by WorldTribune Staff, September 8, 2020
North Koreans are not allowed to have friendships or express love. Everyone is only a “comrade.” Citizens are required to reserve their devotion for the country’s supreme leaders who are venerated not as authority figures but as gods.
“What you need to know about North Korea is that it’s not like other countries like Iran or Cuba,” Yeonmi Park, a North Korean defector, told the New York Post. “In those countries, you have some kind of understanding that they are abnormal, they are isolated and the people are not safe.”
“But North Korea has been so completely purged from the rest of the world, it’s literally a Hermit Kingdom. When I was growing up there, I didn’t know that I was isolated, I didn’t know that I was praying to a dictator,” Park said.
It was routine for North Koreans to see citizens dying of starvation on the streets. Roughly 40 percent of the country’s population, more than 10 million people, are starving and face severe food shortages, according to the United Nations.
Park said her life in the North was ensconced in total darkness and freezing cold due to a lack of reliable electricity.
Park and her mother fled the communist country in 2007 when she was 13-years-old. Now 26, Park lives in Chicago and is a human rights activist.
Park told the Post that, as children, she and her sister were taught that the late supreme leader Kim Jong-Il and his son Kim Jong-Un were gods who had the power to read people’s thoughts, making everyday citizens too afraid to speak or think ill of the brutal tyrants.
In school, children are taught to count using metrics like “American bastards” and are forced to do “criticism sessions” where they attack and find faults in their classmates, sewing mistrust and division.
“We don’t have friends in North Korea. We only have comrades. There’s no concept of friends,” she said.
Park describes growing up eating insects to survive and blames the ruling Kim family for letting their people starve to death. Both her uncle and grandmother died from malnutrition.
“North Korea spends billions of dollars to make this nuke test system. If they would spend just 20 percent of what they spent on making nuclear weapons, nobody would have to die in North Korea from hunger but the regime chose to make us hungry.”
In 2014, Park began speaking out against Kim Jong-Un’s regime, at great risk to her own safety. Many of her relatives have disappeared.
“I don’t know if they’ve been executed or sent to prison camps, so I’m still not free. Even after I went through all of that to be free, I’m not free to dictators there. So it’s a very emotional thing for me,” she said.
In her interview with the Post, Park called on the international community to condemn China’s sponsorship of the Kim Jong-Un regime and said her sources in Pyongyang have confirmed that Kim is alive and well despite reports he is in a coma.
Despite her harrowing story, Park said she is grateful to have been born in North Korea.
“If I hadn’t been born in that oppression and complete darkness, I don’t think I would see the light here. I think people here, they don’t see the light and only see darkness and for me I see so much light,” she said.