Suki Kim has given us a fascinating glimpse into North Korea, a North Korea that few have seen. Even though her own glimpses into the area were very limited, you can get a very good sense of the lack of freedom or privacy and the extreme feeling of imprisonment and claustrophobia that comprises the life of its citizens. It’s like reading a very well written apocalypse novel, only this isn’t fiction – this is all too chillingly true.
The author has always been obsessed with North Korea and takes a job at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology where the young students are all sons of the elite with the secret intention of writing about her stay there. What’s so shocking about this university, besides the guards and "minders" who are constantly watching everyone, is the lack of technological knowledge these students of technology have as all they know is what the dictatorship had told them. When she first starts teaching them, they know nothing of the internet but only have knowledge of the intranet that their government has given them, where only propaganda has been downloaded. It’s a country of lies and deception and the inhabitants are almost completely shut off from the outside world. The author’s hands are strictly tied as to what she can and cannot teach her students and she longs to open the world to them but is unable to. She’s also faced with the fear that she may endanger her students by giving them information that would make them unsatisfied with the stilted life they’re leading.
I found the book to be a fascinating one and felt that Ms. Kim did an excellent job in relaying her emotions and observations during her stay in North Korea. She is a brave soul to have put herself at such risk in order to try to get information to share with the world.