Ms. Kim’s recollections about PUST and North Korea have obvious public interest value for citizens and policymakers, but it’s hard to believe she told us much that an astute observer wouldn’t have guessed anyway. I think the most valuable thing Suki Kim may have taught us is how invested those who “engage” Pyongyang become in imposing a code of omerta to conceal the truth from us, regardless of the ethical cost.
But the author, Suki Kim, may have provoked even more anger among the university’s Christian educators. They have denounced Ms. Kim for breaking a promise not to write anything about her experiences and said her memoir contains inaccuracies, notably her portrayal of them as missionaries, which could cause them trouble with the North Korean authorities. [….]
Dr. Kim sent her what she described as a series of angry and distressed emails when he found out about her plans to publish the book. At least two of her former fellow teachers also wrote, imploring her to scrap the idea.
In a telephone interview from China, Dr. Kim sought to rebut the entire book.
“I am really upset about the attitude, her writings, her telling lies, her cheating us,” he said.
He was especially critical of what he called the erroneous assertion that the other teachers were missionaries. “We are educators,” he said.
If the North Korean authorities thought that the school was seeking to convert the students to Christianity, Dr. Kim said, “we would have trouble.”
“They know we are Christian, we do not hide that,” he said. “But we are not missionaries. Christians and missionaries are different.” [N.Y. Times]
As you analyze whether any “engagement” project with North Korea is beneficial, ask yourself who changed who. The evidence that PUST has made Pyongyang more like America is far from clear, but it’s very clear that the PUST administration has taken on some very North Korean characteristics.
I must put Miss Kim’s book on my list now.