Posts in Category: Modern Heroine

Yeonmi Park: A Will to Survive

When Yeonmi Park was a little girl, her mother told her to be careful about what she said to others. After all, they lived in North Korea, and it had been made abundantly clear that free speech was not welcomed there. Yeonmi reports seeing a friend’s mother executed because of things that she had said about the government. As she grew up, Yeonmi listened to these warnings but also started to sense that there was another world outside of North Korea and the evil regime that ruled it. Little bits of other cultures started to leak into her life, as she caught snippets of Chinese television programming on her own TV. The Chinese children were well-fed and happy, which led Yeonmi to want to move to China. However, moving wasn’t possible for North Korean citizens. It was illegal, in fact. Citizens were required to receive permission from the state if they ever wanted to leave. Obviously, there would be no reason for the Parks to ever receive permission. Their situation, however, continued to worsen. Because they had been struggling financially, Yeonmi’s father had done some illegal deals with the Chinese, selling metals. When this was discovered, he was arrested, tried and then sent to a hard labor camp. Yeonmi of yeonmi.net and her family at home began to starve as a result. Living off of grasshoppers and anything they could find in the backyard, the women became extremely malnourished. After Yeonmi pleaded with her mother for awhile, she finally acquiesced to flee the country with her daughter. They engaged the services of a guide who would take them over the border. After making the treacherous journey safely, Yeonmi and her mother arrived in China only to be sold into human trafficking. For years, they struggled in China. Because China does not grant refugee status to North Korea defectors, they lived there illegally. Eventually, it was time to make their next big moveā€”this time through the Gobi Desert to Mongolia, where they would seek asylum. This time their plans finally worked out.