April 03

In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom By Yeonmi Park

Post by Denise.

Yeonmi Park is a 23 year old woman who is a North Korean defector and human rights actibook-covervist.

In 2007 Yeonmi and her mother made the dangerous journey across the Yalu River into China – guided by human smugglers.  China did not, and does not acknowledge North Koreans as refugees, and on arrival in China both Yeonmi and her mother were sold to traffickers.  When you read this book it is difficult to reconcile the kind of brutality that was occurring in China at a time when the eyes of the world were on China as Beijing was about to host the 29th Olympic Games.

Two years on, Yeonmi and her mother escaped with the help of Christian missionaries and made the harrowing journey across the Gobi Desert into Mongolia.  From Mongolia, Yeonmi and her mother were able to seek refuge in South Korea.

Today Yeonmi works to raise awareness of not only the oppression that is happening in North Korea, but also to highlight human trafficking of women and children for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labour.

As you read this book, you wonder at times how this young girl found the spirit to keep going … as a young child she saw dead bodies in the streets; ate insects and wild plants so as not to starve; was sold by human traffickers; witnessed her Mother being raped.  At times her story is difficult to read. It seems hard to believe that people are living like this in today’s world … that they are so oppressed that some even believe that their “Dear Leader” – Kim Jong-un – can actually read their minds! … and that sexual slavery and forced child labour is happening now in countries that we would think not possible … All the time whilst we … (who were either born in Australia or now live in Australia) …. have to think that perhaps we won life’s lotto.

In 2016 Yeonmi Park was invited to talk about her book at the Sydney Writer’s Festival …as part of the “Writers In Danger” program.  Like Yeonmi, other writers who were invited to speak as part of this program, were those that have chosen to speak out (and write books) at the risk of harassment, imprisonment and even death.

This is an important story.