Good Reading : November 2015
59 BorninSouthKorea,authorSUKIKIMisnowbasedinNewYork.ANGUSDALTONfindsouthowshecametowritehershockingexposé,WithoutYou,ThereIsNoUs:MysecretlifeteachingthesonsofNorthKorea’selite. UP CLOSE 2 GOOD READING NOVEMBER 2015 Katherine Hep- bur SUKIKIMTheInfiltrator the extent to which the insanity of the Great Leader had seeped into their heads like poison. There were technology majors who didn’t know that the internet existed. Science students tried to convince her that they had cloned rabbits in primary school. Lies fell off their tongues as unthinkingly as kindergarteners recite the alphabet. ‘The lies came out so quickly. It’s absolutely heartbreaking. It’s violence against humanity that the regime has done, forcing their children to lie. They were just youth, they were really adorable, they were bright, they had twinkles in their eyes. But they would just lie – constantly.’ The students were not allowed to leave the campus during their entire course of study – not even to see family members a few streets away. Suki, the students, and the other teachers were constantly monitored. Secur ity cameras were everywhere. Every whisper was recorded. Any mention of America or the outside world would have them sent to a gulag. If the regime had discovered the notes Suki had been taking for her exposé, which she kept on her body at all times on a USB, she wouldn’t be talking to me; she would have been thrown into a gulag, or worse. PUST was called a university, but it was more like a high-security prison. Suki shows me a video she took of her students marching towards the cafeteria for lunch, chanting a song of praise to Kim Jong-il. They’re dressed identically in military-style unifor ms and they march in perfect unison. From the distance Suki is filming, they are completely indistinguishable from each other. Their voices echo off the concrete buildings surrounding them and amalgamate into one mighty, singular voice of adulation. They are the perfect soldiers. They are robots. It’s deeply disturbing. Suki then shows a video from one of her classes that she usually would never play, at risk of exposing some of her students’ identities and endanger ing them. In this clip I can see their faces, their different expressions, their personalities. ‘He is my favour ite.’ Suki points to a boy in the front row. ‘I was so close to them all.’ Suki’s voice cracks, and two tears fall down her face. Her composure falters and she is overcome with frustration and heartache. She stares at the screen. ‘Why does he have to be doing all these Great Leader duties? He has no email, no internet, no phone, and he was just this adorably good-looking personality who was so fun. He should just be out on the street at a café with his girlfriend, not trapped where he is now. He’s still there with the rest of my students. I will never see them again.’ My heart aches with her, for the boys still trapped in that mad university, for the millions ensnared in North Korea who are forbidden to leave. Sometimes it seems hopeless. But now I know – and now I care. And caring, Suki says, is the first crucial step towards change. Revolution in North Korea must come from the outside, from us. Two nights later, I sit in a last minute seat high above the stage of the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall. Suki walks on stage into a spotlight, and calmly tells her story in front of 3000 people. And she makes them care. Without You, There Is No Us is published by Random House, rrp $19.99.
December January 2016