.
of North Korea's original Great Leader,
shut down all universities,
and prosperous nation.
spared from that fate.
is about the Great Leader.
every song, every TV program --
of the Great Leader at all times.
with the birth of Kim Il-Sung.
prison, posing as a campus.
accompanied by an official minder.
to sanctioned national monuments
to leave the campus,
and any free time they had
their Great Leader.
of North Korean staff,
every room was bugged,
portraits of Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il,
to discuss the outside world.
many of them were computer majors
the existence of the Internet.
of Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs.
would have meant a thing.
when an entire nation's ideology,
at the universities,
on the chalkboard,
China last year on vacation,"
to leave the country.
requires a travel pass.
some truth about my students,
accomplishments of their Great Leader,
a rabbit as fifth graders.
seemed at times hazy to them.
the different types of lies;
from the world,
and were just regurgitating them.
one's own thesis,
argument to prove it.
simply told what to think,
was not allowed.
of writing a personal letter,
some of them began to write
their intended recipients,
their true feelings in them.
up with the sameness of everything.
mentioned their Great Leader.
with these young men.
played basketball together.
which made them giggle.
even in the tiniest of ways,
of living in their world,
in fact, improve their lives.
their rotten regime inside out,
connected through the world wide web,
I was putting them at risk --
anything in the open,
what is unspoken.
a student wrote that he understood
to be gentle in life, he said.
how sad I was for them.
a student said to me,
as being different from us.
but you're the same as us.
think of you as being the same."
to my students with a letter of my own,
since I last saw you.
maybe even as old as 23.
if there was anything you wanted.
the only thing you ever asked of me
to share that bond of our mother tongue.
in Kim Jong-Un's merciless North Korea
encourage or even expect
someone is always watching.
what might happen to you.
inspired something new in you,
and live long, safe lives.
your city of Pyongyang was beautiful,
to hear that I, your teacher,
that you are forbidden from,
your lives there a bit more bearable,
your capital beautiful.
the rest of the country,
my lovely young gentlemen,
About the speaker:Suki Kim - Writer
Suki Kim's investigation, "Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite," chronicles her six months undercover in Pyongyang during Kim Jong-Il's final six months. She worked as a teacher and a missionary in a university for future leaders -- all while writing her book.
Why you should listen
Suki Kim is the only writer to ever go undercover into North Korea to write a book from the inside. Since 2002, South Korean-born Kim travelled to North Korea, witnessing both Kim Jong-Il's 60th birthday celebration and his death at age 69 in 2011.
Her work sheds a new light on the understanding of the North Korean society by delving into its day-to-day life and provides unprecedented insights into the psychology of its ruling class, about whom the world knows very little.
Kim's novel, The Interpreter, was a finalist for a PEN Hemingway Prize, and her nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times, Harper's and The New York Review of Books. She is the author of the investigation Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite.
Suki Kim | Speaker | TED.com