Yeonmi Park on youtube was born on the fourth of October 1993, into a well-off family living in North Korea. Initially, her father worked as a civil servant and her mother as a nurse in the military. Park also had an older sister named Eunmi. In the 1990’s the economy of North Korea began to stagnate as China and the USSR no longer offered them financial aid. By 1994, the situation was worse as North Korea faced famine and a series of natural disasters that would lead to starvation and death of up to 3 million people by the year 1998. To survive these desperate times, Park’s father turned to the black market business where he traded in illegal metals.
Eventually, Parks father was arrested and sentenced to hard labor. Since her birth, Park had known no form of freedom. Despite her father’s arrest, she had no right to express her displeasure with the politically intolerant government of North Korea. Unfortunately, a life of fear and oppression was a reality not only for Park, but for the entire North Korean population. She recalls her mother telling her not to dare whisper as even the birds could hear what she said.
After serving his sentence, Park’s father was reunited with his family. Fed up with his government, he encouraged his family to organize for their escape to China. However, their escape did not go as planned. Eunmi left for China without telling the rest of the family and their father fell ill. Because he feared to slow Park and her mother down, he chose to remain behind.
In March 2007, when Park was 13, together with her mother, they crossed a frozen river and three mountains to get into China. They were aided by human traffickers. While in China, Jilin province, they tried to find Park’s sister, but were unsuccessful. Their journey into China was no rosy path. Park recalls a time when her mother was raped in front of her by one of the human traffickers. She was eventually forced to become a trafficker’s mistress who arranged to smuggle her father into China in October 2007. However, on his arrival in China, Park’s father was diagnosed with colon cancer and died at the age of 45. It was in early January 2008.
Park and her mother were, however, fortunate enough to find missionaries who helped them flee to Mongolia in February 2009. In Mongolia, they were able to seek Asylum from South Korean Diplomats that were at the time traveling through the Gobi Desert. In April 2009, Park and her mother were flown to Seoul through Chingiss Khan Airport in Ulan Bator, Capital City of Mongolia.
In Seoul, Park and her mother found jobs as waitresses and shop assistants. Park joined Dongguk University and Majored in Criminal Justice. In April 2014, she was reunited with her sister, Eunmi. Today Park is a voice of hope and inspiration for oppressed people. She is a famed North Korea defector and a champion for human rights for people living in North Korea.