Yoenmi Park: Korean Hero, Activist and Inspiration

It has long been known that North Korea is one of the most isolated places in the world, with human rights activists, dissidents and brave reporters giving us just a glimpse of the unimaginable horror that goes on within it’s confines. Recounts of forced labor and active concentration camps, torture, starvation, and even murder abound. For most of us, the notion that a place like this exists in today’s day seems inconceivable, but it’s a harsh reality that their people face on a daily basis.

Yeonmi Park, is one of the lucky ones who got to escape that life. Born into a family who was a part of the elite, working social class, her early life was filled with luxuries (things that we take for granted in the modern world) that most people of North Korea unfortunately have never gotten to experience. Her father worked as a member of Hyesan town hall, and her mother was a nurse for the North Korean Army. She quickly was exposed to the reality of what her government was truly like after her father was detained and sent to a concentration camp for allegedly participating in illicit business practices.

During her father’s captivity Yeonmi and her family experienced many struggles and hardships. When he was finally released, he and his family decided to embark on a harrowing escape from their home country. They bravely headed north to China (which is extremely dangerous as China still remains an active ally to North Korea despite it’s notorious treatment of it’s citizens). Her father lost his battle to disease in China and they braved their way forward to South Korea (a safe haven for those whom have been lucky enough to escape the tyrannical regime).

Now living happily in Seoul, South Korea, she is an activist and television host who proudly speaks out against the northern regime. She has said that at first, she was afraid to even think negative thoughts about Kim Jong Un or his regime, because she actually believed that he could read her thoughts and would be able to track her down and have her brought back and punished. In an interview, she tearfully expressed that she has missed so much of her life and now enjoys experiencing things like self expression and social media.

BBC shared Park’s upcoming book, “In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom,” is her story. It’s a book about the struggles of her family and her people; their journey. A story about the pain of captivity, and the joy of discovering freedom. Her work as a defector and activist make her both a hero and an inspiration.

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