When we reminisce about being 21 years old, many things come to mind. Some of us were in our third year of college and were looking forward to graduation. A lot of people were newly married, starting a career or both. Very few of us could say that we spent the last couple of our teenage years as a victim of human trafficking, let alone surviving and writing a best-selling book about the ordeal. Yet, this is what Yeonmi Park has been through and shares with the world in her new book, In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom.
Yeonmi Park narrates her life growing up in one of the t dictatorships in the world, North Korea. She and her family never really contemplated freedom, because they had never experienced it. She tells of a struggling family who loved one another and were trying to make do with what they had. Even though Park’s father was a minor government official, they still suffered from lack of food and other basic needs due to famine.
According to her story, Park’s father was falsely accused of dealing in the Chinese black market and was arrested by the police. He was sentenced to hard labor in a cruel government prison. Park remembers visiting her father and hearing him tell the family to flee from North Korea for their lives. He vowed that he would try to find them when he got out of prison. Yeonmi Park, her mother, and her sister made the decision to sneak out of the country with some Chinese smugglers.
The nightmare was just beginning for the teenage Yeonmi Park and her family. With disturbing clarity, she tells about the abuse and terrors that they endured at the hands of their human traffickers. These foreign rouges knew that these Korean women were at their mercy and they took advantage of them. Most of the time, says Park, they were treated more harshly than they would have been back in North Korea. They were threatened, starved, and often beaten for nearly two years. At one point, Park had to watch her own mother being raped. Her sister also disappeared.
Her father finally escaped North Korea on youtube.com and met up with them, only to die from colon cancer in Mongolia. Their turning point was when Park and her mother finally reach freedom in the South Korean embassy. They had a joyful reunion with her sister, whom they thought had been killed.
Today, Park is making a strong impact as a leading voice for freedom. Her book resonates with people around the globe who are rallying against human trafficking and other violations of human rights. Park is a popular speaker and has won several awards and commendations for her tireless campaign. At the age of 21, Yeonmi Park represents the resilience of the human spirit and the determination to be free against all odds. Her story speaks to the millions of people who still suffer under totalitarian regimes.