Last Year’s News Resurfaced in August 2017 with Nuclear Brinkmanship… a timely “must read” news item from North Korea
“Without You, There Is No Us”:
My Time with the Sons of North Korea’s Elite by Suki Kim
Every day, three times a day, the students march in two straight lines, singing praises to Kim Jong-il and North Korea: Without you, there is no motherland. Without you, there is no us. It is a chilling scene, but gradually Suki Kim, too, learns the tune and, without noticing, begins to hum it. It is 2011, and all universities in North Korea have been shut down for an entire year, the students sent to construction fields—except for the 270 students at the all-male Pyongyang
Kim’s reporting turned into the book Without You, There Is No Us, which — much to her dismay — was marketed as a memoir. She wrote in The New Republic recently that the book was not only miscategorized as a North Korean Eat, Pray, Love — a memoir of self-discovery by the writer Elizabeth Gilbert — but it was also trivialized. Kim argued that her investigative reporting would not have been confused for a personal narrative account were she not Korean or a woman.
“As an Asian female, I find that people rarely assume I’m an investigative journalist; even after I tell them, they often forget,” Kim wrote. “Having spent my formative years in America not speaking English, I know how to be mute; my accent sometimes makes people assume I am naive. I am good at disappearing. I am aware that such apparent weaknesses can in fact be advantages.”
Of course, all totalitarian dictatorships try to shield their populations from the outside world; that’s par for the course — or perhaps 38 below par, as in Kim Jong-il’s world-record golf game. But the North Korean regime has achieved a level of irrationality that the post-Caligula world has never seen.
To call North Korea a banana republic — the term historically used to denote little dictatorships with only one export — would be an insult to bananas. For North Korea produces nothing the world needs, and the regime knows it. Kim recounts many examples of how this global uselessness is the regime’s own fault. To cite just one, the government has, until very recently, concealed the existence of the World Wide Web.
Shocking technological backwardness — shocking because the institution they attend is the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. The students do have access to an internal network, or intranet, but it’s not connected to the Internet, and they use their computers mostly as dictionaries. The sight of these whiz kids “staring blankly at screens,” Kim writes, “was so pathetic that I was seized by a pang of anger, mixed with sadness, and soon left the room.”