Suki Kim

What can we learn from totalitarian regimes? And how can we connect with their human victims?

New York Times bestselling author of Without You, There Is No Us, Expert on North Korea

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Suki Kim | New York Times bestselling author of Without You, There Is No Us, Expert on North Korea
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

Suki Kim is one of the only writers to ever go undercover in North Korea. An award-winning novelist, Kim’s obsession with the country led her to pursue journalistic assignments there beginning in 2002. Kim visited the country five times over a decade, witnessing both Kim Jong-il’s 60th Birthday Celebrations and his death in 2011. Her six months in Pyongyang living and working as a teacher to the sons of North Korea’s elite gave her unprecedented insights into the country’s current state. Her work sheds new light on a place that has been, for the past 70 years, completely shrouded from the eyes of the world. 

In her New York Times bestseller Without You, There Is No Us Suki Kim chronicles the time she spent in 2011 teaching the sons of North Korea’s elite. Working in disguise as a Christian missionary, Kim spent her days at PUST locked in what she calls the school’s “prison disguised as a campus,” recording everything she experienced on USB sticks in secret. Her talks delve deep into the realities of her day-to-day life in North Korea, drawing from her experiences to reveal the realities of what it’s like to live in a world where everything is controlled, closely monitored, and centered on a single “Great Leader.” Kim had unprecedented access to a side of North Korean culture most foreigners never get to see, and her insights about the country’s culture are as urgent as they are unsettling. Without You, There Is No Us has been praised by The New York Times Book Review, New York Review of Books, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, and Foreign Policy, among others.

 

“It’s like no other book I’ve ever read. It’s a look into a society and culture objectively, yet humanizing, terrifying, amazing.”

— Jon Stewart

Kim’s first novel, The Interpreter, was a finalist for a PEN Hemingway Prize, and her essays and articles have appeared in The New York Times, Harper’s, and the New York Review of Books. She has won a Fulbright, Guggenheim, and George Soros’ Open Society Fellowship, and was featured on the NPR’s Morning Edition and Diane Rehm shows, as well as on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria and Christiane Amanpour shows and Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show. Her 2015 TED Talk, for which she received a standing ovation, has drawn millions of viewers online. Fluent in Korean, she was born and raised in Seoul and now lives in New York.    

Speech Topics

Politics
Undercover in North Korea
The title of Suki Kim’s most recent book comes from a song students at the Pyongyang State University of Science and Technology are required to sing three times a day, in praise of their country’s “Great Leader”: “Without you, there is no motherland. Without you, there is no us.” The book chronicles the six months Kim spent teaching English to 270 university students during the year of Kim Jong-Il’s death—a turbulent time in North Korea’s already troubled history. Kim gained an intimate familiarity with her students—and the longer she spent with them, the more she understood the total control the North Korean regime exerted over their lives; from keeping them under constant observation to forcing them to report on each other’s behavior erasing all traces of a world outside the country’s borders from their worldview. In this keynote, Kim offers an unprecedented and surprisingly moving look into the day-to-day machinations of North Korea’s totalitarian regime through the lens of her own remarkable experiences.