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Yeonmi Park Tells Story of Survival and Life in North Korea

Posted on 4 February, 2016  in North Korean Defector

Yeonmi Park looks like an ordinary college student. Her soothing voice and quiet smile hide the past that she is still somewhat reluctant to talk about it. Reluctant not because she is shy, but because she fears for the lives of her family members. Yeonmi is a defector from North Korea. Yeonmi was just thirteen when she and her mother escaped the rule of notorious Kim Jong-un. While many Americans make jokes about Kim Jong-un’s appearance, the fear of his cruel dictatorship is still seen in Yeonmi’s eyes, and it resonates in her voice. “He is not a joke to me,” Yeonmi said tearfully on the Reason. “He has killed so many people and still has 25 million more.” Yeonmi herself had been a witness to the murderous intent of the Kim regime. She witnessed numerous government-ordered executions as a child, including the shooting execution of her friend’s mother. The woman had been sentenced to death for possessing a James Bond film. “We are supposed to see only what the regime wants us to see,” Yeonmi said. “We know only what they want us to know.” The smuggling of goods such as electronics, DVDs, and metals increased during the 90s, a time when great famine swept the country. The funds generated this way often went to obtain extra food or was used to relocate families out of the country. Yeonmi’s father was imprisoned for smuggling precious metals, and the rest of her immediate family fled to avoid starvation. Yeonmi and her mother paid smugglers to guide them to China. They faced many dangers during their journey, but they still were not safe when they arrived. They had entered the country illegally and the smugglers took advantage. Yeonmi and her mother were raped and enslaved. Several years later, their captor grew tired of the mother and daughter, releasing them. Yeonmi Park  and her mother attempted to trek to South Korea by passing through Mongolia. They were detained and threatened with deportation to their home country but were sent to South Korea instead. Yeonmi enrolled in college and became an engaged public speaker. She now speaks around the world of the horrors of living in North Korea.