While Kim Jong-un’s sister gets her photo snapped at the Olympics, the people of North Korea, as they have for decades, suffer unimaginable isolation, suffering, and oppression.
This week’s arts and culture column starts like this:
Suki Kim was born in South Korea to parents whose family had been separated by the Korean War. In the early 1980s her father, a successful businessman, suffered a sudden financial reverse and went bankrupt, a “crime” that could have drawn prison time.
She was woken in the middle of the night, shuttled off to a relative’s house in a faraway city, and did not see her parents for a year.
They were reunited at New York’s JFK Airport. The family was now poor, and the 13-year-old girl knew not a word of English.
These events make her memoir, “Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea’s Elite” (Penguin Random House, $15), of her time undercover in North Korea, teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) to 270 young males at a Christian evangelical school, all the more astounding. For in addition to being a gripping “insider” story, her work is a literary tour de force: lyrical, nuanced and haunting.