This is a memoir of a woman who went into North Korea pretending to be a missionary (but was really writing a book about) teaching English to college-age boys. It’s a fascinating glimpse behind that curtain. It’s hard to imagine myself living in such a closed system, but she does an excellent job of making you feel the panic and suffocation.
There were only a handful of times any student veered from the script. During our conversation about Park Jun-ho’s birthday party, one of the boys blurted out that he liked singing rock ‘n roll, and then he turned red, quickly checking to see who might be listening. I had never seen anyone scan the room so fast, and the other students went quiet and looked down at their food. There was no explanation for such an instinctive reaction except for a sort of ingrained fear that I could never fathom…..Was this really conscionable? Awakening my students to what was not in the regime’s program could mean death for them and those they loved. If they were to wake up and realize that the outside world was not crumbling, that it was their country that was in danger of collapse, and that everything they had been taught about the Great Leader was bogus, would that make them happier? How would they live from that point on? Awakening was a luxury available only to those in the free world.