authors | May 07, 2015

Going Undercover in North Korea: Introducing New Speaker Suki Kim

Suki Kim—the first writer to go undercover in North Korea—is the newest addition to Lavin’s roster of keynote speakers. Kim's recent NYT bestseller Without You There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea’s Elite is a harrowing and incisive account of her time there in 2011, during the last days of Kim Jong-Il's reign. As an English teacher at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, she got an unprecedented firsthand look at what it’s like to live under the country’s oppressive regime with the future leaders of North Korea. Other journalists may be told they have access to North Korea when they visit, but, as Kim says, it's more than likely that they end up acting, unwittingly, as publicists for the government, “following a script of the regime, seeing what the regime wants you to see." The only other information on North Korea comes from the testimonies of defectors who have fled North Korea—but, as Kim points out, defectors are mostly from “the bottom rung of their society,” and the validity of their accounts of North Korean society can be questionable. 

Working under the guise of a Christian missionary, Kim spent her days at PUST locked in what she calls the school’s “prison disguised as a campus,” recording everything she experienced on USB sticks in secret. Her talks delve deep into the realities of her day-to-day life in North Korea and the psychology of the elite who were born, bred, educated in the land of the Great Leader—drawing from her experiences to reveal what it’s like to live in a world where everything is controlled, closely monitored, and centered on a single controlling figurehead. Kim had unprecedented access to a side of North Korean culture most foreigners never get to see, and her insights about the country’s culture, day-to-day mechanics of real life and its psychological effects on its citizens are as urgent as they are unsettling.

Suki Kim speaks about her time in North Korea. To book Suki Kim as a speaker for your next event, contact the Lavin Agency Speakers Bureau. 

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