As media visibility increases for the highly secretive nation of North Korea, the world has come to know more about it through the many people that have fled its borders in search of freedom in neighboring countries. Some of these defectors have been able to use their experiences as an opportunity to talk to those willing to listen, and there are many lining up for the opportunity to do so, about their experiences under the North Korean Government. Yeonmi Park has been one such voice, and cataloged her experiences fleeing to freedom in her Amazon.com released book In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom.
Yeonmi crossed the Yalu River into China in 2007, and from there crossed the Gobi Desert and parts of Mongolia before her trek ended in South Korean territory. Such a journey, most of it on foot, would be challenging for anyone to undertake, and this feat is even more impressive when one considers that Yeonmi was only 13 at the time she fled North Korea. But her situation was made even more challenging living in undocumented status in South Korea, where she experienced abuse and starvation while homeless, all while waiting to be reunited with a father who died from untreated cancer and never managed to reach his passing.
Yeonmi has spoken to many outlets, such as Reason TV, about her father’s dream of living in a democracy and being amazed at the seemingly endless supply of food made available in western countries, things denied to her in North Korea. She also touches on the misery people live in in her native country and how they are kept in the dark about what the rest of the world has to offer them.
Having a platform like YouTube from which to speak has made Yeonmi a target for criticism. The North Korean media has selected both Yeonmi and her mother for campaigns that have fingered them as agents of the United States set out to undermine the pillars of power in Pyongyang. They do so with the expressed intent of changing the conversation about the brutal nature of life within the country.
Yeonmi discounts any attempts to remove the legitimacy of her claims, and states that all her accounts of her escape to freedom are as she claims.