Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea’s Elite by Suki Kim

I don’t know if I can put into words the way this memoir affected me. I write this review with small tears rolling towards the edges of my face. Suki Kim is not just a remarkable writer, journalist, and teacher; she’s a remarkable person.

I’m still not sure if she was aware of what her true purpose was when she set out to the DPRK. Her decision to live in a state of informational isolation and teach the country’s most promising young men was an astounding leap of faith for such a bright Korean-American woman. Regardless of what brought her to it, I believe that this decision did impact the lives of many North Koreans. Not just the ones she educated, but everyone who comprises this odd country’s civic population.

I can guarantee you, no story like hers has ever been told. (Mostly because so few people outside the DPRK ever see the land themselves.) Even sitting on a large, comfy couch in south Denver, having traveled to four continents, having lived in three very different nations, having traversed a few dozen countries, I know I will never be welcomed to North Korea – nor do I have any desire for such a thing. Kim’s experiences have simultaneously confirmed and enlightened my perspective of this unfathomably complex state.

Without You, There Is No Us is much more than a memoir about a woman who left modern civilization behind to pursue a greater purpose. It is an anthology about the lives of thousands of normal people forced to live in abnormal circumstances. It is a story about human nature and our innermost desires, thoughts, and feelings. It is about what makes us human beings and what inspires us to better the world we live in – even if the betterment means bringing danger upon ourselves. It’s about courage, hope, and the deepest level of compassion.

This memoir has set a new standard of writing for me – particularly, as far as memoirs go. The content of every piece of literature should touch your heart and mind in the way that this one assuredly will.

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