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In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl's Journey to Freedom Kindle Edition
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“Park's remarkable and inspiring story shines a light on a country whose inhabitants live in misery beyond comprehension. Park's important memoir showcases the strength of the human spirit and one young woman's incredible determination to never be hungry again.” —Publishers Weekly
About the Author
- ASIN : B00SI0B5EY
- Publisher : Penguin Books (September 29, 2015)
- Publication date : September 29, 2015
- Language : English
- File size : 11902 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 290 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #5,675 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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By Amazon Customer on October 7, 2020
This is the story of Yeonmi Park who defected from North Korea and who now sheds light on that hitherto dark landmass North of the 38th Parallel with its depraved barbaric regime set in the middle ages.
I had seen a video interview of this brave young woman whose story so amazed me I immediately purchased her revelatory book, which in turn, astounded me with its attention to detail that no personal interview could have covered in such breadth.
Yeonmi describes in vivid language the desperate and cruel living conditions of the majority of North Koreans, the starving masses, the constant indoctrination and mind control which keeps the population subservient to the government and to their “Great Leader”.
Yeonmi describes the three levels of society or songbun status where one is classified as the elite or loyal class, the wavering class, and the hostile class. Yeonmi’s family enjoyed the higher songbun class until her father was arrested for smuggling which was the only way the family could survive without starving. Once arrested their status was downgraded to the lowest songbun which meant their rations were reduced even further and among other deficiencies which were applied against the whole family.
Yeonmi describes catching a dragonfly and eating it. Everyone ignores bodies lying on the street with rats attacking the remains and eating the eyes first. She was taught that the "Great Leader" was a God and could read her mind, so she was terrified about thinking bad thoughts of the way she was living.
The incentive to flee to China was not about freedom as she had no concept of what that meant, it was about the possibility of having a full bowl of rice to eat. It was that alone which drove her and her mother to risk fleeing across the River Yula to China with the assistance of what turned out to be human traffickers. If caught they would be executed but starvation drove them
Her story of being in the hands of traffickers and what they did to her and her mother was heartrending. They did get plenty of rice and other food in China but it came at a heavy price for both Yeonmi who was only 13 at the time, and her mother. The brutality of life never extinguished the flame of determination and hope this young girl exhibited during her time in China and for other periods of hardship and difficulty yet to come.
Her description of walking through the desert with her mother to sneak into Mongolia while avoiding capture by the Chinese was nail-biting in its intensity & the ordeal made worse by the freezing conditions. Yeonmi had hidden a razor blade in her clothing which she was prepared to use to cut her own throat if captured. She would not allow herself to be sent back to North Korea where she would face labor camp or execution. Her mother had a stash of sleeping pills for the same purpose.
After successfully getting through to Mongolia and onto South Korea where she was able to eventually graduate from college, Yeonmi was able to turn a life of what could have been bitterness of heart into a humanitarian who wants to give inspiration to others who may be in poor and unfortunate circumstances.
Yeonmi must be careful, and hopefully, she will be well guarded as the North Korean regime has already targeted her as a puppet of the West. She brought a searchlight into the blackness that was hiding the real conditions of her country and the barbaric nature of its governance. She helped save her mother and searched relentlessly for her missing sister until they were united together in Seoul.
Her humanitarian work awakened in her a self-awareness that she should help others who may not be able to help themselves. If there were open votes for a Nobel Peace Prize, she would have mine without any question.
This book should be read by all high school students
David E. Huntley 9/2/2020
I watched Ms Park's One Young World speech (and cried along with her), and I was expecting the book to be emotional, and in particular I was looking forward to the parts when she was reunited with her family members. It wasn't emotional - but after I'd finished the book and realised it wasn't, it made perfect sense. We are taken step by step through someone's quest to survive. The lengths she's had to go through, and someone who has been starving for half her life, repeatedly raped, brutalised, lost people dear to her, and seen awful, awful things (hopefully she has managed to overcome her initial indifference to the idea of counselling!), there's too much to cope with to even know where to begin addressing any emotions.
