Quotes from Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite

Suki Kim ·  291 pages

Rating: (11.8K votes)


“Sometimes the longer you are inside a prison, the harder it is to fathom what is possible beyond its walls.”
― Suki Kim, quote from Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite


“How quickly we became prisoners, how quickly we gave up our freedom, how quickly we tolerated the loss of that freedom, like a child being abused, in silence.”
― Suki Kim, quote from Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite


“TIME THERE SEEMED TO PASS DIFFERENTLY. WHEN YOU ARE shut off from the world, every day is exactly the same as the one before. This sameness has a way of wearing down your soul until you become nothing but a breathing, toiling, consuming thing that awakes to the sun and sleeps at the dawning of the dark. The emptiness runs deep, deeper with each slowing day, and you become increasingly invisible and inconsequential. That’s how I felt at times, a tiny insect circling itself, only to continue, and continue. There, in that relentless vacuum, nothing moved. No news came in or out. No phone calls to or from anyone.”
― Suki Kim, quote from Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite


“The nationalism that had been instilled in them for so many generations had produced a citizenry whose ego was so fragile that they refused to acknowledge the rest of the world.”
― Suki Kim, quote from Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite


“I was not sure if, having been told such lies as children, they could not differentiate between truth and lies, or whether it was a survival method they had mastered.”
― Suki Kim, quote from Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite



“(As for unmarried women, I have no idea where they are buried. For a very long time, in Korea, no one talked about them.)”
― Suki Kim, quote from Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite


“They would swear that the United States was their number one enemy, and yet carrying a pack of Marlboro Lights seemed to be a sign of privilege and class.”
― Suki Kim, quote from Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite


“these lovely, lying children, I saw very clearly that there was no redemption here.”
― Suki Kim, quote from Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite


“There it is again, the mantra “if only.” I am always made aware of the alternative universe where things turned out differently, in which lives were saved. I am used to the mantra. For immigrants, regret can become a way of life. Shouts”
― Suki Kim, quote from Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite


“I sang along, but I could not help noticing that if you replaced the word Jesus with Great Leader, the content was not so different from some of the North Korean songs my students chanted several times each day. In both groups, singing was a joyful, collective ritual from which they took strength.”
― Suki Kim, quote from Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite



“Such is the condition of a first-generation immigrant for whom everything is separated into now and then, into before the move and after.”
― Suki Kim, quote from Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite


“The entire country was like a linguistic and cultural Galápagos.”
― Suki Kim, quote from Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite


“History is a record of many such irrationalities.”
― Suki Kim, quote from Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite


“For a moment, I felt a pang of envy. I remembered those few drifting years after college, taking off alone with a backpack to explore the world. I thought I was playing a dare with life then, challenging my limits, but I was scared most of the time and wept for no clear reason in dingy hostel rooms across Europe and Central America. But the years had worked their magic, and that scared girl I had been in that remote place in time had dissolved into infinite invisible threads, so thin and delicate that I could almost touch her and then lose her the next minute. Now, almost two decades later, it felt as though she had reappeared, still uncertain, still afraid. Katie”
― Suki Kim, quote from Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite


“You will need to pay for the gas. Euros, Chinese renminbi, and U.S. dollars will be accepted, but the North Korean won is used only at Potonggang Department Store or at Tongil Market.”
― Suki Kim, quote from Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite



“North Korea was the evangelical Christian Holy Grail, the hardest place to crack in the whole world, and converting its people would guarantee the missionaries a spot in heaven.”
― Suki Kim, quote from Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite


“For even now, decades after I first adopted it, English does not pierce my heart the same way that my mother tongue does. The word division weighs less than bundan, and war is easier to say than junjeng.”
― Suki Kim, quote from Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite


“there. Of course, the DPRK purposely infantilized its citizens, making everyone helpless and powerless so that they depended on the state.”
― Suki Kim, quote from Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite


“I reminded myself that I did not come from a place where mind games were a prerequisite for survival to such an extreme degree, a place where the slightest act of rebellion could have unimaginable consequences. Slowly,”
― Suki Kim, quote from Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite


“Never hint that there is something wrong with their country.”
― Suki Kim, quote from Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite



“I am often asked, “Which Korea do you come from? North or South?” It is a nonsensical question. The chance of me or any Korean out and about in the world being from the North is almost nil. Virtually no one gets out of North Korea.”
― Suki Kim, quote from Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite


“Nothing, it seemed, could break through their belligerent isolation; moreover, this attitude left no room for any argument, since all roads led to just one conclusion.”
― Suki Kim, quote from Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite


“That was the inherent contradiction. This was a nation backed into a corner. They did not want to open up, and yet they had no choice but to move toward engagement if they wanted to survive. They had built the entire foundation of their country on isolationism and wanting to kill Americans and South Koreans, yet they needed to learn English and feed their children with foreign money.”
― Suki Kim, quote from Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite


“Be careful with your terminology: Great Leader, Dear Leader, Precious Leader. Those names have to be carefully used, or better yet, just stay away from discussing them at all.”
― Suki Kim, quote from Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite


“Resignation is a habit, and it is contagious. It”
― Suki Kim, quote from Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite



“We accepted our situation meekly. How quickly we became prisoners, how quickly we gave up our freedom, how quickly we tolerated the loss of that freedom, like a child being abused, in silence. In this world, there were no individual demands, and asking permission for everything was infantilizing. So we began to understand our students, who had never been able to do anything on their own. The notion of following your heart’s desire, of going wherever you chose, did not exist here, and I did not see any way to let them know what it felt like, especially since, after so little time in their system, I had lost my own sense of freedom.”
― Suki Kim, quote from Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite


“that the unfortunate thing about losing the trivia game was that they had been caught cheating and should have cheated better, I wondered if it was possible that they had never been taught that lying was a bad thing.”
― Suki Kim, quote from Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite


“This was always the case with North Korea. It was like the bad boyfriend whose presence could never be depended on, so you always had to seize the opportunity to spend time with him when he made himself available.”
― Suki Kim, quote from Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite


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About the author

Suki Kim
Born place: Seoul, Korea, Republic of
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