For those living in the West, the bleak conditions under communist rule are difficult to understand. Regardless of the promised prosperity, which is expected to flow from a philosophy founded on Karl Marx’s famous political thesis “From each, according to their means, to each according to their needs,” countries under communist rule have historically produced only suffering for their people under a heavy iron fist of their ruling class.
Yeonmi Park and her mother’s journey to freedom began as they crept out from behind North Korea’s communist curtain into China began in 2007. In the middle of the night, under a dark winter sky, Yeonmi and her mother crept down the stony bank of the frozen Yalu River and crossed into neighboring China, and their destination was the democratically governed South Korea. Having lived under communist rule all her life, Yeonmi didn’t even understand the concept of liberty. Nor did she know what lay ahead of her. She and her mother’s only desire was to find this thing called personal liberty, which did not exist for her in her homeland.
China is in the first stages of emerging from its own communist past, and as a resident alien in China, the Parks lived outside the law in a country that is known for the importance it puts on obeying national rules. She was only a few steps away from starvation, experienced physical and sexual abuse, and felt tempted with suicide as the pair engaged a year-long epic journey. From the northern border of North Korea, she and her mother trekked across the Gobi Desert, through Mongolia, until they secured a plane flight into South Korea.
Once their story became public, North Korea’s central government created a propaganda video in an attempt to discredit the women’s bravery. Labeled “the Puppet of a Human Rights Plot,” Yeonmi and her mother had to face down the unfounded accusations. Some South Koreans even opposed the pair, seeking to label them as “Celebrity Defectors” rather than the courageous women they are.
For more information, and a nearly 30-minute video of Yeonmi’s brave journey, visit https://reason.com/blog/2015/11/15/yeonmi-parks-north-korean-defector-story.