It would be disingenuous for the writer to have made this an emotional book; Ms Park hardly had time or energy for emotions. Every moment she was either trying to survive herself or trying to help her family members. There was no excess energy to be used for anything except whatever she needed to do to make it through the obstacles she was facing. And, boy, did she have to do a lot of awful things in order to survive. It takes a special type of strength to be able to be honest about the awful things that have happened to you - in particular being trafficked and raped - and I know deciding to tell that story must have been a difficult one. I don't know if she's going to read her reviews, but if she does, I want to thank her for her courage.
I started reading this book at 8pm last night and I'm writing this review at 3:28am - I couldn't put it down. I watched the One Young World speech a few minutes ago again and cried (again). Ms Park talks about her desire to free North Koreans, or even to convince the Chinese government to stop persecuting North Korean Refugees who managed to escape. From the way her strength of spirit just bleeds out of the words on every page of this book, I have no doubt she will succeed.
Top reviews from other countries
Don't get me wrong, it's a good book. It's well written and Yeonmi's story is at times emotional and gripping. Yet at other times, it's an accounting that is not as interesting as I wanted it to be. Honestly, part II and III of the book are most outstanding. Her and her mothers hardships in China, the search for her sister and how hard it is for North Koreans once they're out of North Korea (with no understanding of the world beyond their indoctrinated view of NK and the 'enemies' outside) is a gripping and insightful read and should be read by anyone with interest in what happens 'after North Korea'. The (re)introduction process into South Korea's society and her subsequent actions to create awareness around NK is an interesting read as well.
Overall, a great book on everything "after NK", and a good book on "inside NK", but if you want to know more about inside NK, also do read "Dear Leader" and "Escape from Camp 14" for two excellent viewpoints of two ends of life in North Korea.
Most of us think that North Korea is that miserable country run, by that crazy adult/child like dictator with bad hair and a worse temper (No, not Trump (that comment is going to age badly)). A country who for whatever reason seems able to keep the rest of the world at bay with threats. A country that has nuclear capability, that likes to show off it's military strength. A country I am sure most of us would love to see blown off the face of the earth. And, then you read this book and you realise behind all the posturing and bluster are many millions of real people who live miserable lives, brainwashed from birth (like all good religions) to believe in the Kims as gods. Gods with extraordinary powers. A nation of people who all spy on each other (like all the best dictatorships). A country where it takes just one member of the family to fall from grace, for the whole family to suffer possibly never to recover. A country where a trip to prisons named re-education centres, or worse labour camps can be as good as a death sentence and will certainly change your life for ever. A nation where the vast majority of the people have literally nothing, barely enough food, no access to media outside of the non stop propaganda pumped out by the government. Basically, the majority of people in North Korea live miserable lives with little food or pleasure. Yet, the brainwashing goes deep and even those that manage to escape find it hard to shake off the belief that the Kim's are gods and their country is the best in the world (to begin with!) This book is written by an extra ordinary women who had been through more by the age of 15 than most of us in a lifetime. A women who endured hardship in her home country. Then arrived in China expecting to taste freedom only to find a whole different scenario. This book is a must read. Also China has a massive role to play in this. China is the scene of massive people trafficking. Of forced repatriation (leading to almost certain death) of forced rape. The fact that this young lady managed to escape North Korea and then had to undergo a whole new ordeal in China would have made most of us just give up. The Chinese have been supportive of the North Korean government and the forced repatriation is the reason that people from North Korea are bought and sold in China, as slaves, as prostitutes as wives, as all three. If China would just allow these people passage through there nation, most of the trafficking would go away. Yeonmi Park is doing an amazing job, telling people what hardships normal people face in North Korea, for people to understand what the real people have to live through. Her story, her life since leaving the 'Hermit Kingdom' her achievements, her willingness to tell her story, all her story, including all the horrific parts she would rather forget, mark her down as a very special person. It would have been so easy to escape North Korea and just fade away. But she has a higher purpose now and I truly wish her all the best as she tells it like it is, regardless of the threats still being received from her evil homeland.