From Country to Country Yeonmi Park’s Journey
At 13 years of age, Yeonmi Park left North Korea for China on a self imposed exile. The sojourn in China was not long lived since, together with her mother, they were aware of the eminent deportation that was looming in the event of their discovery. In 2009 they settled in South Korea after an eventful exodus in search of peace. Yeonmi Park’s family started off well financially, but in the twilight of her parents’ career thing changed for the worse. Park’s father had started his own business away from his family. He was forced to do this after the government suffered economically and could no longer offer jobs. In subsequent years Park’s father would be arrested and the family thrown into economic chaos: poverty. Yeonmi, born in 4th October 1993, leaned on her mother and sister Eunmi. North Korea Parks parents worked for the government in different capacities: the father worked for the council and the mother a nurse serving in the army. When the economy fell they lost their positions leading them to seek other options of sustenance. Park’s father began a business in the black market dealing in metal: smuggling. Since the business was away from his home of Hyesan Ryanggang, he had to be away from them. He worked in Pyongyang. The business went on for some time but was shut down when the government arrested Park’s father.
China to South Korea
The distress of not finding Eunmi was compounded by the overtures that were made by an agent who insisted that if rebuffed he would expose the illegal emigrants to the Chinese law enforcement. Park, to whom the overtures were directed, was saved by the mother who instead threw herself at the agent in order to save Park from such an indecent experience. The sting of their experience would be palliated by the arrival of Park’s father. He was taken to a doctor who pronounced his condition as inoperable: advanced colon cancer. Park’s father later died, but the family could not conduct the ritual of mourning and proper burial as it would expose them and cause them trouble with their unknowing hosts. Click here for more on Park’s work on youngvoicesadvocates.