Without You There Is No Us Book Summary - Without You There Is No Us Book explained in key points

Without You There Is No Us summary

Suki Kim

My Time With the Sons of North Korea’s Elite

4.3 (12 ratings)
16 mins

Brief summary

'Without You There Is No Us' by Suki Kim is a memoir about her experience as a teacher in North Korea. She gives insight into daily life in the secretive country and the indoctrination of its citizens, including her own students.

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    Without You There Is No Us
    Summary of 9 key ideas

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    It’s extremely difficult to get into North Korea.

    The first problem with investigating the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is getting in. Suki Kim had an interesting strategy: she went in with a group of missionaries, disguised as a volunteer English teacher.

    If the North Korean authorities had known she was actually a Western journalist, they never would’ve allowed her into the country. Very few tourists are allowed in, and it’s especially difficult if you’re South Korean or American – the United States is the “imperialist enemy,” after all.

    On average, fewer than 2,000 Westerners are granted access each year, and visas – as you might’ve guessed – are quite difficult to come by.

    It takes a very long time to process a North Korean visa because it has to be approved by so many people. Even after Kim’s visa was approved, 35 North Korean government agencies had to stamp it before it could be released.

    There’s another problem, too: you have to get your visa from a North Korean embassy or consulate, but very few countries have them, so you need help from a country that does. American citizens have to go all the way to Beijing to get their visas!

    North Korean visas are also typically issued just before the visitor’s trip is supposed to start. Kim was approved as a teacher for the summer semester of 2011, but didn’t get her visa until late June. Her lessons started on 4 July, so she was in quite a rush. You can’t buy your plane tickets until you have your visa, so after the long wait, you have to hurry up to get there on time.

    Once you get there, the craziness has only just begun.

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    What is Without You There Is No Us about?

    North Korea is a closed society into which very few people are able to peek. This book is the story of an American journalist who got into the country by posing as an English teacher. She recounts her astonishing experiences and paints a very human picture of the country that so few are privileged to see. The phrase “Without You There Is No Us” comes from a chilling patriotic hymn sung twice a day, every day by the author’s students, expressing their devotion to their Great Leader,  Kim Jong-il.

    Without You There Is No Us Review

    Without You There Is No Us (2014) by Suki Kim is an eye-opening memoir that gives readers a rare glimpse into life in North Korea. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • With courageous honesty, the author shares her experiences as an undercover teacher in a North Korean university, unveiling a secretive world few have access to.
    • The book sheds light on the psychological and emotional complexities of living in such a repressive society, offering a powerful and thought-provoking exploration of human resilience.
    • Through skillful storytelling, the book breaks down stereotypes and challenges preconceived notions about North Korea, making it an enlightening and captivating read.

    Best quote from Without You There Is No Us

    Locked in that prison disguised as a campus in an empty Pyongyang suburb, heavily guarded around the clock, all we had was one another.

    —Suki Kim
    example alt text

    Who should read Without You There Is No Us?

    • Anyone intrigued by this enigmatic country
    • Anyone interested in a first-hand account by a person who actually lived in North Korea
    • Anyone who wants to learn more about North Korea’s cruel and unusual treatment of its citizens

    About the Author

    Suki Kim is a Korean-American journalist, writer and scholar. Her debut novel, The Interpreter, won the PEN Beyond Margins Award. To write this book, she lived in the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea as an English teacher at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology.

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    Without You There Is No Us FAQs 

    What is the main message of Without You There Is No Us?

    The main message of Without You There Is No Us is an intimate look at life inside North Korea's Kim Il-sung University.

    How long does it take to read Without You There Is No Us?

    The reading time for Without You There Is No Us varies, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Without You There Is No Us a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Without You There Is No Us is a captivating read that sheds light on a mysterious and closed society. It's definitely worth reading.

    Who is the author of Without You There Is No Us?

    Suki Kim is the author of Without You There Is No Us.

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