Human rights activist Yeonmi Park has been an inspiration to millions of people around the world, so I was pleased to read on the DePauw University Website that she would be speaking at the Timothy and Sharon Ubben Lecture event on October 5th 2015. The story of Yeonmi Park and her family has been told many times and this event at DePauw University will make her the youngest speaker in the history of the event, which is more used to politicians, journalists and popular culture figures providing speeches than 22 year old human rights activists. As tensions remain high between North and South Korea it is important that the people of the US hear the true story of somebody who fled the North Korean regime and was forced to trust human traffickers to get her family across China to the safety of South Korea.
Yeonmi Park and her family were forced to flee North Korea after her father was forced into a labor camp after selling precious metals in a bid to simply feed his family during one of the many famines those in North Korea have faced in recent years. Park, her mother and sister crossed into China in 2007 and with the paid assistance of Chinese human traffickers made their way to the South Korean Embassy in Mongolia in 2009. The journey to freedom was a traumatic one and resulted in the rape of Park’s mother and the apparent death of her sister before arriving in Mongolia. Since finding freedom in South Korea, Park was reunited with her sister five years after her disappearance and made it her mission to publicize the plight of the people of North Korea and the refugees fleeing the country. Now active on Twitter and around the world, Park hasn’t let up in her opposition to the North Korean regime.
The choice of Yeonmi Park as a speaker at DePauw University comes after she spoke at the Oslo Freedom Forum and will provide those listening with an insight into the truth of life in North Korea. Yeonmi Park has recently been co-hosting a podcast explaining the issues facing North Korean refugees and has been publicizing the problems of human trafficking across the globe.