What I learned about freedom after escaping North Korea | Yeonmi Park | TED


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# What I learned about freedom after escaping North Korea

## A Childhood in North Korea

Yeonmi Park was born in 1993 in the northern part of North Korea, in a village called Hyesan, near the border with China. She had loving parents and an older sister. However, before she turned 10, her father was sent to a labor camp for participating in illicit trading to provide for the family.

## Escaping to Freedom

In 2007, Yeonmi and her sister made the daring decision to escape North Korea. At just 13 years old, Yeonmi didn’t fully grasp the concept of escape, but the constant hunger in North Korea made it a matter of life and death. With no grand plan or maps, they simply followed the lights of China, hoping to find a bowl of rice.

## Life in North Korea

Yeonmi describes North Korea as unimaginable, a place where the concept of love is limited to adoration for the Supreme Leader, and where even thinking freely is discouraged. Growing up, she believed the leader to be a god-like figure who could read minds, instilling fear in her for simply having thoughts.

## Learning Compassion

After escaping to South Korea and eventually finding freedom in the United States, Yeonmi learned the true meaning of compassion. In North Korea, she had never been taught the concept, leading to a lack of empathy for the suffering she witnessed. It wasn’t until she learned about compassion that she began to feel it in her heart.

## The Fragility of Freedom

Yeonmi warns that freedom is fragile, recounting how North Korea transformed into a dystopian world akin to George Orwell’s « 1984 » in just three generations. She emphasizes the importance of fighting for human rights and speaking up for those who are oppressed and voiceless, as no one else will fight for us when we are not free.

## A Message of Hope

Despite the darkness that currently envelops North Korea, Yeonmi shares a message of hope for her fellow North Koreans living in oppression. She believes that another life is possible, urging them to strive for freedom as she did. Her own journey from being bought and sold as a slave to standing on the TED stage is a testament to the power of hope and the possibility of miracles.

As Yeonmi Park’s story illustrates, the fight for freedom and human rights is ongoing and essential. It serves as a reminder of the value of compassion, empathy, and the importance of speaking out against oppression, no matter how dark the circumstances may seem.


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