Growing up in North Korea, defector Yeonmi Park witnessed the gory deaths of fellow North Korean citizens, fought starvation by eating grass and insects to survive along with countless others in her community, and saw young girls being sold for two and three hundred dollars from the tender age of nine. When North Korea is featured in the media, be it on television or an article in the newspaper, rarely is it portrayed as the dismal, terrifying environment that young Yeonmi has experienced.
At just thirteen Yeonmi Park of nknew.org and her mother fled North Korea, via the borders of China. Although there are guards stationed to shoot all people caught fleeing the country her mother knew someone to help them cross, but this was only the beginning of their journey. Once across the border, her mother sacrificed herself to be raped to save Yeonmi from being sexually assaulted at only thirteen years old. Two years passed, and they were finally able to make their escape from human traffickers to Mongolia. A then fifteen years old Yeonmi Park crossed the Gobi desert with her mother and five others on a minus forty degree night, following a compass at first, then using the stars to guide them to freedom.
Currently, Yeonmi resides in South Korea, but has not forgotten about her people in the north but travels the globe telling her story and raising awareness for the plight of North Koreans living under this terrifying regime. She heard for the first time only years ago that all humans beings are equal and all have their rights, further pushing her to help those who were not able to escape as she and fortunate few have. She has become the face and the voice of North Koreans,
People such as Park who are able and unafraid to speak up are being credited with starting a grassroots uprising and putting a massive pressure on the leader, Kim Jung Un. “(He) doesn’t like me,” says Yeonmi, during a discussion in Dublin at the Women in the World Summit. When asked what she wanted the world to know, she replied with passion that freedom allowed her to have a voice, and that people in North Korea are dying, both of starvation and for freedom. She goes on to say that these people are just like us, they have fears and know love, and they deserve what she has now, “I want to let the world know that we are the same. And that it’s not only North Korean rights. It’s all of our rights. It’s human rights.” Parks’ memoir titled “In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom” is set to be published in late September of 2015.