The Realities of Living in North Korea: Yeonmi Park’s Story


“Kim Jong-un doesn’t like me much,” human rights activist Yeonmi Park said during an interview.

Kim Jong-un, the notoriously cruel leader of North Korea, has every reason not to like the 22-year-old. Yeonmi did what very few North Koreans dare to do. She had a dream and made it come true. Yeonmi defected from North Korea.

Life in North Korea, according to Yeonmi Park, is very bleak. The regime controlled all and wanted its citizens to believe that the life under the rule of Kim Jong-un is the best life to live. The North Korean government brainwashed its people at every given chance. Foreign movies and most electronics were banned.  The schools taught students to hate Americans. Even electricity to the major cities was limited by the government.

“We were not supposed to watch movies from outside countries,” Yeonmi Park said on an NY Times interview. “I watched Titanic, and it made me realize that North Korea is very oppressed. My friend’s mother watched a James Bond movie. She was executed as I watched.”

Mr. Park began smuggling precious metals to and from China but was apprehended by the North Korean government. Yeonmi’s mother decided, after her husband was imprisoned, to flee with her young daughter to China. Yeonmi Park and her mother fell victim to human trafficking upon arrival, but they were freed several years later.

Yeonmi and her mother were caught attempting to flee to South Korea. They were detained for two months before they were sent to Seoul where they became overwhelmed by the freedom granted by democracy.

Yeonmi wrote a memoir about her harrowing journey, In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom. She has studied philosophy and criminal justice, learning about the compassion that has prompted her to speak out against North Korea and other countries that continue to be plagued by human rights violations.