Human rights activist Yeonmi Park has been on different platforms around the world, sharing her message of freedom. She is adored by freedom lovers and many who have heard and been inspired by her incredible journey to freedom. She has been featured on the Washington Post, has appeared as a guest on SBS insight, Radio Free Asia, Voice of America and BBC2. She appears regularly on Now on My Way to Meet You, a television show that attempts to mend differences between South Koreans and North Koreans.
Currently, Park lives in South Korea. She is a criminal justice junior student at Dongguk University. Born in Hyesan North Korea, Park and her family had to escape the country after life became unbearable. When Park was only 13 years old, North Korea was going through troubling times. With Kim Jon Un as the leader, the regime was extremely harsh to the citizens. Freedoms such as self-expression and movement were foreign to the citizens. Everything they did was being closely monitored.
Even the smallest mistakes were not spared; heavy punishment was meted to individuals who dared commit these mistakes. The punishments would range from imprisonment to death. Park’s father was not very lucky. He was arrested on allegations of smuggling. That is when everything started to go wrong for the family. When it became apparent that chances of survival in North Korea were slimming by the day, the family decided to escape to China.
Passing across a river to avoid being detected by the armed guards who were positioned at the border with instructions to shoot anyone who dared to escape, Park and her mother got to China. Her father joined them later. Life in China was no better. Park was almost raped, her mother was raped while she watched and her father succumbed to cancer. Park also got to experience the horrors of human trafficking for the first time.
Their final destination was South Korea, but they had to brave the extremely cold temperatures in Gobi desert, where they crossed to get to South Korea together with another group of people. It was in South Korea that Park found her lost freedom. For the first time, she felt free; she no longer belonged to the state.
It is Park’s mission to fight for the freedom of the people of North Korea who are not as lucky as she is. She shares her story wherever she goes, and raises awareness about the plight of the people back in her country. The 21 year old has touched the lives of many and inspired a lot more. She has become a voice for the oppressed.
There are those who are not happy with Park speaking out against the oppression in her country. Some have hurled threats at her, while others have tried to poke holes in her version of the story. However, she still soldiers on. She has a new book titled In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom