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Korean-American writer speaks on N. Koreans' ignorance of outside world

2014/12/08 07:51

WASHINGTON, Dec. 7 (Yonhap) -- North Koreans are so oblivious of the outside world that even some children of elite families believe that Korean is spoken in the rest of the world, a Korean-American writer said Sunday of her experiences in the North.

Suki Kim, who spent six months teaching English at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology in 2011, made the remarks in an interview with CNN broadcast Sunday. She has recently released a book, "Without You, There Is No Us," based on her unique experiences at the school.

"They, first of all, didn't know anything about the rest of the world. If any of them did, they were fearful to admit that," Kim said. "Some of the students really thought people spoke Korean in the rest of the world. So the utter, utter lack of information was astounding."

   Kim said she had long followed North Korea, making visits to the country in 2002 and 2008. After realizing that she couldn't properly cover the country on such short visits, Kim said she applied for a teaching job at the university set up for sons of elite families.

She said the students, many of them majoring in computer science, did not know of the existence of the Internet.

Kim said she was shocked to see how isolated the North Korean people are from the outside world, how much their lives are controlled by authorities, and how strong a personality cult surrounded the ruling family of then leader Kim Jong-il.

"It's religious, really. Absolute belief in the great leader, where, you know, this generation -- three generations of these men who, these hugely narcissistic men, basically wiped everything out of their culture except themselves.

"You also have a very brutal military dictatorship that's been in place for a long time, and also to wipe out every communication method, you know, there's no Internet. The phone calls are tapped or, you know, it's a small country. You can't travel within the country without a permission," she said.

Kim called the North the "most abusive nation" and "most horrific place" in the world.

Asked if the North Koreans would rise up, Kim said she is skeptical.

"I don't know how they're going to rise up. They can't even get to the next town without a permission. They don't have the Internet. They have no way of going there, transportation system. There's just nothing that connects people," she said. "So I think it is up to us in the rest of the world to do something where the system is not going to be maintained the same way."

   jschang@yna.co.kr

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