Korean American Books

Summaries and reviews of fiction and nonfiction books by Korean American authors,
books about Korean Americans and Korea, and Korean literature in English translation,
including some academic works and a sampling on the Korean War

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite, by Suki Kim

Suki Kim went undercover as a Christian missionary among Christian missionaries who went undercover to North Korea under the guise of educators to young men of that nation's privileged elite. Admittedly an atheist, her double subterfuge is compounded by the oppressive regime under which she became a professor of ESL. I devoured this book in one morning both for its stellar writing and for a story that grips from the get-go and doesn't let go. The rarity of her experience, and the slow burn of its impact on her character and her life are intimately portrayed, and her love for the youth she instructed shines through with to augment the conviction of her purpose in going there. It is a book of rare courage, in which betrayal is necessarily a part of its existence, but one that feels justified by the exposure of the complexity of what it must be like for even the cream of the crop to live in this cloistered land.

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