Yeonmi Park carries a maturity well beyond her 21 years. That’s because she has lived a life that very few would actually be able to convey, let alone live through to tell about. Her story brings the need for a reason to consider the way we live as free individuals and her particular struggle of human rights.
When she was younger, Park lived a quiet ordinary life. Her mother and father were both well-to-do state employees of the government of North Korea. Her father worked as a high-ranking official with the Workers Party, and her mother was employed by the state as an Army medical nurse. Park and her and her family lived a very happy and quiet life. But, through the rose-colored glasses of her existence, Park could see that the regime that she and her family lived under was not what is appeared to be.
At one point, Park witnessed a brutal beating, the state police questioning and interrogating a family friend. The incident stuck in her mind, and it began to change her view of what the government actually meant to their lives.
A particular incident changed her perspective completely. In this incident, she viewed a bootleg copy of the movie “Titanic”. Park was impressed that a couple would die for the love of each other, rather than for the devotion to the state.
At about this time, Park and her family were relocated to a less affluent portion of North Korea. There, they had to endure rations, and many of the things that they took for granted in their well-to-do lives were no longer a part of their existence. They soon found themselves living a life of short supply, and in many cases there wasn’t enough food to eat. Park’s father, wanting the best for the family, began to illegally sell medals on the black market. Soon, the authorities found out about his crime and sentenced him to a number of years in jail, serving hard labor. That led Park and her family to fend for themselves.
After some time in jail, Park’s father became seriously ill. Due to his fragility, the state released him from prison to serve out his remaining years in house arrest. While at home, Park’s father devised a plan to state them all out of the oppressive North Korea. Unfortunately, he was too sick, having served his time in jail. He could not complete the journey with them, and stayed in North Korea and eventually died.
The rest of the family carry out their father’s wishes, and made their way out of North Korea. They snuck across the North Korean border, where they met smugglers in China. The Chinese smugglers were supposed to help get them across the country and across the Chinese border into Mongolia. However, what was to be a short-term ordeal, ended up coming a two-year nightmare, with the Chinese smugglers keeping Park and her family captive. At one point, one of the smugglers even raped Park’s mother in front of her while she watched.
Eventually, Park and her family made it across the Chinese border into Mongolia, and there met with South Korean diplomats. They diplomats then arranged them to safe passage into South Korea. Now, years later, Park recalls her harrowing experience with human rights groups all over the world. She speaks about the brutality of the North Korean government, and her captivity by Chinese smugglers. Through her pain, she relates her harrowing story, and through her activism is creating change and awareness of the different brutalities of North Korea and China.