Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Yeonmi Park On Moving Forward Article 2

Barefoot in the mountains of China, she and her mother began their trek to a new life, but their trouble was not over.  Soon, a new type of danger presented itself.  A broker who had promised to see them safely into South Korea threatened to rape her, who was 14.  Her mother interceded and allowed the man to have sex with her instead.  In front of the young girl, the man sexually assaulted her mother.  Later, she witnessed girls her own age being sold to men for as little as $200.

She does not speak easily of this time in her life.  Constantly under threat of assault or death, she and her mother made their way to the area they believed they could find help.  Eventually, Christian missionaries interceded and got them to safety.  Soon, other groups intervened and managed to get the pair to South Korea, where they were reunited with her sister who had arrived earlier.

"The joy of having our family back together is impossible to describe," she says, who today lives with her mother and sister in the South Korean capital and attends the university there, majoring in political science.  When asked what message she wants to send to the world, She has a compelling answer.  "North Korea is an unimaginable place," she says softly. 

"You are told what to think, what to say and what to read.  I did not even realize that there was such a thing as love for your fellow man until I left.  Now, I want everyone to realize that there are still people living as I lived—many of them.  I want to focus the attention of the world on what is really happening in North Korea so that perhaps others will become involved in putting pressure on the country to release those who are held against their will."

She is certainly doing her part to forward this dream.  Involved with several humanitarian groups, she travels the globe, telling her story and sharing her experiences with those who will listen.  "We are all human, and I believe in the power of human beings to help each other."

Those who are interested in helping North Koreans and others around the globe who are being held in prisons or denied basic human rights can become involved in a number of ways.  One way is to educate themselves about the realities of the death camps, the public executions and the sexual slavery that is rampant in many parts of the world.  Another way to help is to donate time and money to relief organizations that target the people groups in various countries who are suffering under these regimes.

"We can all do something," says Yeonmi Park.  Seeing the incredible results this tiny, shy young lady has had in the past year makes this statement a fact.  Seeing how dedicated she is to shining the light of truth on the horrors of North Korea and other regimes, how can any of us fail to do our part as well to stop human rights violations across the globe?

Friday, May 29, 2015

Yeonmi Park and Her Incredible Story Article 1

YeonMi Park

When she took the stage at the One Young World conference in Dublin in the summer of 2014, few had ever heard of this college student who defected from North Korea.  However, that would soon change.  Her compelling speech and her story of love, loss and courage touched the hearts of everyone who heard her and catapulted the shy, quiet girl to international stardom.  Her speech quickly reached 2 million views on YouTube as word spread of her inspiring tale. She was born in North Korea to a middle-class family.  Her father was a minor businessman and she, her mother and her sister knew relative financial comfort until one day when things changed.  Herself recalls the moment that she began to realize that her country was a very dangerous place.

"My best friend's mother was convicted of watching pirated DVDs and passing them on to others," recalls the 21-year-old in her sweet voice that belies the horror of her tale.  "They took her and some other people to a public area.  There they broke their teeth.  They stuffed their mouths full of rocks—this was so that they could not speak or cry out.  They lined them up and shot them all.  I remember the horror of that moment.  At nine years old, all I understood was hearing the shots and seeing the blood as she crumpled to the ground.  I had no understanding at that time of how dangerous it was to speak out against the government.

YeonMi Park

I did not understand why my best friend's mother had to die that way." Later, She began to realize why her mother always tried to make her father stop talking about the government.  "When he would complain or make some statement that did not fit with the worship of the ruler, my mother would always be very worried and tell him to stop."  As she and her sister got older, she began to understand that her mother was terrified that her father would be arrested.  Unfortunately, one day that fear became a reality.

"My father was arrested for buying from and selling goods to the wrong people," she says .  "He was imprisoned in a camp.  There, he found out that he had colon cancer."  Unable to face the prospect of dying before he could get his family out of North Korea, Mr. Park showed incredible courage and resourcefulness.  He bribed a guard to let him out of prison, then ushered his family into China where he hoped they would find their way to South Korea.

Unfortunately, Mr. Park never made it to the "promised land."  He died on the road in China, and Yeonmi Park and her mother buried his ashes in the mountains.  "To this day, I do not know where is grave is, and we never had a proper funeral," she recalls.  Separated from her sister, she and her mother could do nothing but go forward and hope that they could find their way to freedom and safety.