authors | June 28, 2016

“Calling it a memoir trivializes my reporting”: Suki Kim in The New Republic

Suki Kim’s Without You, There Is No Us is not a memoir. It’s a work of investigative journalism. And in an op-ed for The New Republic, Kim tells us exactly how far she had to go to defend this statement—to silence sexist notions that reduced her to her gender and cast aspersions on her expertise. 

In the book, Kim spends six months undercover at Pyongyang State University of Science and Technology, teaching English to the sons of North Korea’s elite. Recording everything she could by hand, Kim hammered her notes out at night on a laptop, saved them to USB sticks, and methodically covered her tracks. The book, the first of its kind, quickly shot up the ranks of The New York Times bestseller list. But the critics would not relent, calling into question her ethics, motivations, and credentials.


“As an Asian female, I find that people rarely assume I’m an investigative journalist; even after I tell them, they often forget,” Kim says. “As a woman of color entrenched in a profession still dominated by white men, I have been forced to use my writing not to explore topics of my own choosing, or to investigate the world’s complexities, but as a means to legitimize myself.”


Kim is the recipient of a Fulbright Research Grant and a Guggenheim Fellowship, and was a finalist for the PEN Hemingway Prize for her first novel, The Interpreter. Her 2015 TED talk (below), based on her experiences in Without You, There Is No Us, received a standing ovation. For the full op-ed, jump over to The New Republic.

This Is What It's Like to Go Undercover in North Korea | Suki Kim | TED Talks


To book a keynote from speaker Suki Kim, contact The Lavin Agency, her exclusive speakers bureau.

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