Vocal Defectors

Yeonmi Park: From Tragedy To Triumph

Yeonmi Park is certainly one of the most vocal defectors to ever come out of North Korea. This soft-spoken young woman has done multiple speaking engagements and even written a book about all of her experiences. She’s definitely come a long way since she arrived in South Korea as a tired and broken refugee. Yeonmi possessed no basic computer skills and wasn’t even able to use an ATM card, let alone understand how a public transportation card functioned. As a North Korean refugee, she faced discrimination. Many in South Korea believed the North Koreans to be a lazy group who were reliant on their government for handouts. As Yeonmi worked to fit into her new culture, she marveled at her new surroundings, which seemed so rich and opulent. She simply couldn’t believe that toilet paper was printed with flowers on it and that bathrooms were built so beautifully. Once she started assimilating into her new country, however, Yeonmi found herself wanting to speak out on Youtube about the horrors she had faced as a North Korean—and as a refugee in China. When she first started talking about her experiences, people were shocked by her accounts of public executions, as well as her description of how many North Koreans were actually starving or malnourished. Of course, it’s easy to see from satellite imagery that there’s not much electricity in North Korea, but Yeonmi’s personal account put a human face on the horrific situation that so many citizens experienced under the Kim regime. The situation was so bad for Park and her family, in fact, that they escaped for a better life in China. Unfortunately, they were sold into human trafficking almost as soon as they arrived. It turned out that China didn’t welcome North Korean refugees with open arms. It wasn’t long before Yeonmi and her mother figured out a way to flee China as well. They followed the North Star through the treacherous Gobi Desert to finally reach Mongolia. It was a few months before they were sent to South Korea, but words could barely describe their joy when they finally made it.

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