Yeonmi Park and Her Harrowing Defection Journey From North Korea


As we go about our daily lives, sometimes it is easy to take things for granted. If we live in America, England, or another developed country within the world, we usually go about our daily lives without too much of a struggle. We have fully stocked supermarkets, clean streets, and an orderly society. We usually do not have to worry too much about the bare necessities. In a communist country such as North Korea, however, many of the things that we take for granted are things that they are desperate for.

Take the story of Yeonmi Park, for example. She says that for most of her life she did not know what the word “freedom” meant. She simply had no concept of it.

“To me,” Yeonmi said, “the best thing to have was enough food.

After much discussion back and forth, Yeonmi Park and her family made a very hard decision: they decided to defect from the communist hellhole of North Korea. They made their first timid steps into the great unknown on March 31, 2007. At just the ripe old age of 13, Yeonmi and her mother crossed the frozen Yalu River in the dead of night and reached China. Even after escaping from the country, they weren’t sure what to do next.

Most of her story she tells in, and the story is not for the faint of heart. North Korea was led to Kim Jong Il, who was nicknamed the “Dear Leader” and his presence and likeness were literally everywhere.

For Yeonmi Park, it was a world where everything was commanded to serve him. The walls, trees, and the vermin scurrying around her dingy childhood apartment bedroom were all called to call his name and express their devotion to him.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was when her father was sentenced to 17 years in a labor camp for smuggling metal to help feed his family. Although it has been a long time coming, Yeonmi Park is now in the United States and she is in her early 20’s. She says that even though North Korea might desire to silence her, the truth of the matter is her home country is a dark and dreary place and she is glad to have it behind her.