Yeonmi Park has lived through many incredible experiences in just 21 years. She was born in North Korea, a country that is shrouded in mystery and under the harsh dictatorship of Kim Jong Un, who inherited his leadership from his tyrannical father, Kim Jong Il. The people in this country have very little freedom or exposure to outside ideas. When Park was very young, her family had a position of prestige, but then her father was arrested for cooperating with the Chinese government, and she and her mother plotted their escape while he languished in a labor camp. They hoped to flee the country as soon as possible, then find a way to get Park’s father out.
When Park was 13, she and her mother made it to China. The connections they had made it possible for them to get across the border despite the vigilant guard standing ready to shoot anyone trying to enter. Once they arrived in China, however, their troubles were far from over. Shortly after arriving, a man tried to rape Park. She resisted, and in order to protect her, Park’s mother volunteered to be raped in her place. Both women became victims of the thriving human trafficking trade and were sold.
Their fortunes changed a little when a man offered to buy Park’s parents if she would be his mistress. Sadly, her father died shortly after his arrival in China. Park became more determined than ever to find true freedom, and she and her mother joined a tiny group that made the arduous journey across the Gobi Desert. When they reached the other side, it was the first step toward finally being allowed to live life on her own terms.
Today, Park is a human rights activist who works tirelessly to expose the evils of North Korea’s oppressive regime and to inspire those who are still there to work toward change. She is troubled by the fact that Western media focuses more on Kim Jong Un’s wacky behavior than on the cruelty he imposes upon his people. She noted that educational system includes a lot of brainwashing against people in other countries and that citizens have very few choices. The simplest decisions, from what to wear to what music to listen to, come with huge restrictions, and many North Koreans are completely unaware of how many options are available to those in other countries.
One of Park’s earliest inspirations was the movie “Titanic.” When she saw a black market copy of that blockbuster as a child, it demonstrated to her just how open the world truly could be. She wants the people she left behind to experience that kind of freedom, and she hopes that those living in liberty throughout the world will help to create a tidal wave of change. She encourages people to see North Koreans as fellow citizens of the world and take a stand in helping them to enjoy the same freedoms that so many people in other countries enjoy today.