“In North Korea, even arithmetic is a propaganda tool. A typical problem would go like this: “If you kill one American bastard and your comrade kills two, how many dead American bastards do you have?”
Yeonmi Park, In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom
To be truly free, one must know what they think and who they are is their own. Yeonmi Park was born and raised in North Korea and was taught to believe the government could read her mind. Her family was sent to a prison camp after her father was charged for selling goods in the black market, which was the only way he could earn enough to feed his family. At thirteen Park weighed only sixty pounds from malnutrition and lack of medical care. Her mother decided she had no other choice but to defect from the country with Park in tow.
Yeonmi Park tells her stories of living in North Korea and her journey through China towards South Korea in her Amazon best selling autobiography, In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom. With hopes of finding her sister in China, Park and her mother set out into the world they knew very little of. Anything outside of the propaganda of North Korea was foreign.
Park introduction to the world and adulthood began before her and her mother could truly begin their search for her sister and their journey. They were misled by Chinese brokers and sold into sexual slavery. For two years, they were separated and placed in forced marriages and prostitution rings.
Finally, Park and her mother were reunited, and they journeyed across the Gobi Desert with the stars as navigation to the border of South Korea. And ultimately towards the lights of Seoul and the freedom of knowing one’s mind belongs only to yourself.
Park is now a university student in Seoul and speaks around the world, even being interviewed by The Reason as a human rights activist. She released In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom to share the depths of misery in daily North Korean lives, and the extremes one must take to abandon it. Her story stands an example of the relentless ability of a teenager to seek the freedom to say you want a bowl of rice and the right to live.