Review of “Without You, There is No Us”
I received this book in lieu of a review by Blogging for Books.
“Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea’s Elite” by Suki Kim is a powerful, frightening true story about a brave young woman journalist who enlists her talents as a teacher to enter the claustrophobic country of North Korea.
The title is from the overall attitude that exists in the country. Without the government, the people would have nothing. This book serves as a cautionary tale for those who desire to give the government unlimited power.
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 Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), a walled compound where portraits of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il look on impassively from the walls of every room, and where Suki has accepted a job teaching English. Over the next six months, she will eat three meals a day with her young charges and struggle to teach them to write, all under the watchful eye of the regime.
All around the world in free countries, disgruntled citizens complain that they live under an oppressive regime. Their words are hollow and laughable.
Freedom doesn’t exist in North Korea. All thought comes from the Government. Kim maneuvers through the fear and repression to help the students she grows to love.
Paranoia is pandemic in a society where you are constantly watched and everything must be approved. A world where knowledge is banned and freedom is an impossibility is a nightmare existence.
The only way to maintain such an illusion is to infantalize the population and keep them completely dependent. Kim and these young men were completely cut off from the world.
This is a difficult and heartbreaking book. Yet, at the same time, it is enthralling as the coils tighten around Kin and her students. Her desperate attempts to educate her charges while eluding the censors is thrilling.
Although you can’t help but wonder about the repercussions that will result from the publication of this book. We pray that the oppressive veil covering North Korea will one day be lifted.