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and life along the winding road

Friday, March 17, 2023

In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park

 Yeonmi Park wrote In Order to Live to share her journey and escape from North Korea. It seems that as a young child her life was a little better than others in North Korea as her father earned a degree and worked in the finance office but some family scandals affected not just  those responsible but also other family members and it extended  to Yeonmi's family too. He lost his job. Looking at pictures of Yeonmi as a child, though, the family appears to be well dressed. Not unlike the problems in communist Cuba, the regime began with subsidized food, but once that stopped and an economy collapse North Koreans were plunged into lives of semi-starvation. The only way to make a living was on the black  market and her father excelled at buying and selling illegally until he was arrested.

Without knowing anything about human trafficking, Yeonmi and her mother accepted an offer to help them escape to China. Like many of the young girls taking the journey she fell into the hands of disreputable people until some Christian missionaries help them to escape. Getting to South Korea, however, was not easy, they needed to walk north to Mongolia enduring freezing temperatures. The goal was to take a flight to South Korea. 

Despite all the hardships, South Korea was welcoming and has many programs to help those escaping and also offering an education. Their schools are ranked top of the world ratings.

One observation Yeonmi had when attending Columbia University in the U.S. was how the professors are encouraging students to embrace socialism. She was shocked that a country who offers freedom for its citizens is looking at the constrictions of socialism and communism favorably and is also well received by even elitist students.