Category Archives: Escape & Survival

North Korean Defector Yeonmi Park On Her Traumatic Escape

Yeonmi Park is the co-author of a new book, In Order to Live, with Maryanne Vollers. An eye opening book regarding the cruel, inhumane treatment of people in North Korea. It is also a story about violence and control. Physical violence – prison camps,torture and rape.

Like other North Koreans, Yeonmi Park was convinced that the Kims could even read her thoughts. When Yeonmi was four, her mother told her, “Don’t even whisper. The birds and the mice will hear you. The birds will hear you during the day, and the mice will hear you at night.” The mother was trying to protect her daughter “from the terror,” as Yeonmi says — from terrible consequences. A wrong word could get you and your family into fatal trouble.

Yeonmi’s father was a party member. But “my world came crashing down when I was nine,” says Yeonmi. Her father was a member of the Parliament, he became an enemy of the state when he was caught buying and selling silver on the black market to pay for his family’s well-being. Her mother went to prison too for a time. Yeonmi and her sister were unable to attend school.

Born in 1993, Park left Hyesan with her mother in an attempt to track down her older sister Eunmi who had already defected. However, they were sold to traffickers in China where they both experienced horrific abuse. Later, when her father joined them, he died the same year from cancer in January 2008. Yeonmi helped bury him out in the mountains, she was so afraid to cry and be discovered. A year later, she and her mother made a run for Mongolia, they crossed the Gobi Desert. The South Korean embassy offered asylum. Yeonmi was in Seoul in April 2009, beginning a new life. She had seen her father die “like an animal,” she says on the Youngvoicesadvocates: “It was not a human way to die. And I didn’t want to die the same way.” She had attempted suicide. But now she wanted to live.

Yeonmi Park has used the adversities on the Reason she has faced to fuel her fight against injustice, and will continue to condemn the North Korean government until substantial reforms are made.