Yeonmi Park: A Refugee with a Voice

Yeonmi Park was 13 years old when her entire world collapsed. Although she had grown up in the impoverished nation of North Korea, her family’s circumstances hadn’t always been so awful. Although their house didn’t always have electricity, many of the other houses in their town didn’t, either. But when Yeonmi reached the tender age of 13, his father found himself in some trouble. Specifically, he had been selling metal to China in a bid to support his family. One of his fellow North Koreans caught wind of the deal and reported Mr. Park to the authorities. It was not long before he was sentenced to hard labor in a prison camp, which has been a death sentence for many North Koreans. The Park family’s fortunes changed dramatically after this horrific turn of events. Yeonmi, her mother, and her sister were all starving. The women would go outside and attempt to find things in their backyard that they could eat. Many times, all they could find was grass. Yeonmi was extremely malnourished when her mother made a very difficult decision; the Park women were going to flee North Korea. It was a very bold proposition, one that could get them killed if they were caught. But the women went through with the plan anyway, figuring that they had nothing to lose.  However, the women did not realize at the time that their problems were only going to get worse. They became victims of human trafficking, and eventually life in China became so bad for them that they decided to make their way to Mongolia—yet another dangerous trip. When they arrived in Mongolia, they would be able to present themselves as refugees at the South Korean embassy. Incredibly, their second escape also succeeded. Yeonmi Park now lives in South Korea with her family. Although her father passed away due to untreated cancer that began in his North Korean work camp, all of the Park women have been reunited. Yeonmi lives the life of a normal 22-year-old woman now, but she has never forgotten her fellow North Koreans. Yeonmi Park has become an activist on NKNews, making impassioned speeches about all of the injustices that were dealt to her and her family, simply as a result of being North Koreans. In September of 2015, she released her memoir In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom. In it, she chronicles all of the difficulties that she has already faced during her young life. However, she also discusses the inner strength that has propelled her through so many difficult periods in her life. From television interviews to public speaking engagements, to her book on Amazon, Yeonmi Park seems determined to let the world in on the secretive regime of Kim Jong-Un and how this dictator really treats the citizens of North Korea.