Yeonmi Park is an amazing woman who has endured more in her short life than most of us will endure in our entire lifetimes. Growing up in North Korea she and her family suffered under the foot of Kim Jong-Il. Through her childhood she was force-fed one reality: Worship their leader and hate any and all enemies of the regime. Loyalty and passion for the state was all she had ever known, and this belief was so strong that her mother had warned her as a child against speaking against the government, even in their own home because “Even the mice and birds have ears.”
As with all children, Yeonmi accepted this reality she told on nytimes that was presented to her, since she did not know any different. That is, until she was gifted a copy of the Hollywood blockbuster Titanic, and she saw an example of people fighting and dying for as different passion: Love. This view was so contrary to the state-only philosophy taught to children in North Korea that it changed young Yeonmi’s life forever. Having had that first taste of freedom, she and her family knew they would never be content in North Korea.
This feeling was confirmed when her father was arrested and sentenced to 17 years in a hard labor camp for smuggling precious metals to china in order to help his family survive the famine in 2002. This was wen they had decided they must leave the country, no matter the risk. Five years later, in 2007, Yeoung and her mother crossed the icy river into China and worked to avoid the authorities their that would send them back to North Korea. Danger was everywhere, and they did not make it through unscathed. Yeoung’s mother was raped by the traffickers that were helping them escape, and her sister and father did not escape the father until later. Her father did not survive the trip, and passed away from colon cancer in the Chinese Mountains. Her sister did not join them in freedom until 2009, two years later.
Finally Yeoung, along with her mother, crawled their way out of the Gobi Desert into Mongolia and found a South Korean Embassy to seek refuge at. Yeoung is now writing a book for Penguin about her life, and speaks on her story to anyone that will listen. She tells people of the feeling she had in North Korea that she had been forgotten, and that many people that she left behind still do. She believes that her generation, the “Black Market Generation” will be the ones to change this situation due to their exposure to western media and the capitalistic ideals that are presented within it.