At age thirteen,not even a whisper was allowed from Yeonmi Park’s lips when living in North Korea.
Freedom could only be but a dream as the regime controlled everything their society did. No choice on what to wear, what to do, and how to think. Singing and speaking was forbidden. Even expressing feelings showed a sign of weakness, and she quickly learned how to hold them inside. Living in North Korea meant death for herself and her family. Escape or to be executed became the only options, leading to the decision to have her family flee to South Korea, in hopes of a better life.
Now she’s speaking out and sharing her miraculous story of survival. Yeonmi Park’s book, “In Order to Live: A North Korean Girls Journey to Freedom,” released on September 29th, 2015. She goes more in depth about the fight to keep going in the darkest country on earth. In her book, Yeonmi talks about her past in North Korea.
Park’s family had a home and was privileged until her father, who also was a party member, got arrested for smuggling. That changed the way her family, including herself were treated. The regime held a strict class. Her father being a prisoner, made them prisoners also. Yeonmi remembers starvation kicking in and eating grass and dragonflies just to get by. She escaped with her mother on March 30th, 2007, crossing a frozen river that led them into the Chinese border. At that point, they asked traffickers about where Parks sister, Eunmi, may be with no success.
Outside of Shenyang, China, they found shelter at a great-aunts home where Park’s father joined them. While the family lived in secret, Park’s father died. The family was unable to formally mourn him in fear of being discovered by Chinese authorities, and buried his remains by a nearby mountain.
With a heavy heart, Yeonmi kept going through China and Magnolia where they had to encounter smugglers and human traffickers who threatened to take advantage of her, but her mother intervened, begging the traffickers to take her instead.
Park’s finally able to express her feelings and use her words in her heroic story of perseverance and strength.
Now, Yeonmi Park works as an activist, reporter, and speaker. At the Women in the World Summit 15′, Yeonmi remarked that for the first time in her life, she owned herself. On May 14th, 2015 on Twitter she tweeted a quote by Tom Hanks. “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”
Overcoming the greatest challenges, has become a beacon to guide her safely home.