Yeonmi Park Becomes a Human Rights Activist after Fleeing North Korea

At 21 years of age, Yeonmi Park has gone through what most people only imagine. She was born in North Korea at a time when the regime had no respect for human rights. The state controlled every detail of the citizen’s lives. The people were not allowed to speak at will or to go where they wanted. Years after Park and her family fled North Korea; the situation has not changed much. Park has dedicated her life to fighting for universal freedom. She has transformed from a defector to a human rights activist.

Park has traveled across the world, telling her story. She has been on a number of platforms including Women in the World Summit. She has also published a book titled In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom.

Life in North Korea changed drastically when Park’s father was arrested and taken to a labor camp for smuggling metals to China. It became hard living as a prisoner’s daughter. When the family couldn’t take it anymore, they decided to flee to China. They had to cross a river, as there were guards stationed at the border ready to shoot down anyone who tried to escape.

Park of youngvoicesadvocates and her family faced even worse experiences in China. Park’s father was diagnosed with colon cancer and did not make it out of the country, Park’s mother was raped right before Park’s very eyes and Park got to experience the horrors of human trafficking for the first time, as they were all sold to human traffickers. Through the extremely cold Gobi desert, Park and her mother crossed over to South Korea in search for better lives.

When Park told her inspiring story to an audience at the Women in the World Summit, they all rose up and applauded. Some even broke down in tears. As Park put it, she felt like she belonged to herself for the first time in her life. She was master of her own destiny. She wants people to experience the same freedom not just in her country but in the whole world.

While people like Park are fighting for freedom, there are others who are working harder to counter their achievements. Some have tried to discount Park’s version of the story, and others have threatened her for speaking out. The western media is also doing a shoddy job in depicting the horrors in North Korea. Instead, they focus on Kim Jong Un’s sideshows. North Koreans are also depicted as blind loyalists who don’t do much to change their situation.

If we are ever going to win the war against human rights violation, Park believes that we must stop looking at North Korea as an isolated case. Human rights are a global concern.

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