Late last year, a relatively unknown North Korean defector named Yeonmi Park spoke at the One Young World Summit in Dublin, Ireland. She shared her story with emotion and compassion. The brutality and harshness of the North Korean regime is common knowledge, but the exact specifics are often never described. Ms. Park, with her heartfelt testimony, has shed light on how terrible conditions are in the North Korean dictatorship.
Speaking to a large audience in a trembling voice, she told story after story of the abuse her family and friends suffered. As a nine year old child, she witnessed the public execution of a family friend. At 13, while fleeing from North Korea into China, her mother was raped in front of her by human traffickers. To talk openly about these horrific acts of abuse speaks volumes about her courage and ability to overcome overwhelming odds. Living through situations like these will either harden a person’s heart, or compel them to want to help others. Thankfully, Yeonmi Park has chosen the latter. She has made it her mission to share her experience, strength, and hope to the world. An autobiography detailing her life in North Korea, and her eventual defection to the United States, has recently been released. The book has been praised for its honest testimony and forthright language.
In January of this year, North Korea released an 18 minute propaganda video in an attempt to discredit Ms. Park. This attack was created by the North Korean government controlled media, and uploaded on its website. In the video, they call her a human rights propaganda puppet. These tactics are a typical lash back from North Korea. According to the dictatorship, the defectors are brainwashed by the West to lie about being mistreated in their home country. Perceived public image is vitally important to the North Korean government.
At first, Ms. Park was apprehensive about sharing the whole truth of her experience. It is considered shameful in her culture to be the victim of human trafficking, particularly in regards to being trafficked by China. At the time, she felt that this part of her journey would eradicate any hope for a normal life. She has since changed her mind, feeling that revealing the whole truth is the only way to get her entire message across. Coming to terms with this, she now shares her entire defection with transparency.
The heroism of Yeonmi Park, and her desire to help others suffering abuse is an incredible indication of the strength of her spirit. She has turned her mess into a message of hope and perseverance. Her involvement in the area of human rights will continue to grow. The fresh, young, and unique life experience she has at such a young age will grant her even more wisdom as she moves on with her life.