Twelve-year-old Yeonmi Park barely noticed the branches that grazed her skin as she moved through the darkness. She barely noticed the bitter cold, the sound of her breath in the air, or the light cracks of the frozen river as she tiptoed across. She and her mother were running for their lives, through forests, rivers, and mountains as they fled North Korea.
Yeonmi and her mother no longer felt safe living in North Korea. The family had endured living without electricity, indoor plumbing and running water, and faced with periods of starvation. Yeonmi’s father began to smuggle illegal metals to provide for his family, but he was arrested and imprisoned. Yeonmi Park’s mother knew that the Kim regime would now single out the family and decided that they should escape to China.
Yeonmi Park and her mother were led through the perilous terrain by human smugglers. Once they had reached China, the mother-daughter duo was faced with a new nightmare: they were enslaved and imprisoned. Although they were freed a few years later, Yeonmi and her mother were in China illegally. If discovered, they would be deported to North Korea where they would be executed.
Neither knew how to react to the newfound freedom they discovered.
“To me, having food was freedom,” Yeonmi said on a Dailymail interview. “I did not understand the concept of freedom and never did I believe that such democracy could exist in this world. The Kim regime controls what North Koreans hear and see. I was always told to take great care, because even the birds and mice could hear my whispers and would tell Kim Jong-Un. I believed he could read my mind.”
Yeonmi believed that North Koreans deserved better than the life given to them by the Kim dynasty.