Famous writer, journalist opens up to students about being undercover

This past Monday afternoon, Nov. 9, Room 115 in Donald P. Corbett Hall was completely filled with University of Maine students and faculty in attendance for a presentation in which famous writer, Suki Kim, opened up about the time she spent undercover in North Korea as an investigative journalist.

Kim, who is the only writer to go undercover in North Korea, had much to say about her time in the country in preparation for her book, “Without You, There is No Us.” She opened up her presentation with a short YouTube video of the song, “No Motherland Without You.” The video included English subtitles to the Korean song.

“This is one of the most popular songs in North Korea. It’s almost the National Anthem,” Kim said.

From the English translation, the song depicts North Korea’s controlling nature, as well as the influence of its ruler, Kim Jong-un, who is known in North Korea as the “great leader.”

Kim continued on with the presentation and discussed her time as a teacher undercover. She showed pictures to the audience that illustrated how everything about the country revolves around the great leader and how North Koreans worship him. The pictures showed buildings, statues and posters that had the great leader printed all over public areas.

Kim mentioned the struggles she endured in order to write her book. In a country where everything is recorded, Kim talked about how she had to write early in the morning every day, as well as at night, to save her story. She would save all her work on small USB drives and SD Cards. By the time she was able to publish her work, Kim felt that her story was worth telling.

“I’ve been doing it for such a long time. I felt like I was researching forever,” Kim said.

This was Kim’s first time ever speaking at UMaine. The presentation was followed by a Q&A session that lasted for almost half an hour.

“I really enjoyed talking to the UMaine Community. It was such an enthusiastic audience,” Kim said.

“I would say Suki Kim’s presentation was remarkable,” Priscilla Dimitre, a graduate student in the School of Policy and International Affairs, said. “For me to hear all of her stories that she went through, to go to another world, and be able to talk to students and faculty about her experience in such a straight-forward way, is amazing.”

Kim tells her story in greater depth in her book, “Without You, There is No Us.” The book was released last year, and was a New York Times Best Seller. Kim’s writing has helped her travel all over the world as an investigative journalist.

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