Yeonmi Park: Survivor and World Changer
At a mere 21 years of age, young Yeonmi Park has become a voice of inspiration to an entire nation. Born into a world of priveledge that was quickly eroding under the regime of Kim Jong-Il, Yeonmi was taught from a very young age to hate all things foreign and exhibit blind devotion toward her Dear Leader. In school, she would frequently be given math problems to solve, like: if there are 12 Americans and you kill 6 of them, how many are left? At the same time she was being taught to worship her Dear Leader, however, she was also witnessing unmentionable atrocities, such as her best friend’s mother being shot by a firing squad.
Eventually, her parents were forced to smuggle precious metals into China just to survive. In 2002, however, her father was arrested and sent to a labor camp. There, he was brutally tortured and soon became ill. It didn’t take long to realize that the only way to survive was to escape North Korea.
By the end of winter 2007, Yeonmi’s sister was prepared to be the first to make the treacherous trek across the frozen river into China. She was soon followed by Yeonmi and her mother. The hardships they endured while hiding from Chinese authorities, whose aim was to track down escapees and send them back to North Korea, was unimaginable. Yeonmi’s father eventually made his way to them, but died soon after of colon cancer and Yeonmi was forced to bury him on the side of a mountain. Yeonmi’s mother was raped by traffickers and her sister was lost and assumed to be dead.
Finally, after two long years of horror and hardship, Yeonmi and her mother made their slow, painful way across a broad stretch of the Gobi desert into Mongolia, where they found refuge at the South Korean embassy. Beyond all odds, her sister Eunmi managed to make her way to them five years later, and they reunited in Seoul, Korea.
Yeonmi is determined to shed light on the brutal conditions found in North Korea and to do everything she can to make sure her people are not forgotten and their plight is made known. She believes that her generation, known as the “Black Market Generation,” is the key to change. Young people are rapidly becoming exposed to grassroots capitalism despite the best efforts of an oppressive regime to stop it, via the long reaching tentacles of Western media.
Yeonmi’s goal is to raise awareness of the brutal conditions people in her country are living under, to gain the support of outside forces that will demand an end to the oppressive regime that continues to monopolize her country. A regime that relies on deliberate starvation, total repression, forced labor camps and institutionalized atrocities to maintain its grip of power. Yeonmi often quotes Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., who said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Yeonmi Park is currently living in Seoul, South Korea, and is planning on publishing a book about her life..