Yeonmi Park – Escaping North Korea


Before I start this post I would just like to say that I found Yeonmi to be such an inspirational person I decided to write a poem about her journey. It is, of course, dedicated to Yeonmi but also to the millions of people under the North Korean regime.

I first read Yeonmi’s book ‘In order to live’ after I noticed it creeping up the Amazon bestsellers with hundreds of amazing reviews. What instantly struck me about this book is that Yeonmi says in a sentence what some people would write a whole book about – that is how much she has been through.

Having read the book I found it so amazing to see such a huge Human Rights activist right in front of me. She highlighted that there are so many Human rights abuses in North Korea – from no free speech to no right of free movement. She did say that there are limited but very important things that people can do to help the situation if they feel they want to help:

  1. Petition the Chinese government to accept North Korean refugees as Political Refugees
  2. Petition the Chinese government to stop sending North Korean refugees back – to possible death or prison camps
  3. Educate yourself. The everyday reality of life in North Korea is not hugely talked about.
  4. Educate your friends. Discuss the issues and make others aware.
  5. If you feel that you would like to, research organisations that are working to get information into North Korea. For example, Yeonmi talked about an organisation that throws pen drives filled with information over the Chinese border and into North Korea.


Yeonmi talked about her childhood – she spent a month aged eight without her mother or proper food during famine. Her desperation for a ‘bucket of bread’. Escaping over the border with her mother. Sexual abuse aged only thirteen. Having to hide in China. Making the trek through the Gobi desert to Mongolia. Learning South Korean culture. Her educational successes.

She was so lovely when I got the opportunity to speak with her after the event. All she wants is to see a free North Korea. She talked about the death threats that she receives over Twitter and YouTube from North Korea. When asked if this scared her she just replied “If I was in North Korea right now I would be dead, I just live every day the best I can”.

Yeonmi is now studying for a degree in Finance in America, and working as a Human Rights Activist. This woman is so incredibly strong, She has come from a background where she thought that the ‘birds and mice’ would hear her and report her. A background where she thought the ‘Dear Leader’ controlled the weather. Just look at her now!

In dedication to the millions still trapped in North Korea

A life outside

My brain exhales after

fifteen years holding

thoughts in.


It sinks into a sofa the

Kims don’t control –

southern leather holding

my skin.


Choices fizz against my

tongue like sherbet – too

overwhelmed by


14 different brands of rice.


I nurture the seeds of my

new mind.


I am a teacher

marking work. That was

wrong and


this is right.


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