Truth, Propaganda and Memory

A mix of North Korea watchers and writers gathered together on March 24, 2015 at Asia Society Northern California. Asia Society of Southern California’s own Jonathan Karp led our panel of journalist, fiction writer, North Korean defector-memoirist and diplomat to explore the blurred lines among lies, truth, propaganda and memory. Showing images of the scars that Shin Dong-hyuk had endured at the hands of his torturers, Blaine Harden, the former Washington Post journalist and writer of two books on North Korea enumerated the challenges of writing about Shin, who has admitted to fabricating parts of his story of survival and escape from North Korea. Adam Johnson, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Orphan Master’s Son, spoke of the imperative of “[giving] voice to the most silenced people in the world.” Joseph Kim related his happy memories of a rich and loving family life before famine struck in North Korea and how he lost contact with his entire family thereafter. Mike Cowin, former Deputy head of missions for the British Embassy in Pyongyang noted that “people [in North Korea] know where the lines are drawn, and they will obey.” In such a world, “truth” and “lies” then, become matters of material benefit, cost and even survival. 

Didn't make it to the program? You can view the complete footage below: (1 hr., 31 min.)

Video Clip: Blaine Harden Discusses Retractions by North Korean Prison Camp Survivor Shin Dong-hyuk:

To read more on Blaine Harden, visit the Asia Blog.