Were you to see Yeonmi Park on the street you would probably let your eyes slide right past her. She is a young woman who looks like a doll come to life with porcelain skin and large, round eyes. Park’s soft and pretty exterior flawlessly covers up a past that is filled with the sort of fear and violence that growing up in North Korea can only give. Throughout it all Park consistently showcased one thing: her will to live. You can read her entire story in her Amazon released autobiography, “In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom”, as reported by Reason.com. Despite her winning the hearts over of people int he West, things aren’t easy for Park back home.
If you are a North Korean defector there are really only a couple of outcomes available to you. You can slink out of your country and turn into a ghost, another defector trying to live in a world without their home. You can become a target of North Korea’s wrath: many defectors who chose to speak up about their experiences end up in serious trouble, or worse. Finally you can take the route that Yeonmi took and you can become an icon and a representation of hope.
As Park’s popularity has continued to soar around the world she has seen Pyongyang double down in their personal attacks. North Korea can’t have a defector like Park gain any traction or else the words of condemnation she lauds at North Korea will have even more meaning, more depth. North Korea knows that she is telling the truth, but the truth is a liquid thing in the oppressive world of North Korea. Right now Pyongyang is launching a consistent source of condemnation propaganda via multiple videos. The videos are, of course, melodramatic while verging on the point of eye roll worthy. But they are consistent and they are trying to damage Park. Yeonmi’s story is currently under fire but Pyongyang’s insistence on discrediting it is only making her case even stronger for the people that already believe her at this point in time.