Title: In Order To Live
Author: Yeonmi Park with Maryanne Vollers
Genre: Biography – Memoir
Publisher: Penguin Press
Release Date: September 29, 2015
In In Order to Live, Park shines a light not just into the darkest corners of life in North Korea, describing the deprivation and deception she endured and which millions of North Korean people continue to endure to this day, but also onto her own most painful and difficult memories. She tells with bravery and dignity for the first time the story of how she and her mother were betrayed and sold into sexual slavery in China and forced to suffer terrible psychological and physical hardship before they finally made their way to Seoul, South Korea—and to freedom.
Park’s testimony is rare, edifying, and terribly important, and the story she tells in In Order to Live is heartbreaking and unimaginable, but never without hope. Her voice is riveting and dignified. This is the human spirit at its most indomitable.
It feels weird to be doing a “review” of this book. To review this book would be like rating her experiences and her life. In actuality, I am not really reviewing this book as much as sharing what I took from it and why it’s important that others read this book and educate themselves, as well.
“I am grateful for two things: that I was born in North Korea, and that I escaped from North Korea.”
I had heard North Korea called the most oppressive and horrible place on Earth many times, but I didn’t know any details about the country. In this book, Park shares stories of her life, as well as information about her parents and grandparents’ lives in North Korea. It was incredibly enlightening to read.
The Kim Dictators brainwash the people of North Korea into believing that they are essentially Gods and that North Korea is a prosperous country, despite the fact that everyone is starving and technological advances are decades behind. In In Order to Live, Yeonmi recounts having a dream when she was young that she was sitting on the lap of one of the Kim Dictators and he had given her candy. She said it was her most precious memory for a while. Reading that made me realize the extent of the mental manipulation that occurs.
In the “China” section of the book, Park shares her experiences with being trafficked. She originally thought she’d never share that part of her life as she found it shameful, but she wanted to bring light to what happens to around 70% of North Korean women who defect to China. I am 25 and in my mind, I am a young person. Yeonmi park is only 22. It’s hard to believe that so many horrible things happened to such a young woman. The entire time I was reading I just kept thinking, “That could be me. What would I do in that situation?” Honestly, I’m not sure I would have had such a strong will to survive as Yeonmi Park had. Her determination is so inspiring.
“I Am A Revolutionary, Not a Victim”
Yeonmi Park is now a Human Rights Activist who is diligently working to bring attention to the oppression in her home country. It’s amazing to see how far she has come. Stories like hers really give you a kick in the ass. Many of us have basic necessities, material things and opportunities that we take for granted everyday. There’s so much we can do if we just try.
If I were to rate this book, I would give it 5 stars. I’m not usually interested in history or biographies, but this memoir was fascinating and thought-provoking. If memoirs aren’t usually your thing, I’d still urge you to give this one a try.
I’d like to leave you with this video where Yeonmi Park spoke at the 2014 One Young World Summit in Dublin, Ireland. The Summit brought together 1,250 young leaders from 190 countries to debate and devise solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems. The introduction does include a lot of key details from the book, but just not as in-depth.