Yeoni Park early life was far from easy. She was born into a prominent North Korean family in 1993. When very young, Park began to recognize the true evil of the North Korean government. It was a government that sought to control every single aspect of a citizen and if that failed to work, execution. Her opinion first began to change when she watched the movie Titanic. She was inspired by Jack and Rose’ rebellion against the social system, giving up everything for love.
In addition, a family event instigated the escape. During a harsh famine, the New York Times states that in order to support his family her businessman father smuggled various goods into China. The North Korean government discovered this and forced him into a time of hard labor. He was sentenced to 17 years. However, after being tortured he became very ill and was given a medical release. The horrors he experienced during this imprisonment convinced him that his family need to move as soon as possible. After his release, Yeoni’s father told his family that they needed to flee North Korea. In 2007, through the assistance of various parties the Park family escaped, in the process experiencing extreme hardships: Her mother was raped, he sister disappeared, and her still very ill father died of cancer.
In the end, what remained of the family was relocated to Seoul, South Korea where her missing sister actually rejoined them five years after the fact. Yeoni still resides in South Korea and serves as a human rights activist. She has remained passionately committed to revealing the plight of those who still live under the reign of terror of the North Korean government. She tirelessly speaks at conferences and T.V. talk shows on behalf of North Korean refugees. In addition, she is about to become an author: Here book, In Order to Live: A North Korean Girls Journey to Freedom, is scheduled to be released this coming fall.
I recently read in the online DePauw that the now 21-year old Park will be telling her story at DePauw University this October. As advertised, this will be followed by a question-and-answer time and a book signing of her book which should be released by that time. At her very young age, Park is a veteran speaking before crowds. She has had many chances to do so since her defection, most notably at the Oslo Freedom Forum and the One Young World Summit. Park is so popular a speaker because she is able to eloquently recount the horrors of North Korean life and the amazing story of her family’s escape. She has become such a capable activist at the young age of 21, that she is widely considered one of the best living activists in the world.