Yeonmi Park, was only 13 years old when she escaped North Korea with her mother. What awaited her was not the freedom she imagined leaving N. Korea would be. They crossed the frozen Yalu river with the help of a broker and arrived in northeast China. The broker ended up selling her and her mother to another broker, who ended up raping her mother in front of her. “The first thing was my mother was raped by the broker. I was 13 but this broker wanted to sleep with me first,” Park told China Uncensored. “It was actually worse than North Korea,” Park said describing her time in China. Park who is now a human’s right’s advocate has an amazing story of survival and believes that being born in N. Korea was a gift.
Yeonmi Park was brainwashed like all people who are born in N. Korea. They believed everyone outside of N.Korea was an enemy trying to kill them. N. Koreans believed that only the Dear Leader Kim Jung Il could protect them. “If they do attack us, they’re going to eat us alive, they’re monsters. So we need our dear leader to defend us,” Park told China Uncensored. She was taught early on to think of Dear Leader as a God and that N. Korea was “paradise on earth.” Even though they were suffering from hunger, she thought that they had it good because of all the brainwashing. It wasn’t until she got an illegal copy of the movie “Titanic” that changed her outlook on life. “Seeing a movie dedicated to people’s love story, that made no sense to me. And that’s when I kind of have some taste of humanity and freedom.”
By the time Yeonmi Park was 13, her mother made the choice to escape N. Korea after a shortage of food. Her mother feared that they would die of starvation if they didn’t escape. Park’s older sister Eunmi, who was 16 at the time, escaped first and left a note for Park with the name of a woman who would help them escape. Their mother got in contact with the woman who helped them find a broker. The broker bribed some N. Korean guards who let them through to China. The broker sold the two of them to another broker who raped her mom and eventually sold them to another broker. “My mother was sold for around $65 and I was sold for $200. I think over $200 because I was a virgin.”
This cycle kept repeating as one broker sold them to another broker for a higher price. Yeonmi Park and her mom were separated because a broker didn’t want to pay for both of them. The last broker who bought Park made her a business arrangement. He told her that if she became his “mistress” he would buy her mother back and bring her father from S.Korea. Park saw this rape arrangement as a necessity to make sure she would be reunited with her family. The broker kept his word and bought her mother and helped smuggle her father out of North Korea into China, where he died from cancer.
The broker ended up falling in love with Park and letting her go after two years. Park and her mother reached Mongolia and from there they went to South Korea. In South Korea, Park worked odd jobs while attending Donguk University. She was reunited with her older sister Eunmi after South Korean Intelligence got word her sister escaped China.
Yeonmi Park eventually moved to the United States to complete her book and attend Columbia University to pursue a degree in Economics. Park finished her book titled, “In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom,” which is an autobiography. Now she’s fighting to raise awareness for the North Korean people.
Even though Park went through a lot of pain she remains positive. “You got to be hopeful. Life is a miracle. You never know whether hope is coming.” She even sees being born in North Korea as something positive because it showed her the importance of “freedom”. “There are two things I am most grateful for and one is that I was born in North Korea and the second one is that I escaped.” Park is now married with a child and lives in New York City.