North Korea is an infamous country known for their oppressive dictatorship, heavily censored media, and abusive nature toward its own citizens. There are very few happy endings for citizens born into the country and those that are happy involve harrowing escapes toward Chinese borders where they can then find somewhere safer to call home. Yeonmi Park is one of the ‘happier’ endings but we won’t say that she’s had it easy. Instead, the 27 year old North Korean woman has become something of a spokesperson for all of the terror and danger that is so rife within her home country. Going viral on YouTube after speaking at a public event, Park is quickly becoming something of spokesperson against North Korea and it has gathered her former countries attention.
Park was born and raised in North Korea and over the span of her years she got to know a country that was deeply troubled. Growing up she was warned by her family that she was not to speak loudly or even whisper her discontent. The country was rife with paranoia and anyone who dared to speak out against the regime was immediately to be silenced, often with deadly results. The country wasn’t always this bad, Park would admit, but things had changed. After some economic turns, North Korea found themselves terribly poverty stricken and soon faced with mounting issues such as famine and increasingly abusive government officials.
During her speech she mentioned how she was forced to watch a friends mother be executed for making minor mistakes. Bodies would soon pile up on the street corners. In 2007 things got too bad. Park saw her father arrested and forced into a labor camp when he was found to be smuggling and selling metal to Chinese buyers. Yeonmi and her mother knew that time was short in their country if they wanted to survive and so they would have to get out while they could. The pair ended up getting smuggled into China by a trafficker. Once in China the trafficker sold the pair into slavery, but only after sexually assaulting and raping Yeonmi’s mother. Still, the two women kept strong and stayed together even when Yeonmi was sold as a child mistress for a rich man.
After two years of struggling through human trafficking, Yeonmi and her mother managed to escape via an ‘Underground Railroad’ across the Gobi Desert. They had to hike in negative 40′ weather for miles and miles in order to eventually get to safety. Yeonmi and her mother eventually found their way to America and it is there that they’ve begun to turn into the human rights activists that they are now becoming known as. The job they are doing is an important one but it is also a dangerous one. North Korea has already released slanderous videos against Park and there is precedent for them to engage in violent action. Yeonmi still hasn’t backed down, however, and she continues to work toward a better future for her people.