Escape from the World's Largest Prison

Yeonmi Park knows too much for her 22 years. Americans would have a hard time understanding the kind of brutality she endured. Her book, In Order to Live details life in North Korea—eating rats to survive and routinely seeing dead bodies in the streets. She was taught to believe that Brilliant Comrade, Kim Jong Un could read her mind. She dared not think bad thoughts.

Americans were hated. In school, Yeonmi learned to refer to Americans as “bastards”.  Those US bastards were the reason she was starving and her family suffered in dire poverty, living in filth, and nearly freezing each winter.

Photo: North Korea by United Kingdom Times

Yet even with no access to the outside world, bits of truth seeped in. Ironically, her first exposure to Western ideas was a black-market DVD of the movie, Titanic. In her young life, she’d seen countless people die for the regime, but never willingly die for love.

She and her mom escaped to China when she was 13. It’s not a story of freedom and deliverance, but of being kidnapped, and forced into slavery and sex trafficking. Only through the efforts of a Christian missionary was she able to make a harrowing escape to South Korea.

Yeonmi learned that freedom was more than having enough food, but also making her own choices. She had lived an indoctrinated life and now she needed answers.

She became a voracious reader— about world history, economics, and books like George Orwell’s Animal Farm which depicted the journey from socialism to tyrannical rule. Yeonmi would have been executed for having a copy of it in North Korea (maybe it should be required reading in our high schools).

The family she left behind face daily abuse and evil. Even though she was starved, tortured, and a sex slave, she would go through it all again to gain the freedom she has now.

America, let us pledge to appreciate and preserve our freedom, because we don’t ever want to lose it. Just ask Yeonmi.

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