North Korea and the "Gulag of the Mind"

Sep 30, 2016

In 2011, investigative journalist Suki Kim posed as a missionary and taught English to the teenage sons of North Korea’s ruling class. In 2014, she published Without You There is No Us, an account of the time she had spent there, an account she risked her life to retrieve. Now, she’s coming to speak in Iowa City on October 9th from 2-4pm in C20 Pomerantz Center, sponsored by the Iowa City Book Festival. 

Kim says though she grew up in South Korea, and had visited in North Korea in 2002, she wasn't prepared for the oppression she found there.

"They're controlling people on such a minute level; I don't know how you can change that world."

"What I found by really being inside and getting to know these boys, and really falling in love with them, is it is worse than my worst nightmare, the reality I found there. Because the gulag is almost in their mind. That kind of control is nothing more than the worst abuse you can think of on humanity."

And that will complicate any effort to break up North Korea's dictatorship.

"How can anything change? Because it all functions under the biggest cult ideology that you have ever seen, that has managed itself for the last 70 years, and the biggest army in the world. And they're controlling people on such a minute level, I don't know how you can change that world, because it's just covered from every level. I don't see any hope."

In this River to River interview, host Ben Kieffer talks with Kim about her time in North Korea and her expectations for the country today.