Author Suki Kim to give talk at LFPL about how she went undercover in North Korea

Author Suki Kim | Courtesy of Suki Kim

For six months, journalist Suki Kim went undercover in North Korea, teaching English to privileged sons of the country’s ruling class. She had to hide her notes and photos from staff and fellow colleagues, and the letters she wrote to family and friends were read and edited by censors.

Kim wrote the New York Times’ best-seller “Without You, There is No Us” about her experience during the last few months of Kim Jong-il’s reign, and on Wednesday, she’ll stop by the Louisville Free Public Library’s main branch to talk about the book and her time in the hostile country.

Kim also wrote the novel “The Interpreter,” and often lectures about her childhood of being born and raised in South Korea until her family immigrated to the United States when she was 13.

Here’s an excerpt from “Without You, There is No Us”:

I am often asked, “Which Korea do you come from? North or South?” It is a nonsensical question. The chance of me or any Korean out and about in the world being from the North is almost nil. Virtually no one gets out of North Korea. It is a locked nation. Locked away from South Korea, from the rest of the world, from those of us whose families got trapped there. It is the sort of a lock for which there is no “open sesame,” and the world seems to have forgotten why it was sealed tight to begin with and who threw away the key.

The book was well received by most major publications across the country, including The Chicago Tribune, which wrote:

Remarkable … A deeply unsettling book, offering a rare and disturbing inside glimpse into the strangeness, brutality and claustrophobia of North Korea… Kim’s book is full of small observations that vividly evoke the paranoia and loneliness of a nation living in fear and in thrall to its ‘Great Leaders’ … Her portraits of her students are tender and heartbreaking, highlighting the enormity of what is at stake.

Kim will speak at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 18. The UofL Center for Asian Democracy– and World Affairs Council-sponsored event is free, but registration is recommended. The library’s main branch is located at 301 York St.