Posts in Category: North Korean Defector

Yeonmi Park: A Bright Light That Escaped North Korea

Now that Yeonmi Park has escaped the North Korean regime and lived to tell her story, she is determined to bring awareness to the sad plight of many North Koreans. In this country, unless citizens are part of the upper echelon, they are very likely to live in poverty. As a child, Yeonmi lived close to the Chinese border and could sometimes receive a Chinese television signal on NY Times. She’d see advertisements of fat, happy children—which she’d never seen in North Korea. In fact, she’d seen a lot of starving people in North Korea. After Park’s father was imprisoned for selling metal to China, suddenly the Park family was no longer able to make ends meet. They ate frozen potatoes and grasshoppers in an effort to survive, but it didn’t work. By the time Park was an adolescent, she, her sister and her mother were all starving. If they wanted to survive, they needed to make it across the border to China. Yeonmi’s sister was the first to escape, leaving with a friend. After pulling a few strings, Yeonmi and her mother finally were able to find a guide to take them over the border. After a very precarious journey, they finally found themselves in China. Unfortunately, the man who’d brought them did not have good intentions. In fact, he was involved in human trafficking. Once the Park women arrived in China, they became victims of this terrible crime, sold to the highest bidder. However, after a few years, Yeonmi was able to persuade her captor to help reunite her family. Although her father passed away shortly after the reunion, Park and her mother then made their way to Mongolia, where they applied for refugee status. Eventually, they were sent to South Korea to begin new lives. They had to be taught simple things, like how to use an ATM card and load a public transportation pass. Yeonmi of would marvel at how luxurious her surroundings seemed. But amidst all of this beauty—and a new life—Yeonmi has never forgotten about the plight of her fellow North Koreans.