2 Matching Annotations
  1. Dec 2018
  2. Jun 2016
    1. Title: The Reluctant Memoirist | New Republic

      Keywords: south korea, north korea, korean origin, investigative journalism, gathering information, push back, adoptive home, returned home

      Summary: After six months, I returned home with 400 pages of notes and began writing.<br>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.”<br>I immediately emailed my editor.<br>I later learned that memoirs in general sell better than investigative journalism.<br>I tried to push back.<br>“You only wish,” my agent laughed.<br>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.<br>The content of my work was what really mattered, I told myself.<br>The evangelical organization wanted to protect its close ties to the North Korean regime and the country’s future leaders.<br>The code of ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists states that reporters should “avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information unless traditional, open methods will not yield information vital to the public.” It is hard to imagine any subject more vital to the public, or more impervious to open methods, than the secretive, nuclear North Korea; its violations against humanity, the United Nations has declared, “reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.” My greatest concern had been for my students, and I had followed well-established journalistic practices to ensure that they would not be harmed.<br>They called me “deeply dishonest” for going undercover.<br>My inbox began to be bombarded with messages from strangers: “Shame on you for putting good people in harm’s way for your gain.” One morning, I woke up to a Twitter message that read, simply: “Go fuck yourself.”<br>The ethics of her choice cast doubt on her reliability (another de facto peril of memoir), and her fear of discovery appears to have colored her impressions and descriptions with paranoia and distrust.”<br>My book was being dismissed for the very element that typically wins acclaim for narrative accounts of investigative journalism.<br>The backlash extended well beyond the media.<br>Why did people with no real experience of North Korea feel such a passionate need to dismiss my firsthand reporting and defend one of the world’s most murderous dictatorships?<br>Orientalism reigns.<br>What struck me was not whether the review was positive, but the selection of the reviewer, a former TV columnist of Korean origin, whose only past book-length nonfiction was on South Korean popular culture.<br>As an Asian female, I find that people rarely assume I’m an investigative journalist; even after I tell them, they often forget.<br>Such gender discrimination can manifest either positively or negatively.<br>“If I had written a highly detailed book about being embedded with a troop,” she said, “the magnitude of the actual legwork would have been recognized.” Yet she also believes that great literary journalism combines the heart and the brain.<br>I would like to report that I took the reaction to my book in stride, that I weathered all the accusations and dismissals with patience, that I understood their causes and effects.<br>In immigrant ghettos, I learned that in my adoptive home, my skin was considered yellow, the color of the forsythia that had bloomed around my childhood home back in South Korea.<br>This is why I risked going into North Korea undercover: because I could not be consoled while the injustice of 25 million voiceless people trapped in a modern-day gulag remains part of our society.<br>Here I am telling my story to you, the reader, essentially to beg for acknowledgment: I am an investigative journalist, please take me seriously.<br>