On the surface, Yeonmi Park looks like any other university student; fashionable, eager, ambitious. Except she is North Korean, and is one of the lucky ones to have escaped the country's tyrannical regime.
Due to speak at the One Young World summit in Dublin, 20-year-old Yeonmi says her country is committing a holocaust of its own people, while the world looks on and does nothing.
As a child Yeonmi managed to avoid the worst of North Korea’s Great Famine, estimated to have killed 2.5m people, thanks to her father’s black-market trade in precious metals.
In 2002 her father – who she describes as her “hero” – was arrested for illegal trading and sentenced to 17 years imprisonment by the regime. He underwent severe torture while in jail and was subjected to repeated beatings.
Three years later, he managed to bribe his way to freedom. It was then that Yeonmi and her mother set out to escape the country with the help of North Korean people smugglers — her father remaining behind in order to give his family the best chance of escape.
They succeeded in making their way to Jilin province in China, only for Yeonmi’s mother to be raped in front of her by the very people smugglers who had brought them there. Yeonmi eventually managed to make her way to South Korea where she is now a human rights activist working to raise awareness of the plight of the North Korean people.
Anticipating her address at the summit Yeonmi said: “We are all of us created equal. Every one of us deserves to be free. There is a holocaust going on in my country, the world needs to acknowledge that and do something to help the people of North Korea.
“North Korea cannot change because its people don’t realise that there is an alternative to their suffering. Above all it is a country that needs education because only with knowledge can change come about. I am here at One Young World because I believe that sharing my story is the first step to changing my country.”
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