Yeonmi Park Heralds the Next Generation of Social Activism

In her newly released book, In Order to Live: a North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom, Yeonmi Park gives readers a glimpse inside terror-filled North Korea, under the rule of dictator, Kim Jong il. In an article published originally on the global news website,, Park describes the struggles her family faced under the oppressive dictatorship. Kim Jong il sought complete control of all North Koreans; his main goal was to strip them of human rights. Citizens were ordered to report the wrongdoings of each other; because he wanted to ensure any potential threats to his dominant rule were eliminated.

Also in the original article, there is a published photo of Yeonmi Park at the 2015 Women in the World Summit with Democratic Presidential Candidate, Hillary Clinton. Clinton herself, an advocate of the rights of women, is shown standing close to Yeonmi, clearly demonstrating that she’s a supporter of the young, human rights activist. The photo is testament to the fact, that Park has an important story to share. Since leaving North Korea in 2007, at age 13, she has endured many tragedies. The first traumatic event involved servitude to a human trafficker in China. It was shortly after fleeing the violence and deplorable conditions in North Korea that she was forced to witness the rape of her mother. In China, there was no manner of escape for Yeonmi and mother; they weren’t freed until two years later. They eventually became South Korean citizens after a flight from Mongolia.

Prior to this, while still living in North Korea, Yeonmi described walking through the streets with bodies strewn all over and piled up everywhere. Park and her family were forced to endure these harsh conditions daily. Conditions that saw many Koreans simply starved to death, because Kim Jong il refused to provide adequate food and medical supplies. Yeonmi also faced near starvation herself after father was sentenced to hard labor for smuggling metals into China. To avoid dire starvation and death, the family managed to survive by eating flying insects and flowers.

However, in her memoir, Park acknowledges that financial troubles began for North Korea in 1990, when the then Soviet Union separated from Moscow, in doing so eliminated “friendly rates” for North Korean exports.

With North Korea effectively cutoff from the export market, the economy suffered severe strain under Kim Jong il, making financial recovery impossible. With the plummeting economy, many North Koreans faced medical difficulties caused by stress and starvation, and during this time vast numbers died because of malnutrition.

Today, 21 year old Yeonmi Park is a sought after speaker, well-known for her social activism. She resides in New York and travels the world, dedicating herself to exposing the ills that plagued North Korea beginning shortly before her birth in 1993. In 2014, she made a speech at The One World Summit; that has since reached over two million views on YouTube.

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