Yeonmi Park cried as she ran. Her feet and body ached. She was tired and in pain, but Yeonmi and her mother were running for their lives. They ran through forests, rivers, and across frozen bodies of water. They were running from the rule of North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.
Even when they reached China, Yeonmi and her mother was still in danger. They were in the country illegally and the smugglers that helped them flee North Korea used this to their advantage. They enslaved Yeonmi and her mother. Mrs. Park was raped. Yeonmi was forced into marriage and later raped.
“Women and girls in North Korea are taught that their purity is everything,” Yeonmi said. “I didn’t want to talk about it at first. I thought my world had ended.”
Yeonmi and her mother were freed after two years. They knew if they were caught in China they would be deported tot heir homeland where they would be executed. The pair attempted to trek to South Korea by first passing through Mongolia but were detained by the border patrol. They pleaded their case to the government. After two months in detention, Yeonmi and her mother were sent to South Korea by helicopter.
Yeonmi told one reporter that having freedom was like finding “a paradise.”
The years of oppression took their toll on Yeonmi. Angry and bitter, she threw herself into a self-imposed isolation where she focused primarily on her studies. Her college studies opened Yeonmi to the compassionate teachings of human-rights activists.
Yeonmi Park wrote a book about her life and her escape from North Korea. She became an advocate for human rights and spoke at forums across the globe.
“People outside of North Korea make a joke of Kim Jong-un,” Yeonmi said tearfully. “To me, he is no joke. Kim Kong-un is very real to me.”