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How one woman did everything she could to escape North Korea

Yeonmi Park

(NaturalNews) Although she is only 22 years old, Yeonmi Park has already led an extraordinary life. She's the author of a new book entitled In Order to Live, in which she details her early life in North Korea and her subsequent escape from the repressive and poverty-stricken communist nation.

It's a harrowing tale fraught with danger and hardships most people could scarcely imagine, but it's also an inspiring story of determination and courage in the face of adversity.

Park was born in North Korea during the regime of Kim Jong Il, the country's former ruler and father of the current dictator, Kim Jong Un.

Her early years were typical of life in the impoverished dictatorship, where starvation is common and any voices of dissent are swiftly answered with fierce reprisals, often including lengthy incarceration and even executions.

In a televised interview with Fox News's John Stossel, Park described aspects of her childhood before she and her mother escaped the country when she was 13.

"We didn't have enough food. I had to see dead bodies in the streets," she recalls.

Schoolchildren in North Korea are taught to hate Americans. Park describes how the anti-American propaganda even permeated her math lessons:

"We have to call all Americans 'bastards'. My math problem was 'you had four American bastards and you could choke two, how many American bastards are left to kill'? North Korea educates people that our suffering is because of these bad American bastards. Because of them, we are starving."

The brainwashing was at least partly effective during Park's early years, when she dutifully worshiped Kim Jong Il, the "Dear Leader," and subsequently his son, "Brilliant Comrade," Kim Jong Un, upon the former dictator's death.

However, as Stossel writes, "[T]iny bits of freedom can undermine a regime's monopoly on thought."

In Park's case, one of these "tiny bits" was a bootlegged DVD copy of the Hollywood film Titanic:

"I watched the movie 'Titanic' and I was shocked. Like, how could this kind of ridiculous film exist? I'd never seen people dying for love, except dying for the regime and the party."

Sold into sex slavery in China

Although she and her mother managed to escape into China, it was not the end of their hardships. Park and her mother were sold into slavery and forced to become sex workers.

"Chinese government, if they catch us, will sell us back to North Korea," says Park, "so we are very vulnerable in China. Chinese people, they know that."

Park knew little of sex and of what was happening to her and her mother at the time, when sex traffickers exploited the pair's vulnerability to their advantage. "I didn't even know what kissing was."

She and her mother were eventually able to escape their predicament in China by crossing the border into South Korea.

Life was still a challenge in their new home because Yeonmi was not used to the concept of freedom and having to make personal choices:

"I thought freedom meant wearing jeans or watching movies without worrying about getting arrested or executed, but what freedom meant in South Korea was you've got to think for yourself. They were asking me, 'What do you think about this? What do you want to do with your life? What do you like to eat?' I was so upset, like, 'Tell me what to do, tell me what to wear!'"

Eventually, Yeonmi Park was able to adjust by educating herself, reading everything she could get her hands on, including George Orwell's classic Animal Farm.

That book helped her to "understand what really had happened to me and what really had happened to North Korea."

When asked whether or not she considers herself a "victim," Yeonmi replied:

"I am not a victim. I am grateful I was born in North Korea and escaped ... I would go through the same journey to be free."



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