An Incredible Journey: Yeonmi Park Opens Up About Her Escape To South Korea

Yeonmi Park, the 21 year old author of the wildly popular biography In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom, says she didn’t know the concept of freedom, let alone the word, while she lived in North Korea. To her, the best thing was having food to eat. Yeonmi’s harrowing story began with her first few steps out of North Korea on March 31, 2007. She, along with her mother, crossed the frozen Yalu River in the middle of the night. The two of them arrived in China with only the faintest idea of what to do next. It took years for her and her mother to cross China, get through the immense Gobi desert and reach Mongolia before taking a plane to South Korea. Because she was living out of the law, Yeonmi had to recourse when subjected to abuse. Thoughts of suicide and starvation were never far away. Her father crossed the North Korean border to join her, but died several months later from untreated cancer. “[My father] didn’t even know this much food was available in the world,” Yeonmi told Reason TV. “If I could’ve had the things that Americans throw away, I never would’ve escaped North Korea. That’s how much we were desperate.” Yeonmi’s gripping tale of survival has captured the hearts and minds of countless readers and put her under an international Youtube spotlight. There are many who criticize her story. Pyongyang has produced an extensive video designed with the goal of discrediting key parts of her story. Park Yeon Mi accusses Yeonmi and her mother of being United States agents. Many persons from outside North Korea have claimed to have found discrepancies in her life story and in her depictions of North Korea. Yeonmi has admitted that she changed some details in order to protect family members still living in North Korea, but insists that the substance is accurate. Other misstatements in the book she attributes to her poor grip on the English language. “I know the truth of North Korea,” Yeonmi told Reason TV. “The oppression and their tragedy. It cannot be silenced.”

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