“They (biographies) made me think I could make it when nobody else believed in me, when even I didn’t believe in myself.”
Yeonmi Park, In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom
Yeonmi Park defected from North Korea alongside her mother when she was thirteen years old. Her mother was driven not to raise her daughters in a society where censorships and public executions were woven into the daily culture. The unknown beyond the Chinese border represented freedom and possibility of a life directed by destiny instead of a regime.
The unknown Park and her mother first encountered were Chinese human traffickers who sold them into sex slavery. Eventually separated, they both lived as forced brides within a prostitution ring. Upon their escape, they were reunited and resumed their journey to South Korea across the Gobi desert.
In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom is Park’s autobiography and tells her story. The Reason’s blog interviews Yeonmi Park in reaction to her skeptics. Claims against her outside of the North Korean governments are based on details that do not up add up to a viewer. One skeptic points out how her English writing is too fluent for a non-English speaker. The possibility that Park inquired and received help to translate her letter never arises. The skepticism often comes from those personally familiar with the country. Their stories share a trait with Park’s. The trait that they are both personal experiences of a country with the limitation of itself.
The publication of her autobiography garnered a lot of attention, which led to many interviews with human rights groups and journalists. If a story is not retold precisely each time, does it make it any less true? Does it diminish Park’s truth? Recalling childhood memories and using them as an infrastructure the mechanics of a society is an obstacle for anyone. Let alone conveying them through multiple languages and lenses.
Limiting free speech and the right to tell one’s story is precisely what Park is speaking against. Yeonmi Park was inspired as a child to believe in herself and the ability to pursue freedom from others’ stories. And no matter her distractors’ opinions of her personal truths, her story will continue to inspire others to demand their own freedom.