One of the best things about Suki Kim's new book is that, in many ways, it's a book within a book.
On one level it's a straightforward story of her time teaching English to the sons of North Korea's elite, during what turned out to be the last six months of Kim Jong Il's reign. On another level, it's a book about censorship, trust, fear, love and truth, seen through the prism of a school that functions as a comfortable prison.
"There was no mercy here," Kim writes. It's a description of Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, known as PUST, but also something that can be true of a family, a relationship, or even a workplace.
Kim, a Korean-American novelist and journalist, arrives in North Korea in 2011, when all the universities in the country have been closed and the students sent to work on construction sites. The 270 privileged young men at PUST are spared.
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At times in the book, it's hard to tell whether the North Koreans or the Christians are more rigid in their beliefs. Kim loves her students - who lie constantly and easily, who accept surveillance as a given, who are taught above all else to hate South Koreans and Americans.
Any attempt to correct the students' belief of blatantly erroneous information could be dangerous. So the teachers stay quiet, lest "the counterparts" - a name that seems straight from Orwell - shut down the program. The teachers don't reveal the truth: that the world does not envy the kimchi of North Korea, that other countries have reliable electric grids, that other people enjoy routine access to something called the Internet.