Yeonmi Park is 22-year-old North Korean defector, human rights activist and criminal justice student who live in Seoul. She has been very vocal in her criticism of the North Korean government. She burst into the limelight in 2014 after she featured as a speaker at the Oslo Freedom Forum in Dublin. She was tearful and described her experiences in her journey in a powerful speech that has been watched 2 million times.
Yeoman Park was born in Hyesan in North Korea in 1993.Her father was a Midlevel civil servant and a party member. Her parents were gold, nickel and silver smugglers. After the father had been arrested, the family decided to escape. In 2007, the family closed the frozen river boundary into China. Their suffering didn’t end in China. Her mother was raped, and her sister had to be sold for them to survive. Her father later joined them but died of cancer. In 2009 aged 15, she with her mother closed into Mongolia. They had to walk the frozen Gobi desert and followed the northern stars to freedom. In Mongolia, they sought asylum in the South Korean embassy.
Yeonmi Park is a Criminal Justice student at Dongguk University in Seoul. He has been in media all over the world. She has leveraged herself to gain attention on the condition in North Korea. A fast learner, she has taught herself English and Chinese. She even co-hosts an English show and has her own Yeonmi Park Show. She is currently writing a book on herself. Her activists have led the North Korean Government to release an 18-minute video trying to discredit her. It is a common tactic used to intimidate and tarnish defectors. She believes the change in North Korea is inevitable and will be led by the young generation like her. This generation has been deemed the black market generation. It has exposure to capitalism and western media which obviously in the government. Yeonmi was inspired by a smuggled copy of the Titanic, which taught love can motivate her people.
She has witnessed a lot of injustices. Her mother was raped at a young age. She saw her mother’s best friend shot for a secondary reason. Her father was sentenced to 17 years in forced labour but later escaped. Her sister was sold off to a Chinese man who mistreated her. She then got lost but miraculously reunited with the family after five years. Despite these experiences, she is funny and talkative. Her fast learning skills and social nature has endeared her to many. Her charming demeanour hasn’t hurt either.
Yeomin Park is an inspiration to our generation. She is courageous and inspiring; her commitment on The Guardian to fighting for human rights deserves a Nobel peace prize. Her experiences have shaped her to be what she is. We wish her all the best. The current situation in North Korea is not sustainable. Putting down a generation is simply not feasible in the long run.