Yeonmi Park: Strength Through Adversity

Yeonmi Park is one of the few North Korean defectors who have lived to her story. When this 22-year-old woman speaks, she gives all of her audiences a peek into life under the very oppressive North Korean regime. Park describes on The Reason a country in which many citizens are starving, there is no good access to healthcare and one wrong word could cost you your life. This was what happened to one of Park’s friends’ mothers. Yeonmi can’t even really remember what the woman was executed for, but it happened in front of everyone who lived in their town. From a very young age, Yeonmi’s mother had tried to impart wisdom to her about speaking one’s mind. She cautioned her small daughter to keep her thoughts to herself, because voicing them could get her into serious trouble with the government. The electricity in the Park family’s town was constantly on the fritz. This was why, as Yeonmi has pointed out, the satellite photos of North Korea at night are extremely dark when compared to other countries. Very few North Koreans have access to consistent forms of electricity. Also, when the electricity does work it can also malfunction, causing fires. As the years passed by for Yeonmi’s family, the situation in North Korea became increasingly volatile. There were years of famine, and Yeonmi’s father became involved in some black market deals in order to support his family. When government officials discovered this fact, he was sent for a trial and then sentenced to hard labor. Yeonmi’s mother tried to get him released, but to no avail. After this mark on the family’s honor, it became even more difficult for them to find food. Subsisting off of frozen potatoes, grasshoppers and other items they could find in their backyard, all of the women were malnourished. It was at this point, with nothing to lose, that they made the decision to flee the only country they’d ever known. Yeonmi’s sister was the first to go, and then she and her mother followed later. Although they would encounter many difficulties, they were taking their first step to freedom.