Yeonmi Park is a North Korean defector and human rights activist. She has been fighting for the freedom of the North Koreans since escaping to South Korea through China. She was born in the Heysan region of North Korea to a father who worked as a businessman. Yeonmi had a relatively good life but things in her life changed when her father was imprisoned. He was accused of smuggling and was sentenced to 17 years in prison coupled with hard labor. Hard labor resulted in his health deteriorating.
Yeonmi received worldwide attention on youtube at the Young World Conference in Dublin where she delivered an emotional and moving speech. Her remarkable speech catapulted her to global stardom. Within no time, the speech hit over 2 million views on YouTube inspiring many people across the world. Since then, she has traveled across the world and has been featured in various shows both on radio and television stations.
Her story has been told in different platforms. Some of the television stations where she has been featured include the Voice of America, CNN, and the BBC. She has also been featured on radio channels like Free Asia Radio and BBC 2. Yeonmi appears regularly as a guest on South Korean Television on a show known as Now On My Way to Meet You. This program aims to bring together the North and South Koreans. In addition, she runs her own show called Yeonmi Park Show. She is also a co-host of the Television podcast Casey Lartigue that airs in English.
Yeonmi was exposed to the outside world after watching a pirated version of the Titanic movie. Before that, all she knew was the brutal regime of North Korea given that she was taught on what to say, think and even feel. Nothing was free. The regime controlled what students learned at school besides what they watched. After watching the titanic movie, she became aware of the freedoms that people were enjoying in different parts of the globe.
Yeonmi’s circumstances changed when they decided to flee to South Korea. Although her father did not accompany them, he facilitated their escape by bribing guards who operated at the border. It was not easy to convince them to let his family pass considering that the guards were instructed to shoot anyone who approached the border. Her father joined them later but unfortunately could not complete the journey with them. He died on the way owing to his illnesses.
After gaining her freedom, Yeonmi realized that she was worth more than what she had been made to believe. She points out that the new freedom gave her a new voice that was powerful in her decision-making. This voice has made be actively engaged in making the whole world recognize the plight of the North Koreans. She has been fighting the slavery where girls aged 13 to 15 are sold for less than two hundred dollars. She has been a voice of inspiration and hope to millions of North Koreans. Presently, Yeonmi lives in South Korea with her mother together with her sister who rejoined them after five years of separation.