Welcome to my webpage on Yeonmi Park! This webpage discusses why Yeonmi Park is a hero to our modern day society.

Yeonmi Park

by Devam Shrivastava from San Diego, California in United States

"I am most grateful for two things: that I was born in North Korea, and that I escaped from North Korea. Both of these events shaped me, and I would not trade them for an ordinary and peaceful life." (Yeonmi Park)

135999Yeonmi ParkTore Sætre [CC BY-SA 4.0 (]Imagine living in an undeveloped country where freedom of speech is inconceivable. A place where books and resources are limited, the only news that is spread includes positive propaganda about the ruler and the greatness of the nation. Now add a tyrannous regime, the Kim Dynasty. Nothing is worse than living under their rule. In spite of this, in the midst of this tyranny is a young woman, petite in size, but big in personality; she is Yeonmi Park. Born on October 4, 1993 and brought up in Hyesan, Yeonmi Park as a child believed that her nation was the best nation in existence because of the propaganda about the ruler and the nation's greatness. Over time, though, through smuggled capitalist propaganda, and watching her father get brutally tortured in the concentration camps, Park gained the confidence to escape, despite knowing the risks. Her life is full of trials and tribulations. Through the hideous crime of human-trafficking, she was taken from North Korea to China. Walking hundreds of miles across the Gobi Desert with her mom, they attempted to escape from their horrid fate in the hope of achieving freedom. People imagine heroes who fly around and save everyone from a crisis, but a hero is truly more than this stereotyping belief. A hero is someone who is courageous and selfless, with a goal of relieving people from pain and suffering. These characteristics are clearly depicted in Yeonmi Park as she uses her courage to escape from North Korea, and her selflessness to influence others to escape, despite the consequence that she can be executed if caught.

A quality ordinarily seen in Park is her courage, which she constantly displayed during her great getaway. Fleeing North Korea was not the worst part of her path to freedom, but her stay in China was a more horrific life experience. It could have easily hampered her confidence, and she would not have been living with the liberty she has today. “This Woman Escaped North Korea at 13 - These Are Her Lessons on Perseverance”, an article by Mr. Tom Huddleston, discusses Park’s escape, and focuses on her courage when he mentions, “Eventually Eunmi escaped the country and in 2007, Park and her mother followed. They found brokers to help them get across the frozen Yalu River to China, but that journey bore its own horrors — the two were raped and sold into servitude by human traffickers before escaping after two years to Mongolia in a days-long trek that took them through the Gobi Desert” (Huddleston). Trying to escape a nation that has some of the strictest armies and police forces in the world is not a simple task, and this clearly shows her perseverance. This quote shows Yeonmi’s perseverance while escaping despite being sold and raped by traffickers, she continued with her mom and walked a whole day into Mongolia. If she had given up her persistent efforts to flee her communist nation, she would not have attained liberty. Having the bravery to do this at the age of thirteen further proves the testament of her being a true hero. Caroline Sanderson shows this in, “Yeonmi Park: a remarkable memoir tells of North Korean Yeonmi Park's escape to China, and how she hopes to shed light on her native country's oppressive practices”, when she writes, “One cold, black night in March 2007, Yeonmi Park--13 years of age and 60 pounds in weight-and her mother stumbled down the steep rocky bank of the frozen Yalu River which marks the border between North Korea and China. [...] They made it across and became 'physically free’” (Sanderson). Yeonmi Park was only thirteen years of age when she escaped, a really young age for an incredible task. Most people her age do not even think of putting their lives at stake to achieve what they desire, but her courage and passion for achieving freedom guided her across the border. Being courageous is necessary to one being a hero as it can help them confront their own fears and struggles to help others. Without her courage, she would not have been able to escape North Korea successfully. Needless to say, neither would she become a hero and an idol for other North Koreans.

