Rutgers University professor speaks about North Korea

Brooke Sjoberg

Not everything is as it seems when it comes to North Korea, said Suzy Kim, an associate professor of Korean history at Rutgers University.

In a presentation on Friday titled “North Korea: Beyond Fake News,” Kim described a discrepancy between the way North Korea is portrayed in American media and what she believes history proves otherwise. She related this concept to her 2013 book, “Everyday Life in the North Korean Revolution, 1945-1950,” and inaccurate media portrayal.

“On the one hand, it’s not an entirely new phenomenon,” Kim said. “In the sense that as far back as higher education goes, there’s always been an attempt to educate students in the classroom about how to evaluate sources … what kinds of sources are valid sources as opposed to what kinds are not.”

Kim proposed that there were common instances of inaccurate news regarding the country since its division in 1945. Ideas that North Korea starves its own people, is a failed or evil regime and its citizens are “brainwashed” were examples Kim said were misrepresented in the media.

“Most of what Americans are familiar with when we think about North Korea comes from the 1990s, which is when North Korea entered the American news,” Kim said. “Before that, oftentimes North Korea was perceived as being a puppet of the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and so there was no real need to talk about it.”

Once the Cold War ended in the rest of the world, it saw the continuing nuclear crisis erupt, Kim said.

“When you hear about North Korea relying on its ideology, that it’s autarchic, that it doesn’t want to look outside its borders, a lot of it is because of its historical experience in the 20th century,” Kim said.

Having done previous research on North Korea, linguistics freshman Marissa Hauser said she wanted to see how her research stacked up against research from an expert in the field.

“There are a lot of misconceptions floating around in the media,” Hauser said. “We need to take everything with a grain of salt, keeping in mind which lens information is being presented through.”

Undeclared freshman Martha Avila said she attended the discussion at the recommendation of her government professor.

“I found it interesting to just hear a talk about North Korea,” Avila said. “We don’t know a lot, and some things that we do know aren’t completely true.”