In her book, In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom, Yeonmi Park recounts her harrowing tale out of North Korea and towards a new life with her mother. She began her travels in 2007, at age thirteen. Her mother went with her, and they were later joined by their father. However, before they could reach the liberty they so desired Yeonmi’s father died of cancer. The journey to freedom is not without its casualties.
Yeonmi and her mother crossed into China, went across the Gobi Desert and reached the Mongolian border. They finally flew to South Korea and attained their freedom after years of living as criminals and suffering from starvation, abuse, and daily terror.
Yeonmi is only one of many teenage and adult refugees who suffered from the oppressive regime of North Korea. Her story, while praised by some for shedding light on the situation in that country, could be detrimental for those still stuck there. The credibility of her story has been attacked. If found untrue – something Yeonmi vehemently denies – the similar stories from refugees could be viewed in renewed doubt. This could set back the worldwide cause of human rights and political persecution. Thus, any critics posse a serious threat to Yeonmi and global recognition of individual liberty.
These critics state that Yeonmi’s story on The Reason contains discrepancies in her purported life story and inaccurate descriptions of North Korea. But Yeonmi has an explanation for these so-called “mistakes”.
Like any author, she has changed the names of people involved in her story to protect them. Some are family members still in North Korea who could be harmed by the regime if their part in Park’s story was revealed. In addition, Yeonmi told the reason she suffered sexual a use during her time fleeing North Korea, and was ashamed to write the details of this experience for the world to read. Her omitting this particular detail does not affect the overall truth of her tale. Lastly, Yeonmi is not a native English speaker, and admits some errors in her tale may be due to the language barrier.
Yeonmi will not allow her critics to silence her voice. Her story is important for people around the globe to hear and understand, and she defends its accuracy and details. She states that she knows the truth, whereas her accusers have not lived the same life and have not seen or experienced what she has. Her story lives on, and is a call to action to help refugees who have not yet been able to escape.