When Yeonmi Park escaped, she had no idea what she was running to, only what she was running from. Growing up in the oppressive regime North Korea, where the government controlled what she wore, watched, ate, and even learned, she didn’t even have a concept of what freedom was supposed to mean for her. Then again, growing up in the city of Hyesan, North Korea, Park was luckier than most in her vicinity. She was the daughter two civil servants for the government, and was not directly subject to the famine and disease that most North Koreans face on a daily basis.
But all of that changed when, as reported by The Guardian, her father was arrested for smuggling, removed from his position in the Workers’ Party, and forced into hard labor. From that point, Parks and her family learned the harsh truth about life in North Korea. Parks knew that if they stayed, they would be taken by execution, starvation, or disease. She dreamed not of freedom, but simply of safety for herself and her family.
Due to be released September 29th, 2015, Park’s novel In Order To Live outlines the harrowing details of her family’s escape from the oppressive regime of North Korea. In the novel, she discusses how her family was able to escape to China through the dangerous world of human traffickers and smugglers. Parks and her family faced unspeakable horrors in China and Mongolia at the hands of human traffickers, and the battle to reach freedom in South Korea was long-fought. Her novel speaks on the power the human spirit and its ability to help Park and her family overcome the terrible conditions they faced and the hope that got them through to freedom. Today, Park is an influential social rights activist and a leader of a young generation of North Korean dissidents.
While she continues to be a prominent activist, Park is continuing her education in Seoul, with a major in criminal justice. Park shares her activism and story through prominent podcasts and interviews, and plans to continue her work in shedding light on the horrors of the North Korean regime.