Communist Tyranny and the ‘Suicide of Western Civilization’

A courageous fighter for freedom shares her story
By Thought Leaders
Thought Leaders
Thought Leaders
October 29, 2021 Updated: October 29, 2021

On American Thought Leaders, Jan Jekielek spoke with North Korean defector Yeonmi Park, author of “In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom.”

They discussed the North Korean regime’s tactics of oppression, the parallels between her experiences in North Korea and what she now sees in the United States, and the “suicide of Western civilization.”

Mr. Jekielek: Your book is honestly one of the best books I’ve ever read. It can help people understand what it’s like to live under a dictatorship.

Ms. Park: The first thing my mom taught me was, “Watch out what you say,” like even the birds and mice could hear my whisper. She said, “The most dangerous thing you have in your body is your tongue.” That was the only way that she knew how to protect me. So in a way, in North Korea, even thinking isn’t free. A thought crime is a real thing. So that’s how they oppress you to the point where you don’t even know how to think freely.

Mr. Jekielek: How did living like that change your relationships with people?

Ms. Park: In North Korea, there’s no word for “friends.” We have a word for “comrade,” which means you’re working for the revolution, you share the same goal of the revolution: the glory of the party.

The regime removed a lot of concepts, like love. We didn’t know what love was. I never heard anybody saying love to each other. The only love people are allowed is love for the dear leader.

They also get rid of the concept of human rights. When a baby’s born, they don’t know what human rights is. Somebody teaches them. They go to school to learn about human rights. They need to learn. But the regime gets rid of them, they get rid of them in the dictionary.

That’s how they control your thoughts. Like how George Orwell talks about doublespeak. Who controls the language? Who controls your thoughts? They get rid of liberty, human rights, freedom, friends, even depression.

I don’t know what depression is. I don’t even know what stress is. Because how can you be stressed in a socialist paradise? So they don’t allow that word. You don’t even know what that is. That’s what the ultimate mind control looks like.

Mr. Jekielek: Reading “Animal Farm” gave you a picture of how a communist society emerges and how it works.

Ms. Park: Everything I had believed was a lie. When I reached South Korea and read “Animal Farm,” I understood what had happened to my people and my country.

Mr. Jekielek: Until I read your book, I never realized hunger is a deliberate form of control. How does that work?

Ms. Park: When the Soviets were collapsing, they stopped subsidizing North Korea’s economy. So the regime thought, “OK, as long as we feed the core class that supports the revolution, then we’re good.” That’s how they measure their success.

Mr. Jekielek: Food became your number one fixation, right?

Ms. Park: You eat lunch, but then you worry about dinner. When you find dinner, you say, “OK, I made it through one day, but how am I going to survive tomorrow?” Every single minute of your existence, you’re worrying about finding food.

It’s a very effective tool to control the population. But it’s torture. Being starved is worse than being raped. It’s the worst form of torture you can experience.

Mr. Jekielek: It sent a chill down my spine when you said hunger is worse than rape. Unfortunately, in your book, you describe this as something you’re familiar with.

Ms. Park: Yes.

Mr. Jekielek: You were 13 years old when you escaped to China.

Ms. Park: It was 2007, and we couldn’t find food anymore.

At night I could see lights coming from China. I thought maybe if I go where the lights were, I would find food to eat.

Mr. Jekielek:  You found food, but you also found another form of terror and slavery.

Ms. Park:  At this moment, there are about 300,000 North Koreans hiding in China. Most of them are women, and literally 99 percent of them are being trafficked.

So North Koreans are vulnerable in China. The traffickers know we won’t ask the police for help, because they’re the ones that catch us and send us back. That’s why the traffickers told us, “I can kill you at this very moment. You are less valued than even a pig.”

Mr. Jekielek: And you were able to find your mother in this.

Ms. Park: So at 13, I crossed this frozen river with my mom, and the next thing I know she’s being raped.

Then they said, “If you want to stay in China, you have to be sold as slaves.” So they sold my mom for around $65. They sold me for more than $200 because I was a virgin. That’s very valuable in China.

I wanted to kill myself. I was separated from everybody I knew. I was even more oppressed than in North Korea. Then this trafficker who bought me said that if I became his mistress, he would save my family.

So I thought, “OK, if I sacrifice myself, I can rescue my family,” and became his mistress at age 13. And then he brought my mom and my father to me.

Mr. Jekielek: He kept his word.

Ms. Park: He was a heartless man, raping a 13-year-old. I was a tiny, tiny thing. And he still did that.

But he saved my parents for me. That’s why I couldn’t hate. I fantasized about killing him when he was raping me. Looking back now, I’m grateful.

Mr. Jekielek: And you then found a way to make it to South Korea.

Ms. Park: We met another North Korean defector. She knew some missionaries who said if we studied the Bible and became Christian, they would help us go to South Korea. So they taught me about God and Jesus Christ, and somehow we proved our faith to them.

That’s when they told us, “If you want to escape, you’ll have to cross the Gobi Desert using a compass.”

They gave us the compass and told us to go to the west and north, between those directions. Eventually I followed the North Star, praying that it would lead to freedom. And it did. I’ve seen so many miracles in my life.

Mr. Jekielek: So somewhere along the way, you realized that truth-telling is the best way to help your fellow North Koreans. Where did you get this idea?

Ms. Park: In a time of deceit, telling the truth is the only brave, courageous thing you can do.

Even in America right now, it’s a time of deceit.

I imagined America to be better than this.

When you see America from far away, it’s the land of hope, the home of the brave—a country that stands for justice. It inspired me so much. But coming here, looking inside, I was baffled: How is this possible?

Mr. Jekielek: In an interview with Jordan Peterson, you talked about how disillusioning it was to go to Columbia University. You said zero classes were worthwhile for you. How is that possible?

Ms. Park: I was thirsty for truth and knowledge after North Korea, where I had so much hunger for it.

But at Columbia, they look for hidden oppression everywhere. And in every single class, the conclusion is that the American foundation is bigotry.

It’s all about being politically correct. And this is heartbreaking, seeing the suicide of Western civilization.

At my Columbia campuses, every single person was bitter. They complain how they’re oppressed and so resentful. That’s what I couldn’t understand. This is a generation that’s lost.

Mr. Jekielek: You’ve also started to tell the truth about the Chinese Communist Party. How did this become so important to you?

Ms. Park: Without China, Kim Jong Un can never exist. The only reason the North Korean regime has lasted this long is because of the CCP [Chinese Communist Party].

Mr. Jekielek: Where can people watch your YouTube channel?

Ms. Park: They can go to Voice of North Korea. And they can find me at YeonmiParkNK on Twitter and Instagram. I’m also on Facebook.

This interview was edited for brevity and content.