Teaching Essay Writing In Pyongyang Sat Essay Time Limit
Something caught my eye: Below the title—Without You, There Is No Us: My Time With the Sons of North Korea’s Elite—were the words, “A Memoir.” I immediately emailed my editor.
“I really do not feel comfortable with my book being called a memoir,” I told her.
Having been born and raised in South Korea, I am fluent in the country’s language and culture, which enabled me to glean the subtleties beneath the surface, without the censoring presence of an official translator.
As I taught, I lived in a locked compound under complete surveillance: Every room was bugged, every class recorded.
I wasn’t simply trying to convey how I saw the world; I was reporting how it was seen and lived by others. She noted that my book was written in the first person—a device I had employed, like many journalists, to provide a narrative framework for my reporting.
To call it journalism, she argued, would limit its potential readership. As the only journalist to live undercover in North Korea, I had risked imprisonment to tell a story of international importance by the only means possible.
How did we feel about the spiritual journeys we had undertaken? I had no idea how I was supposed to answer, for a simple reason: My book wasn’t a memoir.
But when my book was finally published in the fall of 2014, the backlash came not from North Korea, but from a source I had not expected: other reporters.
As my publisher began to promote my book, several journalists took to the internet to denounce me.
They called me “deeply dishonest” for going undercover.
As it turned out, the moment took place in New York City, after I had finally finished my draft.
Six months before publication, my editor sent over the design for the book cover.