North Korea, perhaps the most secretive nation on Earth, is largely a mystery to the outside world. What few glimpses we have gotten of the nation have not been hopeful. Reports of the horrors occurring within the borders of the dictatorial Kims’ nation have been ghastly. One such report comes from North Korean refugee, Yeonmi Park.
Yeonmi was 13 when she began the journey that would inform the path her life would take from then on. Her family – mother, Byeon Keum Sook; father, Park Jin Sik; and older sister Eunmi Park – were a standard North Korean family, according to Park’s story, means that they were abysmally destitute. And while Park and her family were without food, let alone money or other amenities, they were not without hope.
After the economic downturn that came with the fall of the Soviet Union, Yeonmi’s family, along with many in North Korea, became desperate. In one interview by the New York Times, she described the food situation in her home country at the time, “It was not proper ingredients, it was whatever you had. I ate flowers, grasshoppers, dragonflies. I didn’t know they made cook books about food. In North Korea no one knows. How much food we have is all we care about, not about the taste. Everything is edible, nothing is left over.”
So when her father was arrested for smuggling, her family decided to escape. On March, 31 2007, at age 13, Yeonmi and her mother began their journey out of oppression. Her sister left just before, and her father was still in North Korea.
It was only through incredible inner, and at times outer, strength that Yeonmi survived her march toward freedom. She faced extreme abuses: sexual, emotional, and physical, along with the constant threat of starvation. Still, she never gave up. Not even when her father died of cancer shortly after finally making it to freedom.
Since surviving her ordeal, she became an activist, illuminating the situation in North Korea and the crimes of the Kim Dynasty. Her Amazon released book, which tells her harrowing story, is titled In Order To Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom.