North Korea

Escaping Tyranny in North Korea

One woman's harrowing journey to freedom.

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North Korea is called the "worst place on earth" for good reason. Thousands of people are tortured. Some North Koreans eat rodents to try to survive, and many starve anyway. In winter, they freeze. No one but the dictator has any true freedom, and no one is allowed to leave.

One person who understands that is Yeonmi Park. Now she's 22. But for 16 years, she did amazing things In Order to Live. That is the title of her new book.

"We didn't have enough food. I had to see dead bodies in the streets," she says. Still, she and other North Koreans worshipped the late "Dear Leader," Kim Jong Il, and his son, current leader and "Brilliant Comrade," Kim Jong Un. Yeonmi told my TV studio audience that she believed Kim "could read my mind."

When she was allowed to attend school, Yeonmi was taught to hate Americans. "We have to call all Americans 'bastards'. My math problem was 'you had four American bastards and you could choke two, how many American bastards are left to kill'? North Korea educates people that our suffering is because of these bad American bastards. Because of them, we are starving."

But tiny bits of freedom can undermine a regime's monopoly on thought. For Yeonmi, a black-market DVD of a Western film made a difference.

"I watched the movie Titanic and I was shocked. Like, how could this kind of ridiculous film exist? I'd never seen people dying for love, except dying for the regime and the party."

When Yeonmi was thirteen, she and her mother escaped into China, where they were kidnapped and sold into slavery: "Chinese government, if they catch us, will sell us back to North Korea, so we are very vulnerable in China. Chinese people, they know that."

Sex traffickers took advantage of that vulnerability. "That's what happened to both of us, my mother and me." At the time, she didn't know what sex was. "I didn't even know what kissing was."

For two years, she was an abused captive. Then a Protestant mission helped her escape to South Korea by walking across the Gobi Desert.

South Korea "was another shock," because she realized that freedom meant more than just having food, it meant making her own decisions.

"I thought freedom meant wearing jeans or watching movies without worrying about getting arrested or executed," says Yeonmi, "but what freedom meant in South Korea was you've got to think for yourself. They were asking me, 'What do you think about this? What do you want to do with your life? What do you like to eat?' I was so upset, like, 'Tell me what to do, tell me what to wear!'"

South Koreans sneered at North Korean escapees. "Everybody told me I was a loser, because I am from communism country. I don't have any knowledge of Western culture."

Books became the next step in her journey. "I devoured books," she says. "One day, I picked up a book called Animal Farm. That changed my life. In that book, I saw myself. I saw my grandmother."

The George Orwell allegory about how noble-sounding revolutions can turn into tyranny resonated with Yeonmi. "I could understand what really had happened to me and what really had happened to North Korea."

Today she fears for family members who have been unable to escape: "My relatives, they're back in North Korea, and now Kim Jung Un, that fat guy doesn't like me, so he's using my relatives and denouncing me as a human rights propaganda puppet of the CIA. I'm hoping for the best, that they are safe and one day I can see them again."

Since today so many Americans call themselves "victims," I asked Yeomni if she was a victim.

She said absolutely not. "I am not a victim. I am grateful I was born in North Korea and escaped… I would go through the same journey to be free."

I pushed back, asking, "Starving and being sold into sex slavery, you would do it again?"

"Yes," she answered. "I would do that again to be free."

COPYRIGHT 2015 BY JFS PRODUCTIONS INC.

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66 responses to “Escaping Tyranny in North Korea

  1. The real question is, was she ever microaggressed?

    1. She doesn’t consider herself to be a victim, so no.

  2. “but what freedom meant in South Korea was you’ve got to think for yourself. They were asking me, ‘What do you think about this? What do you want to do with your life? What do you like to eat?’ I was so upset, like, ‘Tell me what to do, tell me what to wear!'”

    A couple years ago I had a coworker from China.

    She told me much the same thing.
    “We are so unused to deciding what to do ourselves that we prefer to be told what to do”

    1. I met Chinese people before and anyone born post 1985 doesn’t seem to ever have had that issue (and I live in a neighborhood that is about 20% Chinese immigrant). I even met a Chinese Libertarian who came into the US for a seminar a few years ago, who explained that the older generation prior to Deng’s reforms really took hold were that way, are like that, but those that grew up in the 90’s and 2000’s were heavily exposed to western culture and are very western like South Koreans

      1. I suspect she was born in the mid-late 70s, so that would certainly explain it.

        I just remember being amazed that anyone could think that.

      2. I found that my students in China are very good at rote-learning, but creating original content and the sorts of standard research techniques a college freshman in the west has to learn are very difficult for them.

    2. That’s one of the evils of a nanny State, that the more people depend on the State, the more they expect from the State and the less they expect from themselves.

      But this is contrary to human nature, I think, at some basic level, and so you get these coddled students who have had everything decided for them and all they have left is to lash out at micro aggression and perceived slights; I think they actually hunger for something to decide on their own, and since all the actually important decisions have been co-opted by Big Brother, they lash out at every little local perceived slight they can see.

      I bet that if these people were suddenly freed from a nanny State, if they actually had to make big decisions themselves, the micro aggression shit would vanish in just a few days. It happens to some extent anyway, once they leave college; a real job and real life independent of dorms leaves no time for being constantly offended by the nonsense they had to settle for in college.

      1. I wish the real world fixed it, but a lot of them end up in jobs that are either brain dead (Starbucks) or 50% make work. They end up with nothing better to do during the day than go on Tumblr and blame other people for their dissatisfaction with their lives.

      2. I think they actually hunger for something to decide on their own, and since all the actually important decisions have been co-opted by Big Brother, they lash out at every little local perceived slight they can see.

        Very much this!

        This, as you say, is part and parcel of humanity. We are hardwired by evolution to quest, to ask questions, to explore, to learn to evolve.

        This in some measure is what drives Bezos, Musk, and others to get off this rock. We need the challenge, so efforts to eliminate microaggression and promote protected groups over true equality are counter to evolution as far as I can see. Do we not exercise and challenge our bodies to remain healthy and excel? Our minds? Our emotions? Anything that stands in the way of individual development is counter to human nature.

  3. Animal Farm is my favorite book.

    1. Too bad it’s coming true.

      1. +1 pig

  4. Now this is what someone who is to be admired and respected looks like. I wish idiots here would have attitude on life, we go way too crazy over such minor nothings and make victims out of everyone.

    If only they let people like her speak at college campus’s and…no, sorry the leftists would like to hear how their dear leader’s regime isn’t all gum drops and sunshine

    1. ^This

    2. “I walked across the Gobi Desert to freedom” is a bit more resonant than “He said my sweater looked nice, which I perceived to be classist.”

  5. Two questions:

    1. Do you think more people have been killed by the Kims or by American military action over the last 70 years?

    2. Can one detest the North Korean dictatorship and at the same time hold up the model of western social democratic welfare states as what we should strive for? Or are Danish windmills and cradle-to-grave social security indelibly linked to communist mass slaughter?

    1. Since the last 70 years includes the time when the US government saved Europe from your fellow socialist cunt, Adolf Hitler, and the Norks made no contribution whatsoever to that effort, I’d have to say your first question is typical of your guilt-peddling bullshit.

      -jcr

      1. ” US government saved Europe”

        …along with Uncle Joe, of course. It’s October of 2015 so 70 years ago was October 1945 so I didn’t count the war against fascism in Europe. I wouldn’t talk about that too loudly amongst libertarians here about ww2 since most of them think that fdr was a socialist scum who sold out Eastern Europe to the commies at yalta because he was a secret squirrel agent of the ussr.

        1. Uncle Joe turned his half of the “freed” European semi-continent into one vast commie slave camp.

          1. “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss”. It was Uncle Joe, not Hitler, who caused MILLIONS of people to starve in Ukraine, a bread-basket agricultural land, with his forced collectivization! As long as I were not Jewish or Gypsy or gay or otherwise “defective”, I would prefer the rule of Hitler, over the rule of Stalin… I have read my history, including “Gulag Archipelago”. Stalin was an utter monster!

        2. “…along with Uncle Joe, of course.”

          Uncle Joe, of course, is ‘way better known for sacrificing his soldiers in stupid frontal attacks, until he let some of his ‘purged’ commanders back to save his sorry ass.
          Not to mention known for murdering some 30 million of his own citizens.
          But to answer your question specifically, the only reason those slimy dictators haven’t killed ‘way more is that they don’t have a big enough population to murder.

        3. “…along with Uncle Joe, of course. It’s October of 2015 so 70 years ago was October 1945 so I didn’t count the war against fascism in Europe. ”

          How convenient for your analysis.

          In terms of killings and misery, if you don’t count the times when Europeans were trying to kill and enslave everyone else in the world, they seem awesome!

          Why, how functionally retarded!

          1. Who was fighting hitler in 1940? Not Stalin. He was allied with hitler.
            amsuck is either a liar or a moron.

        4. …along with Uncle Joe, of course. I

          Uncle Joe didn’t save Europe, pinhead. He captured half of it and murdered more people than his buddy Adolf did.

          -jcr

      2. Hitler was a far right winger who jailed and murdered socialists. Plenty of people on the political right hate free markets, especially in Europe where “liberals” were originally the free market proponents opposed to the conservatives and the Church. Hitler wasn’t the first and won’t be the last statist right-winger. Putin is the newest statist with plenty of “conservative” fans.

        1. Hitler was a far right winger

          Nope.