Having courage has its own position in making a person a hero, but another necessary asset to one becoming a hero is that they must be selfless, which Park portrays in her personality as she fights for the betterment of others. After her escape, Yeonmi defected to America, where she completed her studies at Dongguk University in the field of international relations, and at Columbia University in the field of economics (Yeonmi). Her heroics are shown in a CNBC article by Tom Huddleston named, “This woman escaped North Korea at 13 - these are her lessons on perseverance”, where he mentions, “Park, who is also working toward a degree in economics at Columbia University, is now on the board of directors at the Human Rights Foundation and she works to raise awareness of the plight of people living under North Korea’s oppressive regime” (Huddleston). After escaping successfully, Yeonmi did not forget about the struggles that people are still facing in North Korea. Currently, she is starting to raise awareness about the fight for freedom in North Korea, hoping they would feel a taste of liberty. Park’s actions portray her as selfless, a great quality of a hero, when she helps others in need. Her project is described in further details in an NBC News article named, “Yeonmi Park's long journey from North Korea to Chicago”, where the authors Richard Engel and Kennett Werner state, “Park also advised the Human Rights Foundation on "Disrupt North Korea" initiative. The group's “Flash Drives for Freedom” program sends USB's with Hollywood movies, K-pop and South Korean soap operas into North Korea by balloon. The group sent 10,000 flash drives in 2016 and estimates that 1.1 million North Koreans have viewed the content” (Engel, Richard, and Kennett Werner). Knowing that she would be executed in North Korea if caught, Yeonmi Park started a project where she would deliver propaganda from places outside North Korea, and show that the outside world is a much better place to spend life in than North Korea. After she successfully escaped, Yeonmi could have just gone on with her own life, but she chooses to help for the betterment of humanity. Heroes with selfless hearts like Park's are needed in a world where people are constantly taught to put themselves first, before anyone else. Park’s self-sacrificing personality makes her a role model to modern society, and if considerate people like her are not there, then many people would be struggling to make a living right now under the evil and communist Kim regime.

Through her insurmountable courage and selflessness, Yeonmi Park exemplifies herself as a hero, which is seen in her acts when she endeavors to help others achieve freedom. Regardless of all of the struggles she faced-- from living in North Korea to getting trafficked in China-- Yeonmi Park maintained her braveness and moved forward in life, and is now assisting others to get free from the Kim Regime. She inspires me to be more considerate and caring to others as she constantly is fighting for the rights of others; her altruistic attitude towards mankind motivates me to stand up for people who are in need of help as she continues to sacrifice her life to save others from the oppressive leadership ruling over North Korea. If more people like Park start to stand up for the rights of people in North Korea, the victims of dictatorship will have their taste of freedom and justice soon enough. Although Yeonmi Park might be short in size, her acts render her as a big hero, not only for me, but will soon be for all of North Korea.

Later Life

In 2014, Park was honored as one of the BBC 100 Women. During the same year, she relocated to New York City, where she completed her memoir while simultaneously continuing her activism work. In 2021, Park attained U.S. citizenship and was married to an American named Ezekiel from 2017 to 2020, during which time they welcomed a son into their family.

Her memoir, titled "In Order to Live," was published in 2015. In this book, she candidly recounted her journey from defection to pursuing higher education. She initially attended classes at Barnard College before gaining admission to the Columbia University School of General Studies, commencing her studies in the Fall 2016 semester. She successfully graduated from Columbia in 2020.

Following the release of her memoir, Park's portrayal of life in North Korea underwent a significant transformation. She began presenting a more harrowing and less glamorous depiction of life in North Korea than what she had previously shared with South Korean television audiences. This shift in tone coincided with her transition from reality television to speaking at human rights conferences. Notably, her narrative evolved from describing a life of luxury to recounting experiences of never having seen eggs or indoor toilets in North Korea, a change that garnered attention from experts on North Korea and media outlets like The Washington Post.


Page created on 5/13/2019 9:21:23 PM

Last edited 10/3/2023 4:40:57 PM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Related Links

NBC News - "Yeonmi Park's long journey from North Korea to Chicago"
NCBS - "This woman escaped North Korea at 13 — these are her lessons on perseverance"

Extra Info

Works Cited

Engel, Richard, and Kennett Werner “N. Korea Calls Her a 'Poisonous Mushroom.' She     Takes That as a Compliment.”

Huddleston, Tom. “This Woman Escaped North Korea at 13 - These Are Her Lessons on   Perseverance.” CNBC, CNBC, 20 Aug. 2018, 10:17 AM

Park, Yeonmi, et al. In Order to Live: a North Korean Girl's Journey to Freedom.   Plataforma, 2017.

Sanderson, Caroline. "Yeonmi Park: a remarkable memoir tells of North Korean Yeonmi   Park's escape to China, and how she hopes to shed light on her native country's   oppressive practices." The Bookseller, 24 July 2015, p. 18. Student Resources In Context, Accessed 3 May 2019.

"Yeonmi Park." Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2018. Biography In Context, Accessed 30 Apr. 2019.