In Order to Live: A North Korean Girls Journey to Freedom by Yeonmi ParkHuman rights activist Park, who fled North Korea with her mother in 2007 at age 13 and eventually made it to South Korea two years later after a harrowing ordeal, recognized that in order to be completely free, she had to confront the truth of her past. It is an ugly, shameful story of being sold with her mother into slave marriages by Chinese brokers, and although she at first tried to hide the painful details when blending into South Korean society, she realized how her survival story could inspire others. Moreover, her sister had also escaped earlier and had vanished into China for years, prompting the author to go public with her story in the hope of finding her sister.
Yeonmi Park: My escape from North Korea
Yeonmi Park is reluctant to describe herself as courageous, but her harrowing life story suggests exactly that. Park, 24, defected from North Korea with her mother at the age of 13 after the dictatorship's oppressive government imprisoned her father and left her family fearing for their lives. Though most Americans will never have to face a fraction of what Park has survived, everyone can use the lessons she learned from the experience. Park was only 9 years old in , when her father was arrested after being caught illegally smuggling metals on the black market and was sent to a North Korean labor camp. At times her mother was also taken away by the government to be interrogated, so Park says she and her sister, Eunmi, had to "grow [up] very fast" and become adaptable. For instance, in North Korea in the '90s, famine killed millions of people : "I had to look for food all the time," she says.
She came from an educated, politically connected family that turned to black market trading during North Korea's economic collapse in the s. They fled to China, where Park and her mother fell into the hands of human traffickers before escaping to Mongolia. Park rose to global prominence after she delivered a speech at the One Young World Summit in Dublin , Ireland — an annual summit that gathers young people from around the world to develop solutions to global problems. The veracity of the testimony of Park Yeon-mi is however questioned by a number of experts on North Korea. Her father was a civil servant who worked at the Hyesan town hall as part of the ruling Workers' Party , and her mother was a nurse for the North Korean Army. Her father later established a metal smuggling operation in the capital, Pyongyang , where he spent most of the year while his wife and daughters remained in Hyesan.