Sunday, 11 June 2017

Review: In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park with Maryanne Vollers

Title: In Order to Live
Author: Yeonmi Park with Maryanne Vollers
Publisher:  Penguin
Pages: 288
Genres: Non-fiction, Memoir

Yeonmi Park was not dreaming of freedom when she escaped from North Korea. She didn't even know what it meant to be free. All she knew was that she was running for her life, that if she and her family stayed behind they would die - from starvation, or disease, or even execution.

This book is the story of Park's struggle to survive in the darkest, most repressive country on earth; her harrowing escape through China's underworld of smugglers and human traffickers; and then her escape from China across the Gobi desert to Mongolia, with only the stars to guide her way, and from there to South Korea and at last to freedom; and finally her emergence as a leading human rights activist - all before her 21st birthday.
This is quite the intense read, it actually moved me to tears at some points. I didn't know that much about North Korea before this book, only that Kim Jong Un is a fat joke with bad hair. This book made me realise that Kim Jong Un is not a joke in North Korea and the suffering he is inflicting on his people is horrendous and unimaginable.

It was so interesting to read how brainwashed people are from birth in North Korea, the techniques that the regime uses to control people's thoughts and actions are something out of George Orwell's 1984. Indeed, Yeonmi Park mentions 1984 as the book that allowed her to understand what had been done to her and the rest of North Korea. I am beyond disgusted that China allows North Korean refugees to be exploited and sold into human trafficking, and then if that is not enough, send them back to North Korea if any are unlucky enough to be caught by the authorities. Yeonmi and her family were beyond lucky to make it to South Korea, as many were not so fortunate.

I really warmed to Yeonmi from almost the first page, what she had to endure to survive is unfathomable and she has such an incredible strength of spirit. From being left at home as a child with her sister with just one bag of rice for a month, suffering severe malnutrition, seeing dead bodies in the street, to having no choice but to sell her mother in China so she did not starve, to seeing her father arrested, beaten and get so ill that he withers away in front of her eyes. I do not how she borne it all and yet still retained hope for the future.

One of the best parts of the book was Yeonmi's experience of starting a new life in South Korea where she really triumphed over adversity in order to get her education and ultimately find her voice to speak out against the Kim regime. I am so glad I read this and I think everyone should read this book as well as other memoirs of escaping North Korea, as the evil regime thrives under secrecy and lies. The more people who know the truth, the better.

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