Defector Yeonmi Park on Escaping North Korea

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Yeonmi Park

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Yeonmi Park is a North Korean Human Rights Activist, and author of “In Order To Live: a North Korean Girl's Journey to Freedom.”

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Transcript

The J-Rogan experience. So you were 13 when you and your family, was it you and your mother that escaped? Yeah. How did you get out? So that has been alright. Initially my sister and I was going to escape. But when North Koreans say we are not escaping, of course we don't have phones, we don't have a map, we don't know what's the outside world would look like. Luckily I was living in this border town of North Korea by then. So at night, do you know if you see the satellite photo of North Korea, it is literally the darkest place on earth. We don't have electricity. So I was seeing these lights coming from China. So I thought if I go with the lights, we would be finding some bottle of rice. So at 16 my sister left with her friend and she left me a note while I was in the hospital and got my, removing my appendix. And then as soon as I got out of the hospital, I found a note. And initially my mom and I went to look for a sister where she went. But when we found a lady, she told me that she could help me to go to China that day. And so this was you and your mother and you were 13 years old. So how did you get across and what was that experience like? So I told my mom, I come with me to China. And she, my mom was like, you know, my father was home. He was waiting. But the thing is, the tragic thing for North Koreans is we cannot even say goodbye to our loved ones. So if we got caught on the journey and if my father knew that we were escaping, he's going to be punished so much. So it's better off that he does not know that we were escaping for his own safety. Because they're going to torture you to the point that you're going to say anything. Because they do this all subconscious like torture that they make you not sleep. In a single room has like no air, much air. If you put there for 40 days alone, you go crazy. You say whatever they ask you. So if he actually knew that we were escaping, it wouldn't go for him. He would be dead. So I told him, I'm like, you cannot tell father that we are escaping. So that day we climbed up this several mountains and then we went to the riverside. But she had a connection with the guards. Why did you not bring him with you? Because he's a man and he was sick. And somehow she said, only women can go. Only women can go? I did not know why, what she meant by that. She's like, you should just go with your mom. And don't even tell those people that's your mom. She said like, you are like 18 or something. And my mom was something 30. So she told me that our age was different. So this would somehow or another help you when you were going across? Yeah. How would that help you? I don't know. She told me, well, this is going to be helpful. Well, part of the issue is in China, there's a disproportionate number of men in comparison to women. And so they want as many women to come across as that are of legal age, like women that can be married or can write. Is that the idea behind it? It's a smuggling. So like, you got it right. Because of one child policy, a lot of girls got aborted in China. So they kept the boys. So there's many, many men that have no chance of ever finding a woman because there are no women. Yeah. Over 30 million men in the rural areas cannot find the wives. So they over 30 million. It's not going to keep going up right now. So that's a big problem for Chinese regime. But the thing is, even that they don't allow North Korean women to stay there. They catch us. And they send us back to North Korea. Last month, China repatriated 50 North Korean defectors back to North Korea. It's sending them lawsuits. Literally, they are sending them to death camp. But the Chinese regime still do catch us and send us back because they think we are posing a threat to the regime and they don't want the regime to collapse. So they are catching all the defectors. But the human traffickers sees the opportunity here because we are so vulnerable. We are running away from Chinese authority. So even they rape us and kill us. The last place that we are going to go is going to police and then report on them. Why do they think that women coming over from North Korea are going to somehow or another collapse the empire? Because that's what Kim Jong Un believes. He thinks they are going to collapse through the defectors. So after Kim Jong Un came into power, the country cannot afford electricity. They put out an electrified fence in the entire border. Not only that, they put the machine guns through the guards, have a shoot to kill order, whoever crosses. They don't even bother to ask you to stop. They shoot you right there. And not only that, he buried the land mines on top of that. So there's an electric fence and then there's guards shooting to kill and then past that there's land mines. Yeah, entire country became a concentration camp. Entire country. When did they start putting the land mines in? A few years ago. So this is after you had already escaped? Yeah, now there's no, you don't see North Korean defectors escaping from North Korea anymore. It's impossible to escape at this point.