The young North Korean defector has spoken out against the brutal regime she escaped and has urged the world to take action to help people in her home country. Addressing 1,300 delegates from 190 countries at the One Young World summit in Dublin last night, Yeonmi Park condemned the state’s “holocaust” of its own people and called on the world to “help free the people of North Korea”.
How did she escape?
Ms Park, 21, who is from Hyesan, a city in the northern Ryanggang province, fled to China aged 13, along with her mother, after her father was sentenced to 17 years in prison for trading metal. Her father subsequently joined the pair in China after bribing his prison guards, but died of cancer in 2008.
What happened next?
Ms Park and her mother fled to South Korea via Mongolia. After they arrived, Ms Park was reunited with her sister – who is three years older and had disappeared seven years earlier. Ms Park found it difficult to adjust to life in South Korea, however. “I couldn’t trust anything,” she told i. “I had no idea about the concept of freedom or human rights.”
How did she learn to cope?
Ms Park, who is studying for a degree in criminal justice, read George Orwell’s Animal Farm in 2011. “Everything made sense for me; I read it five times. I realised North Korea is using power to oppress people. North Koreans deserve to be free.”
Is that why she decided to speak out?
“Defectors often don’t talk about their experiences; they want to forget. I know how painful it is,” she said. “I had to tell my story for the people still living in terror. People have to know about this.”
How does she hope to effect change?
“There is a holocaust going on in my country. The world needs to acknowledge that and do something to help the North Koreans.”