          The right wing in Germany were the people who wanted to restore the Kaiser to power. Hitler was a leftard, and all of his contemporary leftards admitted as much right up to the day that he betrayed the Russians.

          -jcr

        2. Horse hockey. It was the National SOCIALIST German WORKER’S* Party.

    2. Tu quoque ain’t just a river in Italy.

      1. I’ve been there. It runs right through Uomo di Paglia.

    3. Some people die for freedom. Yeonmi Park was abused and sold as a sex slave for freedom. Like her, many say the price paid for freedom was worth it.

    4. They have universal suffrage in North Korea too, don’t they?

      1. I think you might have misspelled a word, but yeah.

        1. Yeah, they have universal suffering!

    5. Nobody bothered to take on question #2. Sad.

      1. Swallow, take a breath, and ask a cogent question…..and we will keep ignoring it since it too will be based on very flawed and selective information while ignoring the horrors of your chosen religion.

      2. OK then…

        ” 2. Can one detest the North Korean dictatorship and at the same time hold up the model of western social democratic welfare states as what we should strive for? Or are Danish windmills and cradle-to-grave social security indelibly linked to communist mass slaughter? ”

        Both practices are rooted in not allowing individuals to make their own charity choices. In the old USSR, a given worker had one Uber-moral superior, Joseph Stalin, who felt so morally superior that he made the charity choices of all the tens or hundreds of millions of his subjects. … Today in the Union of American Socialists, 200 or so million of my fellow voters are all my moral superiors, and feel entitled to make my charity choices for me… At the point of a gun, jails, etc., just like Uncle Joe Stalin did. It is a matter of different strengths and flavors of poison, but this thing about my “moral superiors” taking away my freedoms, when we’d be better of NOT doing it that way, stinks, regardless what the flavor is. Private, voluntary charity works better. See N. Korea…

      3. “Nobody bothered to take on question #2. Sad.”

        Sorry. The first question was so fucking stupid, I ignored the other one.
        Sure! Lefty hypocrites do it every day.

      4. I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, uh, some, uh, people out there in our nation don’t have maps and, uh, I believe that our education like such as in South Africa and, uh, the Iraq, everywhere like such as, and, I believe that they should, our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S., uh, or, uh, should help South Africa and should help the Iraq and the Asian Countries, so we will be able to build up our future [for our children].

        1. I went to school with the sister of that very Miss Teen USA contestant. She assured me it was completely out of charcter for her quite intelligent sibling, who was overwhelmed and nervous and simply broke down onstage.

          I want to believe that, but…

    6. Hi AmSoc!

      Why won’t you help me with my Stalin Scouts badge?!

    7. 2. Can one detest the North Korean dictatorship and at the same time hold up the model of western social democratic welfare states as what we should strive for?

      Who the fuck does this? YOU? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

  6. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do…… ?????? http://www.buzznews99.com

  7. South Koreans sneered at North Korean escapees.

    Well, that’s just shitty. WTF is wrong with some people?

    -jcr

    1. South Koreans Americans sneered at North Korean Central American escapees.

      You know full well what’s wrong with some people.

  8. I am a proud American bastard just because.

  9. Submitted for your approval: This is an old article which looks at the story and questions some inconsistencies. No real proof either way and I’m willing to believe the worst about NK no matter what. The bonus is a screamingly blatant propaganda plant in the comments

    http://thediplomat.com/2014/12…..onmi-park/

    You’d have to have been inhuman not to be moved. But ? and you’re going to hear a lot of “buts” ? was the story she told of her life in North Korea accurate? The more speeches and interviews I read, watch and hear Park give, the more I become aware of serious inconsistencies in her story that suggest it wasn’t. Whether this matters is up to the reader to decide, but my concern is if someone with such a high profile twists their story to fit the narrative we have come to expect from North Korean defectors, our perspective of the country could become dangerously skewed. We need to have a full and truthful picture of life in North Korea if we are to help those living under its abysmally cruel regime and those who try to flee.

    1. The bonus is a screamingly blatant propaganda plant in the comments

      What about the screamingly blatant propaganda plant in the narrative? I mean out of all the things, the one that sticks in the author’s craw the most seems to be the fact that Park is sponsored by and works for a libertarian advocacy group (*shock, horror!*).

    2. There is an inconsistency in this very story. She says she watched black market Titanic before fleeing to China, but when she was sold into sex slavery she didn’t even know what kissing was. She’s embellishing at the very least, and I really wish she wouldn’t. You don’t need to talk about bodies in the street to emphasize how horrible life is over there. Talk about little things like not having enough to eat or being taught to report on others and you’ll get more than enough sympathy from Americans who have never been hungry by anything but choice.

      1. I’m offering this solely as food for thought. There are plenty of ways inconsistencies can innocently creep in to childhood memories and really, I wouldn’t trust anything that officially comes out of NK further than I could chuck that fat fuck who runs it. I’m just pleasantly surprised that, this being a Stossel piece, that it’s true at all.

