Public lecture video by Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies (ICAS). This lecture was held on October 7, 2016. Speaker was Krys Lee, award-winning author and Assistant Professor of creative writing and literature at Yonsei University, Underwood International College, in South Korea.
HOW I BECAME A NORTH KOREAN introduces readers first to Yongju, the elder son and accomplished student of a prominent North Korean family on the cusp of violent political persecution by the Dear Leader. Then there is Jangmi, a fellow North Korean who has fended for herself since childhood, often by smuggling goods across the border, now pregnant and desperate to protect her unborn child. Across the ocean in California, Danny is a Chinese-American whose quirky intelligence has caused him to be ostracized by other high school students. After a particularly humiliating incident, his father agrees to let him fly to see his mother, who is working as a missionary in China. In order to escape their circumstances, Yongju, Jangmi and Danny cross borders—struggling against informants, husbands, thieves, abductors, and even missionaries in the process—and eventually cross paths with one another. Against a harsh and unforgiving backdrop, they form a kind of adoptive family—but will they ever find the better lives that they risked everything for?