I recently watched a video of a young North Korean woman, Park Yeon-mi, when she spoke at the One Young World Conference in Dublin, Ireland in 2014. Her eloquence and passion were evident, and her courage was a testament to the human will when faced with seemingly unbeatable odds.
As a little girl, she remembers her mother telling her that she shouldn’t whisper so even the birds or mice couldn’t hear her thoughts and words. Park thought their supreme leader could read her mind, in large part due to the vast amount of propaganda about the power of the head of the government consistently presented to the people.
The cultural influences most of us take for granted weren’t even a possibility for her or her people. She’d never seen books, movies, or heard songs about love stories. There was one state-run TV station, and internet wasn’t available. Park had witnessed her friend’s mother executed for watching a Hollywood movie.
The North Korean regime controlled all aspects of its citizens’ lives. Women and young girls are sold to sex traffickers, and some are raised from birth specifically for that purpose. If you committed a crime, the government could execute, imprison and punish three generations of your family for your actions.
Park watched an illegal copy of the movie, Titanic, and she realized how oppressive the Kim Dynasty was to its people. She credits the film with teaching her the true meaning of love and showing her a level of freedom she hadn’t known existed.
Her journey to freedom was fraught with danger and fear they’d be sent back to North Korea. Her father died when she was 14 years old, and she had to bury him in an unmarked grave on the side of a mountain without a chance to mourn or tell anyone of his death. But, in April 2009, Park and her mother were flown to Seoul and freedom.
There are three actions which we can act upon to help the citizens of North Korea and the 300,000 refugees in China. The first is to educate yourself about the situation in North Korea and share the information with others. Secondly, we can provide help and monetary support to aid the North Korean refugees; and finally, petition China to stop the repatriation of North Korean refugees.
Park Yeon-mi is an activist, author, and speaker. She has written for the Washington Post and was selected as BBC’s 100 Women in 2014. She is currently enrolled in Columbia School of General Studies pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Economics.
To see the inspirational video of Park at the One Young World conference, click here.
The power of creativity and its ability to change thought and influence the actions of others is one of the lessons to be learned by Park’s story. The Kim Dynasty forbids the creative spirit in its citizens and deprives them of any type of art–motion pictures, books, and music–to maintain control, squash independent thought and enslave them.
The One Million Project group wanted to bring attention to the story of this brave young women. We believe the creative spirit can serve the good, and through our stories we work to raise funds for charities, hoping to improve the lives of others. We have the freedom to make a difference, and with our collective efforts use our pens for beneficial change.
OMP Admin Note: Kate McGinn is a writer and OMP Network member – one of a group of networkers who will be blogging on a regular basis on various causes and issues. Kate hopes to spread awareness of the issue of American Veterans returning home to less help than they deserve. EMMAUS is one of the two main charities we are supporting.
Kate McGinn’s fiction can be found on Amazon in the flash fiction series BITE SIZE STORIES (Volume Two) along with five other guest writers. The first two books in her Clare Thibodeaux Series–EXODUS and WINTER’S ICY CARESS are available on Amazon.
Twitter – @katemcginn6