Yeonmi Park can sum up the experience of growing up in North Korea with a single statement, “I didn’t know what freedom was.” Park is the latest, and loudest, North Korean defector to take aim at their former country. Park’s story is as enthralling as it is horrifying and it needs to be heard by more people. Park recently authored her first book, a non fiction account of her escape from North Korea, and it was released on Amazon.com with the title, ‘In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom’ as reported by Reason.com. Now Park is taking some time to expound on her survival story, letting people peak behind the curtain of North Korea’s oppressive regime.
It was March 31, 2007 when Yeonmi Park and her mother first took their fledgling steps outside of North Korea. This is a huge deal considering that the vast majority of North Korean residents will never leave their country. Instead they are forced to live, worship, and obey every whim of the North Korean government. Pyongyang has such strict control over the people that most of them have no idea what they are missing which is, perhaps, the greatest tragedy of all.
Yeonmi grew up not understanding the concept of freedom or a full stomach. She would watch friends and neighbors dragged off to labor camps or shot in the street for speaking up negatively about the Glorious Leader or the government in any way that was less than flattering. She was taught to keep her eyes down, her voice low, and her thoughts to herself. Things reached a fever pitch when Park’s father was thrown into a labor camp. From there Park and her mother were forced to flee the country, tragically never reuniting with her father again. He would go on to die from untreated cancer before they had a chance to reunite.
What is striking about Park’s story is that she survived it all and managed to keep the spirit required to retell it. Pyongyang is going to great lengths to discredit every aspect of Park’s story to the point that it is almost comical. Her newest book is a stunning reminder to the cruelty that can exist in reality but it also reminds us of the power in even the smallest of children.