Human rights worker and activist Yeonmi Park will be speaking on her amazing story of courage and survival at a lecture on October 5th at DePauw University.
Park’s work in human rights has been noted by BBC broadcasting, who has placed her name in their list of their “Top 100 Global Women.” Her book, published by Penguin Press “In Order to Live: A North Korean’s Girl Journey To Freedom”, goes on sale later this month.
Yeonmi Park was moved to action when she viewed a bootleg copy of “Titanic”. She was inspired by the concept of a person dying for the love of another person, and not giving her life for the good of the state. It opened her eyes to a new way of thinking and human dignity.
The escape of Park from the oppressive police state was fraught with peril. Unbeknownst to Park, her sister defected before them, and snuck out of the country by herself, leaving Park and her mother to escape by themselves. When they reached South Korea, she could not find her sister and surmised that she perished in her attempt.
While escaping, the mother of Park was forcibly raped by one of the underground smugglers who they had utilized in their escape attempt. He blackmailed Park’s mother and threatened to expose them both if she didn’t comply. Park had to witness her mother being raped by the very people who were assisting her escape.
Although Park, her mother and her sister successfully escaped, her father shared a different fate. A former high ranking government employee, he was arrested and convicted by North Korean officials for illegally dealing in precious metals in an attempt to raise money to feed his family. Park’s father was given a sentence of 17 years of hard labor for his crimes, and tortured during his incarceration. During his prison sentence, he became seriously ill, and was allowed a early release from jail on medical grounds. He quickly surmised that if his family continued in this manner, they would all die of starvation. It was the stark reality of death that led him to decide to get his family out of North Korea. Too sick to travel the journey himself, he stayed behind, and died of colon cancer a few years later.
The story of Park, and her quest for a free life is an amazing story, and I highly recommend her book and reading more about it if you have a chance. You can find more about it, her book and her lecture at the DePauw website.