How do you teach truth in a place where government creates truth? Can teaching critical thinking get North Korean students killed? These were the questions posed by award-winning author, journalist, and IVY Thought Leader, Suki Kim, who worked undercover in North Korea for an entire year. Suki led IVY members through an in-depth discussion that delved into the minds of the North Korea’s ruling elite, addressing troubling issues surrounding nuclear power, international conflict, and the effect of all-encompassing dictatorship.
Since its inception in 1945, The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has remained a world apart. All aspects of life have been controlled by the descendants of Kim-Il Sung. In recent years, however, foreign education and aid initiatives, in part encouraged by the country’s leadership, have pierced this veil of secrecy. Suki was able to penetrate the North Korean psyche by means of a teaching position at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, the “MIT” of the country. Her interactions with her students resulted in a strange disconnect: by becoming involved in their day-to-day lives, Suki explains, “you would forget that they weren’t just normal kids.” One of her surprising discoveries was that by controlling all information going into the country, her student’s conception of time was off by decades, and their understanding of history almost nonexistent. Suki attributes this to a lack of diversity in official sources of information, advising all of us to hear as many differing opinions as possible so as not to fall into a mindset informed by one narrative. Learn more about Suki’s year undercover in her discussion below, and by reading her powerful memoir, Without You, There Is No Us: Undercover Among the Sons of North Korea’s Elite.