Human activism has become more outspoken in the past few years. The internet has offered a medium for uncensored speech to be heard and to reach millions of people.Yeonmi Park is a face synonymous with freedom on youtube for most of the citizens of North Korea.For Park Yeonmi,it was video that changed it all; this was the medium that changed her outlook and also allowed her to be heard everywhere. Her story was projected to the whole world in 2014 at the One Young World Summit in Dublin where she gave a talk narrating the journey of her escape from North Korea.
Yeonmi Park was born in North Korea in 1993, and her other sibling was her sister Eunmi. Her father worked in the North Korean government and was a high ranking official. She says that they were well off for most of her childhood but one day all of that changed. Her father was accused of illegal trade and was sentenced to hard labour.For most human rights activists, they have a moment when they experience enlightenment, and their eyes are opened to the oppression around them. For her it was the moment she saw the Titanic; a movie she says gave her a different perspective on love.
Her escape journey began after her father finished doing his time and rejoined his family. He urged his family to run away from the country and Park’s sister Eunmi went alone without her family’s knowledge. Yeonmi and her parents then began their quest for freedom by first going to China, but her father stayed behind arguing that he would only slow them down since he was sick. They were helped over the border by brokers. But a ghastly event would happen to them when they were in China. Park’s mother was raped by one of the traffickers after offering herself in her daughter’s place.
Her father would later rejoin them, but there was no sign of her sister. They lived in hiding for a while, but her father died during this time. They then managed to go to Mongolia with the help of South Korean and Chinese missionaries but had a near death ordeal at the Mongolian border after crossing the Gobi desert to reach it. But they were let through by the guards after Park and her mother offered to kill themselves if they couldn’t. In the end, they flew to South Korea, and that is where they are till date.
After settling in South Korea, she now studies at the Dongguk University in Seoul majoring in Criminal Justice and was reunited with her sister Eunmi. She has written for the Guardian and has featured in a number of interviews for various media publications giving her the platform for her stories to be heard worldwide. She has said that North Korea’s current president, Kim Jong-Un dislikes her for the tarnished image she has brought upon his country. Earlier this year, the country released a video that sought to discredit the activist and called her a puppet.