Yeonmi Park is the young North Korean defector and human rights activist that gave an amazing speech in Dublin, Ireland at the One Young World Summit. Her tail highlighted the atrocities committed by the North Korean regime and the equally horrendous treatment at the hands of human traffickers around the world like the ones that she and her mother encountered in China. Her speech was emotional and deeply personal, and it was laced with powerful and intense imagery that left many spectators in tears. Yeonmi Park had witnessed a host of horrors right before leaving North Korea and during her journey to the South Korean embassy. There were many things that she had hoped to hide from her past in North Korea that she had lived and seen, but she understood that by jumping feet first into the world of human rights activism she was going to have to tell her story in full.
Yeonmi Park of the youngvoicesadvocates is working with a collaborator to help her write her story in full detail about life in North Korea and the brain washing, torture and starvation she witnessed and experienced. With her co-author’s help, Yeonmi Park has been able to get most of her story verified through her family and other defectors from the oppressive North Korean regime she had met along the way in her journey. There were times when Yeonmi had blocked out or forgotten very graphic and horrific details of her story, especially her childhood. In many cases, Yeonmi Park wasn’t just recalling things she’d seen; she was reliving things. By telling her story, she was ripping open terrible psychological wounds that she had tried to lock away.
Yeonmi’s book, which is coming out soon, is crucial to read because it will have her full story in it, and it will paint a complete picture of North Korea. Initially when she arrived in South Korea, she still wasn’t fluent in English, and she had gone through a profoundly traumatizing escape. Trauma tends to change how the brain processes memories so there was no way to get an accurate and complete portrayal of the events of her life and defection immediately. When there are scrambled time-frames and confusing details like in Yeonmi’s story, it is usually a sign that the person is being truthful. North Korea has capitalized on the trauma Yeonmi suffered, and it began a smear campaign against her.
Yeonmi’s co-author had received a mysterious email warning about working with her on her book, and a video was released by North Korea parading Yeonmi’s family out in a disgusting display to denounce their own flesh and blood’s terrible experience. In many ways, Yeonmi was grateful to see them. At least she knew her extended family was still alive. It is not uncommon for an entire family of a defector to be sentenced to labor camps where they live out a terrible existence. Yeonmi is still working on her book and trying to heal the wounds of her childhood and past by being a champion for the oppressed.