Yeonmi Park grew up in North Korea with the illusion that her world was it it was supposed to be. A few key events changed her perception and he reality, and now she is an advocate for human rights.
She said in a New York Times article, she saw a pirated copy of the movie Titanic, which changed her life. She had been told hers was the greatest country and nothing good existed outside North Korea. In the movie she saw freedom, and that began her desire for a better life.
Many people are poor in North Korea, but she lived well, with relatively wealthy parents. However, her father was jailed for selling metals to China, and she suddenly became impoverished. Also because her father was now in prison, she too lost opportunities she might have otherwise had.
In describing her life, she paints a grim picture of what life is like in North Korea. She said economic policies have created famine, and life is very controlled. She said her mother told her to not even whisper because a mouse might hear her. Even math problems in school used anti-west or anti-American propaganda. A question might ask, if you had 10 Americans and killed five, how many would be left.
People can get in serious trouble for a careless word. She also recalled seeing the mother of a friend executed publicly for selling copies of western movies.
At age 13, in 2007, she and her mother managed to escape into China. They had connections, as guards are instructed to kill anyone trying to escape. They made it into China. Her mother saved her from being raped by allowing herself to be molested instead. They were told to human traffickers.
She was reunited with her father in China, but he passed away. Because she was in hiding she could not even mourn or tell anyone her father had died.
The had to escape China as well, and crossed the Gobi desert in winter on foot. They escaped with the help of missionaries and the underground railroad, into Mongolia and on to South Korea.
Since then she has become an activist and a voice for people who are oppressed in North Korea. She said recently, as a 21-year-old, for the first time she is actually free.
“I always belonged to the states or to a man who bought me, and I have a voice now. Freedom allowed me to have a voice. I want to use this voice, and I want everyone else to use their voice, too,” she said in the New York Times article.
She added, she is not just talking about things like freedom of expression, but rather the freedom to also have choices in life as well as opportunities. She currently lives in South Korea and is writing a book about her life an experiences. Park has a website www.yeonmi.net, which has her story as well as news about her work in the cause of freedom for all people.