She was thirteen years old when Yeonmi Park escaped North Korea in the middle of the night with her mother in 2007. They crossed through the frigid Yalu River and entered into China. Though they managed to escape, it would be another year before they managed to get to South Korea. The journey would take them through China’s less habitable territories in a trying and difficult process that eventually saw Yeomi and her mother board a flight to South Korea.
Yeonmi Park’s story made the international news Daily Mail UK when she documented her escape and subsequent trek to South Korea in her Amazon released book, In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom. Yeomi’s life as a refugee in China took troubled and nearly disastrous turns when she was subject to abuse and extreme hunger. Her father died shortly after escaping due to cancer. Yeomi’s book details this horrifying ordeal leaving little to the imagination. Her painful and exhaustive escape is written about in excruciating fashion that sheds light on the plight of North Koreans who leave the regime.
Since her escape, the North Korean regime has levied attacks against her, accusing her of working to discredit the country and being allied with the United States. They went so far as to release a video in an attempt undermine her message. She has refused to acquiesce to Pyongyang’s narrative.
Aside from the North Korean government, others have accused her of using her story in an attempt to garner fame. Some skeptics from outside the country view her more gut-wrenching claims with suspicion and have even suggested inaccuracies. However, Yeonmi has not shied away from responding to the doubters, who she views according to the NK News.org as misinformed.
Speaking with Reason TV, Yeonmi Park acknowledged that the reason she didn’t initially come forward with her abuse claims is because of the shame such allegations carried in her culture. She also points to the language barrier as a reason for some of the confusion that exists over her book. Nonetheless, Yeonmi has become a symbol for strength and hope for millions around the world who live in dire circumstances.