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Yeonmi Park: North Korean Defector

North Korea, March 31, 2007; Yeonmi Park and her mother, Byeon Keum Sook, crossed the frozen Yalu River, which lays on the border with China, in the dead of night. With guards posted every 100 feet or so to shoot defectors on sight, their smuggler paid to have them look the other way. Once on the other side Yeonmi, then just thirteen years old, and her mother only had a vague idea what to do next. Their journey would not be an easy or pleasant one. Now in 2015, 22 year old Yeonmi has released the book In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom, which details her experiences from when she was a teenager trying to flee from an oppressive regime and survive.
Life in North Korea was devastating, especially because of a famine that had overtaken the country. At one time her father, Park Jin Sik, who died from untreated colon cancer months after he joined Yeonmi and her mother, was a civil servant for the ruling Working Party. Eventually it was found out that he was smuggling scrap metal to feed his starving family and he was sentenced to 17 years in a labor camp.
Once Yeonmi and her mother made the decision to defect, the journey ended up lasting for over two years and included sex trafficking, abuse, and starvation. The man who smuggled them across the border into China later turned on them, raping Yeonmi’s mother before selling her. He kept Yeonmi, eventually getting her to agree to become his mistress; in exchange he would buy back her mother. The smuggler kept his promise, plus smuggled her father into China. Finally, he let them go after “falling in love” with Yeonmi.
They finally made it to Seoul, by way of Mongolia, which is where they reunited with Yeonmi’s sister.

  1. Michael Whyte says:

    Seoul is where Yeonmi found her voice and ultimately became a high-profile speaker and activist on Youtube against the regime of North Korea. Yeonmi’s older sister, Eunmi, fled from North Korea separately at age 16 before she and her mother did. I can guarantee from having a good look at what has tried to accomplish in a few years and how it plans to do that for a long time.