A young woman who defected from North Korea made a tearful plea to FCC guests to help the “forgotten” people of her home country as she spoke at a club lunch on April 3.
Yeonmi Park recounted the ordeal that she endured as she escaped the dictatorship with her mother in 2007. The pair were trafficked into China where mother and daughter were sold into slavery. Ms Park has since written a book, In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom, on her escape, and gives talks around the world.
Ms Park, whose mother was in the audience as she spoke, gave an insight into life in North Korea, where the internet is banned and education is geared largely towards serving the “socialist paradise”. Children are taught to hate “American bastards”, and watching American movies can lead to incarceration in a prison camp, she said.
“I did not know what Africa was,” she said, adding: “I did not know we had many different races in the world.”
When she finally escaped North Korea, she was forced to watch as her mother was raped by a trafficker. “We did not have sex education in North Korea… I lost my faith in humanity. She was raped instead of me.”
Eventually, her mother was sold for US$75, and Ms Park for $200 “because I was a virgin and I was younger”, she said. A year later mother and daughter were helped out of China to South Korea.
Watch Yeonmi Park recount her ordeal:
On her life today as a university student, Ms Park said: “I’m trying to be normal as much as possible but I will never be normal because I am from a different universe. I am here today even though I know I might get killed by Kim Jong-un. I am on his target list but human rights is something to care about, I will continue to talk about this.”
Having recounted her harrowing story, she fought back tears as she directly addressed the audience, and said: “The people of North Korea have been forgotten for 70 years… I am asking you to help them… Why doesn’t anyone do anything about North Korea?”
When asked by a guest what exactly could be done to help those in North Korea, she asked that people support the NGOs on the ground rescuing defectors in China. And she added: “Speak up against China.”
The Human Rights Press Awards are run by the FCC, Amnesty International Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Journalists Association. The 22nd annual awards were held on May 12, 2018, in a ceremony at the FCC. Click here to find out who won.