YOUNG VOICES

North Korean Survivor Yeonmi Park Implores World To Act In Harrowing Speech

20/10/2014 13:40 BST | Updated 20/10/2014 13:59 BST

A 20-year-old woman who managed to escape the atrocities of North Korea has implored the world to help save her country's people from a "holocaust".

Openly crying, Yeonmi Park addressed delegates at this year's One Young World summit, and described the horrors of living in the world's most secretive nation.

"I was abducted at birth, even before I knew the words freedom or human rights," she said.

At just nine years old, Yeonmi witnessed her mother's friend publicly executed. Her crime? Watching a Hollywood movie.

"North Koreans are being terrorised. When I was growing up, I never saw anything about love stories.. there is no Romeo and Juliet."

The brave young woman recalled learning the important lesson of not even daring to whisper, so even the mice and the birds couldn't hear her.

Yeonmi said 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, in order to save her daughter from suffering the same horrific fate.

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.

She concluded her harrowing talk by pleading with the world to focus on North Korea's people: "We need to focus less on the regime and more on the people who are being forgotten... we are the ones who can make them visible."