No matter where you are in the world, freedom is a universal concept. People from all parts of the world hear about what freedom means and what it is like in the United States. Individuals from all over the world trek to this country in order to take advantage of the liberties and freedoms that Americans have. But many times Americans themselves don’t realize how good they have it living in the United States. Sometimes it takes the words of a person on the outside to make individuals realize their unique gift.
Yeonmi Park is a North Korean activist who speaks to audiences around the world about her ordeals escaping from North Korea. Her tale is an amazing one, and shows not only the brutality of the North Korean regime, but the lengths some will go to escape that brutality and obtain freedom.
Park’s story begins as a child of nine living in North Korea. Her family both worked for the state government, her mother an Army medic nurse, and her father in a high position in the Workers’ Party. They lived in one of the major regions of North Korea, but was then moved to a lesser-known outpost region. There the family struggled, and Park’s father had to resort to illegally smuggling goods in order to feed his family. According to Park, there was no other choice in the matter. It was either do these illegal things or starve out right.
Park was deeply moved and inspired by an illegal copy of the American film “Titanic.” She was overwhelmed by the concept of seeing someone die for love instead of the wishes of the state. Seeing the movie made her understand that not only did she have a higher purpose, but that the North Korean government was wrong in how they treated their citizens.
Eventually, Park’s father was caught smuggling and indicted by the state. His sentence consisted of incarceration and hard labor, leaving the family to fend for themselves. Park’s father served years in prison, but was released in the midst of his incarceration due to a serious illness. When he was released, he began to devise an escape plan that would get him and his family out of North Korea. Unfortunately, he was too sick to undertake the trip and passed away while still in North Korea.
Park’s family began a treacherous journey, past the North Korean border into China. But while they were utilizing Chinese smugglers, one of them raped Park’s mother. Park could only watch as this brutality was being done. Eventually, the family continued their journey to freedom and finally crossed the border into Mongolia. When they crossed, they then enlisted the help of foreign diplomats who gave Park’s family safe passage into South Korea.
Now Parks speaks at many human rights functions and conferences on youtube.com about the brutal dictatorship of North Korea. She wants to make sure that everyone knows and understands the type of inhumane brutality that goes on there, and how individuals can help to stop it through education and protest.