        1. There are, and I don’t necessarily think she is lying on purpose. Stories creep over time, especially when being told repeatedly for the purpose of horrifying others. I just wish a reporter would go over her story with a fine tooth comb. Find the inconsistencies and talk to her about them. Maybe her version of the titanic was edited. Maybe she really meant she’d never kissed anyone before not that she didn’t know what it was. Maybe she’s just misremembering and pointing out the contradiction will help her figure out which one actually happened. Just don’t leave her to repeat things that will destroy her credibility.

          1. I agree.
            Similarly, the Holocaust claims of ‘lampshades from human skins’ has been debunked; didn’t happen.
            The problem is that deniers then use that as ammunition to discredit valid claims

      2. Who knows where the black market Titanic came from. It may have been edited to make it “safer”. Watching a Western DVD is one level of crime, pretty common these days, watching a “porno” (with kissing) might be considered more serious by the regime. The Kims are pretty puritanical. Or it may not have been the real Titanic at all, who knows.

  10. We need more “illegal humans” in our country who are like this brave young woman!!!!

    1. Yeah, I’d say one Yeonmi Park is worth more than 1,000 of the special snowflakes who infest modern college campuses.

      1. worth more than 1,000 of the special snowflakes

        “Well, everyone gets a ribbon, so what difference at this point does it make?”

        /Hillary 2016 phone staff

      2. I would happily trade 100,000 Campus Commies to the Norks for another Yeonmi.

  11. I’ve met her. She really is a heck of a lady.

  12. I can’t be the only one who originally read that headline as “Escaping Tranny in North Korea.” Right?

    1. The tyranny of the trannies is so far mostly restricted to college campuses in western nations, thank Government Almighty! … But you just wait and see what happens after the EEOC makes it such that tyrannical trannies can NEVER be fired form the job! We will ALL be forced to get sex-change operations, in order to keep our jobs! Fortunately, Obamacare will pay for it all!

      1. The tyranny of the trannies

        Now that’s funny!

  13. Ouch! That one hit me in the feels, Reason!

  14. North Korea has been liberalizing the economy at a pretty rapid pace the last 10 years. A story that seems to go unreported in the Western Press. They are following the Chinese model – first peasants were free to sell their excess, now farms are increasingly unregulated. Entrepreneurs are making money trading goods and running restaurants, even small manufacturing operations. The state factories are mostly dead. Real estate speculation is already a factor in Pyong-Yang. It is increasingly easy to get South Korean and Chinese DVDs, especially near the border, so the state propaganda is more and more hollow. North Korea is probably a country to be cautiously optimistic about over the next few decades. The irony is that most North Korean businessmen are not in favor of a rapid unification, nor of more rapid reform that could destabilize the regime overnight. They realize that in a vacuum South Korean and Chinese would quickly take over everything of value, leaving the local entrepreneurs with scraps. So for now the Kim clans interests are still aligned with the market reformers.

  15. North Korea has been liberalizing the economy at a pretty rapid pace the last 10 years. A story that seems to go unreported in the Western Press. They are following the Chinese model – first peasants were free to sell their excess, now farms are increasingly unregulated. Entrepreneurs are making money trading goods and running restaurants, even small manufacturing operations. The state factories are mostly dead. Real estate speculation is already a factor in Pyong-Yang. It is increasingly easy to get South Korean and Chinese DVDs, especially near the border, so the state propaganda is more and more hollow. North Korea is probably a country to be cautiously optimistic about over the next few decades. The irony is that most North Korean businessmen are not in favor of a rapid unification, nor of more rapid reform that could destabilize the regime overnight. They realize that in a vacuum South Korean and Chinese would quickly take over everything of value, leaving the local entrepreneurs with scraps. So for now the Kim clans interests are still aligned with the market reformers.

  16. North Korea has been liberalizing the economy at a pretty rapid pace the last 10 years. A story that seems to go unreported in the Western Press. They are following the Chinese model – first peasants were free to sell their excess, now farms are increasingly unregulated. Entrepreneurs are making money trading goods and running restaurants, even small manufacturing operations. The state factories are mostly dead. Real estate speculation is already a factor in Pyong-Yang. It is increasingly easy to get South Korean and Chinese DVDs, especially near the border, so the state propaganda is more and more hollow. North Korea is probably a country to be cautiously optimistic about over the next few decades. The irony is that most North Korean businessmen are not in favor of a rapid unification, nor of more rapid reform that could destabilize the regime overnight. They realize that in a vacuum South Korean and Chinese would quickly take over everything of value, leaving the local entrepreneurs with scraps. So for now the Kim clans interests are still aligned with the market reformers.

    1. sorry for the ridiculous triple post.

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