Although only 22, Yeonmi Park has already experienced more of life than most people ever see, or ever want to.
Park was born in Hyesan, which is in the northern part of North Korea. She lived close to the Yalu River. On the north side of the river was China.
The Soviet Union used to support North Korea, but when the Soviet Union broke up, that support vanished. From 1994 through 1998, North Korea suffered a terrible famine.
Park writes of having just a frozen potato to eat. She had no idea cookbooks existed. To her, food was something to eat to live, not because it tasted good.
To feed his family, Yeonmi Park‘s father made money in the blackmarket, but was caught by the police. After the government sent him away to a forced labor camp, Park, her mother and her sister became even more desperate. They not only had lost the father’s income, but now the state considered them enemies because of their father’s crime.
They found a man to guide them across the frozen Yalu River, but they didn’t realize he had a hidden motive. Once they were all in China, he raped Park’s mother. He sold them both.
After two years in China, Yeonmi Park learned Mongolia would send her to South Korea. But to reach Mongolia, she and her mother had to trek across the Gobi Desert, withstanding frigid temperatures. In Mongolia, however, officials wanted to send the two women back to China. Park and her mother pleaded for their lives. China would send them back to North Korea, which would kill them.
In 2014, she made a speech at One Young World Summit that went viral, getting seen on NK News more than two million times.
Penguin published her book, In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom, in September 2015. It tells a horrible story, but one of hope. Park of the youngvoicesadvocates survived her journey to freedom, and is now sharing even the shameful details with the rest of the world. Because she refuses to remain silent, the North Korean government’s propaganda has targeted her. Park survived, and will not rest until all the people of her country are free.