Suki Kim Tells Stories from NKorea on ‘The Daily Show’

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

Suki Kim, the author of the memoir Without You, There is No Us, appeared as a guest on The Daily Show last night and described her experience teaching English at a private university in Pyongyang for six months.

Once Kim sat down for the interview, Jon Stewart asked her how she found out about the teaching position, joking if it was a “Craigslist situation.” The Korean American journalist admitted that she had pursued the topic of North Korea since 2002 when she first visited the reclusive country. When she heard about the all-male boarding school for North Korea’s elite, she seized the opportunity and applied for the job.

“I always wanted to humanize North Korea because we don’t really get any real pictures. We only get stories from defectors, ones that fled North Korea,” said Kim. She added that the only things the world knew about the hermit kingdom were nuclear threats, jokes about Kim Jong-un and Dennis Rodman.

“Is he the only thing they know about us?” Stewart jested, regarding Rodman.
“I think possibly, yes,” Kim said, laughing.


After she explained that her students at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), the “M.I.T. of North Korea,” were unaware of the existence of the Internet, Stewart asked her a pointed question: What will happen to her students now?

“These are the future leaders of North Korea,” said Kim. “They were the crème de la crème of North Korea, and they were just so lovely because I think they were also so sheltered from the world. But their system was not lovely. Their system was the most inhuman system in the world.”

As the interview winded down to an end, Stewart asked Kim if she believed her students “felt like something was wrong” with their country’s system.

“How could they not know, you know? They’re never allowed to travel within the country without a travel pass. None of them have been to anywhere, basically outside of Pyongyang. And certainly not allowed to leave the country,” Kim responded. “A part of them must have known. But if they did, they could never show it to me because it means death in that country.”

You can watch the extended interview on The Daily Show‘s website.