PUST’s un-Christian attacks on Suki Kim

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.


  1. I read this book the other week and it was a very interesting perspective, and to me it comes across as very genuine. Highly recommended reading for anyone on this blog.

  2. Fully endorse this as the yardstick for judging all engagement initiatives with North Korea, past present and by posterity: “As you analyze whether any “engagement” project with North Korea is beneficial, ask yourself who changed who.”

  3. She is going to be on The Daily Show tomorrow (Wednesday) night with her slanderous lies about my strong and prosperous nation.

  4. The book doesn’t break any new ground about North Korea being a totalitarian hell-hole.
    What’s interesting is the glimpse at the sons of the ruling class. Their lack of knowledge is astounding.

  5. Mr. Stanton, I am a great admirer of you and your blog. However I believer your accusations here are off-base. Though I understand your concerns about PUST and its engagement with the North Korean government this is not a case of Dr. Kim of PUST wishing to censor Ms. Kim to benefit the North Korean government.

    Rather Dr. Kim was trying to protect and even save the lives of the students of Ms. Suki Kim. The North Korean government will now believe these students are “contaminated” and at best will send them out for reeducation and at worst will have them tortured and killed. If these students survive their careers are definitely ruined and any hope PUST had for these students to make a positive influence on the future of North Korea is gone.

    Ms. Kim chose to publish this to advance her own career and to risk the lives of her students. She should not be applauded but rather discredited.

  6. Mr. Kim, I appreciate the thoughtfulness of your comment, but consider: if what you say is true — and I have no reason to doubt that it is — doesn’t it mean that PUST is (a) incapable of changing anything for the better, and (b) by itself, a great risk to the same students?

  7. If one believes in the New Testament, ALL Christians are called to be missionaries. Many of us fail to do our jobs correctly; but that’s what the Bible says we are to do.

  8. Mr. Stanton thank you for responding. You ask some good questions.

    I am not saying I endorse PUST’s mission. I do agree though with what PUST did in pleading with Suki Kim not to publish her book which in my opinion was self-serving (I have yet to read your latest post about Suki Kim).

    I think it is possible that PUST could make a difference in the lives of their students even within the confines of an oppressive North Korean regime. I do agree that PUST opens up risk but wouldn’t you agree that risk exists almost anywhere in North Korean society? If you were being taught by a native North Korean who fled and ended up in South Korea then you and your fellow students would probably be at risk also.

    My point was just a disagreement with your statement that PUST was censoring and taking on the character of the North Korean government. I believe PUST has good intentions and were doing this to protect their students.

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