Yeonmi Park: From Fright to Freedom

Since the time she was a small child in North Korea, Yeonmi Park was told by her mother not to make waves or do anything that would draw attention to herself. After all, life in their family’s country was extremely difficult and speaking one’s mind about the state of affairs would only make life even more harsh. They had already seen what could happen to those who spoke out against the government; a family friend had even been publicly executed. Eventually, however, circumstances would force Yeonmi Park and her family to flee their native country.

The trip across the border was fraught with danger. Although the Parks lived in a town that was directly across the river from China, North Koreans are not permitted to leave their country without the express permission of their government. However, Yeonmi Park and her mother had become much less concerned with what the government would think about them. Ever since her father had been arrested, tried and put in a labor camp for selling metal to the Chinese, life had become desperate for the Park women. Forced to subsist off of whatever food they could find in their backyard, the women were eating grasshoppers and frozen potatoes in a bid to survive. They were extremely malnourished and Yeonmi Park speaks very passionately about this time in her life, saying that she left North Korea for a bowl of rice.

Once the women arrived in China after their treacherous journey, however, life did not become better. Yeonmi Park’s mother was raped by their unscrupulous guide, and they found themselves being sold into human trafficking. It would take years before the family could be reunited, but unfortunately Yeonmi’s father was dying of colon cancer. After he passed away, Yeonmi and her mother made yet another treacherous trip—this time across the Gobi Desert.

After surviving the freezing desert on, they were told by Mongolian guards that they could not enter the country. The women, however, would not take no for an answer. They informed the guards that they would commit suicide if they were not permitted to pass. Eventually, they were allowed into the country and then deported to South Korea, where they began new lives.

Yeonmi Park stands up to North Korea in “In Order to Live”

Yeonmi Park is a defector from North Korea who has been lucky enough to escape a life of utter turmoil. A life no one could ever even imagine. Poverty and Famine,Human trafficking and Prostitution are only a few of the cruelties she had to undertake and this book is her truth. “In Order to Live” is Park’s autobiography of a time where she had grown up in North Korea under the leader Kim Jong-il. She talks about how living in the totalitarian country of North Korea was brutal and dangerous.

At the age of 13 she and her mother defected to China. But,China was still not her freedom. There she suffered even more and was separated from her mother and taken by gangsters and druglords to endure years of a human trafficking ring and forced marriages. Yeonmi was passed around from different men and sexually assaulted by all of them in her quest to find peace and freedom and to be reunited with her family. Later Park’s was reunited with her family as they fled the guards and crossed the Gobi dessert to real freedom.

Yeonmi Park is studying criminal Justice in South Korea and is working as an activist for people like her and for human rights. She has spoken at the One Young World summit in Dublin and at the UN Human Rights session in North Korea where she has took her stand against cruelty. Yeonmi Park shared on the that she continues to speak out on various topics concerning North Korea and other Countries on media outlets so that she can bring awareness to the ever increasing human cruelty going on around the world. She has many views and knowledge and speaks from the heart to be so young.

“In Order to Live” was written by Park in order to remember her full ordeal. Before it had been written, this young girl had blocked many horrific things out of her mind. It wasn’t until she was writing it did she feel the true memory behind all that she had gone through.Her mother and other family members had helped her recall some of those harmful memories to finish the book. This family has suffered so much trauma, Now that the book is complete they can all start to heal.

Yeonmi Park talks of a time when her children and grand children will come to read her book and what would they think of it? She stated that “To Me, it was surrendering everything-my privacy,my dignity as a woman who wants to be a normal person.” She also talks about the ordeals of other family members being similar to her own and the importance of having family today.

Today Yeonmi worries if the Kim regime will harm her family for speaking out against North Korea. She also still has a problem with food,hoping to one day finally recover and be free from that as well.

If you would like to read more about Yeonmi Park’s book “In Order to Live”publication on you can see it here