When one hears Yeonmi Park speak about her various trials and tribulations as a citizen of North Korea, one cannot help but be impressed. Although she’s only 21 years old, she has lived a life that few have. She now speaks about her ordeals to groups around the world, condemning the barbaric North Korean government. Her story is a fascinating one of endurance and courage.
When Park was young, she lived in a robust area of North Korea with her parents, both employees of the state. She remembers a life like any other child, one of playing with friends and laughter. She didn’t understand that she and her family lived under the control of a brutal dictatorship. She remembers that one of her mother’s friends was beaten for a crime by the police force. That was her first indication that life in North Korea was not all she thought it was.
Park and her way of life took a drastic turn on youngvoicesadvocates when she and her family were relocated to another portion of the country. She was in an area that was short in supply for basic things for everyday survival, such as food and water. Her family, once living a comfortable lifestyle, now had to fend for everything including food. To ease the burden of hunger, her father began to deal precious metals to make ends meet. Eventually however, he was caught by the police and sentenced to an elongated prison sentence with hard labor. He spent several years in jail paying for his crime, until he became seriously ill while serving his sentence. He was released by authorities to spend the remaining years of his life with his family.
When he returned home, and saw the conditions that his family was living under, he concluded that his family had no other choice but to leave North Korea. He carefully planned a route of escape for his family, but unfortunately he was too sick to make the journey himself. He stayed behind in North Korea and eventually died from his illness.
Park and her mother began their journey, first sneaking across the North Korean border into China where they were assisted by Chinese smugglers. Unfortunately, the conditions that the smugglers provided were barbaric, and Park and her mother endured great hardships while they were being smuggled. At one point, Park’s mother was brutally raped by one of the Chinese smugglers, and Park had to watch it happen in front of her.
Eventually, the Chinese smugglers got Park and her mother to the Chinese border of Mongolia, where they crossed and communicated their intent to South Korean diplomats. The diplomats helped get them from Mongolia to South Korea and freedom.
Park now tells others about the journey that her and her mother took, and the state of the North Korean government. She is firmly committed to changing the atmosphere of North Korean politics and wants others around the world to know about the brutal oppression of the North Korean government. She has just finished writing about her ordeal in depth in a book soon to be released by the Penguin Press Company.