By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
Born in North Korea in 1993, Yeonmi Park, along with her mother, escaped at the age of 13 on foot across a frozen river into China. What was her motivation? To get to someplace where there was actual physical light and food. She describes North Korea as the darkest place on earth, and she is not exaggerating. Upon arriving in China, she and her mother were sold into slavery and endured two years of rape. Her mother tried to protect her daughter by saying, “She is only a child; take me.” They came to the place where the cost of freedom once again would be unspeakably high; they walked across the Gobe Desert in China into Mongolia, and when Chinese police threatened to take them back, they produced both knives and poison and stated, “We would rather die than go back.” Miraculously, they made it to the South Korean Embassy and were granted asylum. They lived in South Korea for a few years, were reunited with Yeomni’s older sister, and began to systematically expose the North Korean regime.
There are no words, literally, to describe what Yeomni used to not know. Does that sound confusing? Can you imagine growing up in a culture where there is no word in your language for “love”? Where you watch a relative be publically executed for watching a movie made in Hollywood? Where the government says you cannot wear earrings? You believe that the Dear Leader is Almighty God and can read your thoughts? Where there is no word for “freedom,” because there is no concept of freedom? And then, can you imagine coming to America?
When I say, “Vote for Yeonmi Park,” I am not suggesting that she is currently running for political office, but if she were in a few years, I would vote for her. I think I’d rather wait until she turns 35, but for now, she is holding her own taking on Americans who believe America is the worst country on earth. What she also does is doggedly refuse to be a victim when she could probably camp out indefinitely in a “safe space” on any American college campus. Yeonmi is a passionate defender of the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, and says, simply, “If people in North Korea had guns, there would be no dictatorship.” She is actually glad she was born in North Korea, because she will never take for granted what she has now, and what she has now is a loving husband, a son, a best-selling book, a TED talk, a YouTube channel, and most importantly, her freedom.
By contrast, here is an example of what it was like for Yeonmi to be taught a math story problem in a North Korean school: “If there are four American bastards, and you kill two of them, how many American bastards are left?” She genuinely believed that North Korea was the center of the universe, and never knew the word for “milk” or that it came from a cow because she had never heard of either. Ironically, she had to be taught that Kim Jong-Un was fat, because she thought his portly appearance stemmed from his being God Almighty, and therefore different from other North Koreans who are reduced to skin and bones.
Stunningly, this gorgeous, gamine young wife, mother and activist (who never understood that people can fall in love because it wasn’t allowed) uses that “butterflies-in-the-stomach” sensation to describe the first time she read the Constitution! Yeonmi Park has no need for America to be “re-founded” or the Constitution to be revised. She gets it that though imperfect, there is no place like the USA, and that is why she has my “vote.”