North Korea has been in the news frequently in the last year or so, mostly due to the crazy antics of the leader, Kim Jung-un, and relating to nuclear threats, war and militant action. Less commonly are stories of daily life and of humanitarian interest, though these have been cropping up with increasing frequency lately. Part of this is due to the strength of those who have fled the story and been brave enough to speak out about their experiences, and who encourage others to come forward.
One such story belongs to Yeonmi Park, a young North Korean defector who escaped the country with her family years ago, and has been able to settle in South Korea. Escaping the torture and starvation was not enough for her though, once she realized how bad the situation she grew up in really was, the horrors of daily life, she decided that she would share her story with the world, in hopes of shining light in a dark, desperate place in the world.
Yeonmi grew up in North Korea; her father a political prisoner, her family decided that they should try to escape the tyrannical regime of the Kim’s. The coldest night of the year, they set out to cross the border, where guards have been stationed to shoot potential defectors. Her mother knew someone who helped them cross and to safety, or so one would have thought. As an escaped North Korean in foreign land, you are in a precarious position, and this lead to the family being sold into human trafficking. After two years, they were able to make a break for the borders of Mongolia, then to South Korea for safety.
While living in extreme poverty and starvation is part of daily life of a North Korean, it is not commonly known the extent to which it exists, or the horrors that await anyone who dare try to escape or break even the smallest law set by the Kim regime. Defectors such as Yeonmi Park have been incredibly courageous, facing threats of death, family torture and even assassination attempts, for sharing tales of their life in the desolate country. In hopes of raising awareness of their plight, and to shine a little light on one of the darkest places in the world, Yeonmi Park has recently released a book titled “In Order to Live”. The book chronicles her families’ story, from growing up under the Kim regime, the escape, life since defecting, and what others in her country are still facing in their daily lives.
Yeonmi Park and her bravery is reaching millions, worldwide, and starting a grassroots humanitarian effort as well as firing shots at the Kim regime via information and publicity. She strongly believes that everyone should know what is really going on in her former country, and continues to fight for human rights for her friends and family.