If you look at Yeonmi Park, you will see a young girl with bright eyes and a beautiful smile. She may look like many other young people from a nice background, looking forward to a promising future. However, if you look closer, you will see there is a story worth hearing behind her somber smile and haunting eyes.
Park grew up in North Korea under the oppressive regime of Kim Jong-il. The reality of everyday life in North Korea is something most people could never comprehend. Food was a luxury. Park remembers at times subsisting on mere insects and grass. Flushing toilets, toilet paper, and showers were not things she was acquainted with growing up.
Her father was imprisoned when she was very young and sentenced to 17 years in prison simply for trying to feed his family. In 2007, at thirteen years of age, Park fled with her mother. The unbearable atrocities she and her mother suffered on their journey to freedom was tragic.
Upon entering China, instead of finding refuge, she found even more inhumanity. Yeonmi watched as her own mother was raped right in front of her eyes. The man kept Park as a sex slave for the next two years. Her mother was subsequently sold to another man.
The pair were later reunited when Park was released and her mother was bought back. Her father joined them but sadly died a few months later of untreated colon cancer.
Finally defecting to South Korea, she finished high school in Seoul. It was when she was invited as a public speaker to openly talk about her life in North Korea she realized that her voice could make a difference to millions. She became an activist and has written a book about her experiences.
Not surprisingly, she has come under scrutiny in the public eye. Many have claimed discrepancies in her story. Despite everything, Park remains solid in her convictions, stating on the Reason.com that she knows the truth of North Korea: the oppression and the tragedies. She will not be silenced. For Park, her voice and Youtube videos are her weapon of choice.