Yeonmi Park has spoken about her life in North Korea, and her escape, for a few years. In September her book “In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom” was released. The book details what her life was like in North Korea – giving a rare glimpse into this reclusive Asian country – and her journey to freedom. Her talks are usually less than an hour, so Yeonmi Park can only give highlights. The book goes into more detail, and a reader can more easily think about the experiences that are exposed.
Park has become one of the main activists in speaking for human rights, as well as exposing the repression North Koreans live under. While North Korea has mounted a public relations account to try to discredit her and others, the people fleeing North Korea tell the same story of a brutal dictator forcing people to live in poverty.
Yeonmi Park grew up in a fairly wealthy family, but her father was sent to a labor camp after being accused of selling metals to Chinese, which is considered black marketing. As the daughter of a man in a labor camp, she did not have much of a future before her in North Korea.
She and her mother escaped, getting across the border with the help of a friend. From there they fled to China on reason.com. Her life in China also had problems, as she saw her mother raped, and both of them were sold as part of human trafficking. Eventually she and her mother fled to Mongolia and from there she found freedom. TO get out of China they had to cross the Gobi Desert on foot, with temperatures well below zero.
Park said the North Korean rulers control every aspect of people’s lives. They are not allowed to think for themselves, and expressing any view other than the official party line an bring harsh punishment. She recalls as a child watching a woman being executed for a minor crime.
Park also said she was surprised when she came to the Western world, to see people thinking for themselves, and encouraging children to do so. As a child she was told to not even whisper because a bird or mouse might hear her, and she could get into trouble.
In North Korea children are told the rest of the world is immoral and disgusting, and that they have nothing to want outside their country. Seeing a bootlegged copy of the movie, Titanic, changed her world view, she said, as she saw people being free for the first time. She said it showed her the power of humanity and love, and that there was something worth seeing outside the borders of her nation.