Born and raised in Seoul, Suki Kim posed as an English teacher at an all-male university in Pyongyang run by evangelical Christians; she spent six months teaching the 19-year-old sons of North Korea’s ruling class. In this excerpt from her investigative memoir, she describes the experience.
“Essay” was a much-dreaded word among my students. It was the fall of 2011, and I was teaching English at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology in North Korea. Two hundred and seventy young men, and about 30 teachers, all Christian evangelicals besides me, were isolated together in a guarded compound, where our classes and movements were watched round the clock. Each lesson had to be approved by a group of North Korean staff known to us as the “counterparts.” Hoping to slip in information about the outside world, which we were not allowed to discuss, I had devised a lesson on essay writing, and it had been approved.
I had told my students that the essay would be as important as the final exam in calculating their grade for the semester, and they were very stressed. They were supposed to come up with their own topic and hand in a thesis and outline. When I asked them how it was going, they would sigh and say, “Disaster.”
Read it all here.