A woman who escaped North Korea twice before finally settling down in the UK is now standing as a Tory candidate in May’s local elections.
Jihyun Park, 52, who arrived in the country in 2008 – after being captured, sent back to her homeland and tortured before fleeing again – is hoping to make history as a Conservative candidate in Bury, Greater Manchester.
If she wins, she’ll become the dictatorship’s first known defector to hold political office outside Korea.
Her hopes of success were given a boost after she was chosen as the candidate for Moorside, after originally being set to run for a seat in the Holyrood ward.
Moorside, where she now lives as a fully fledged British citizen, is considered a marginal ward meaning she’s more likely to win.
If she does, she’s bound to have some fascinating but harrowing stories for her constituents. Her life has been remarkable so far.
In 1998, Park fled to the Chinese border with her brother after he was almost beaten to death for leaving the North Korean military.
However, after making it to China the pair were separated and she was sold into forced marriage to a Chinese farmer, who treated her “like a physical and sexual sex slave” and with whom she had a child.
After neighbours discovered her identity, she was sent back to her homeland where she was separated from her son and tortured in a labour camp.
She was thrown out when – with gangrene ripping through her leg – officials believed she was close to death.
Four years later, she finally managed to escape North Korea for good, reunite with her son, and settle in the UK. She now has two more children.
Initially when she arrived in Britain she didn’t talk about her ordeal, but she later decided to “speak up about my stories to give others a voice”, The Times quoted her as saying.
In a statement on her campaign page for the Bury Conservatives she states: “Now that the UK is my home, I am not just going to be the recipients of other people’s kindness, I am also going to support others going through difficult situations.”
She also adds a quote from Churchill: “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak, courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”