North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un has somehow become a comic figure in the West – even though in reality, the tyrannical ruler is anything but that. He has executed more than 70 officials since coming into power in late 2011, and his reign of terror has forced thousands of people to leave their homeland and flee to South Korea and China.
The young dictator usually makes headlines for his cruel executions and bizarre displays of power. In fact, during the recent celebrations marking the 70th anniversary of the Korean Workers’ Party, Kim said his country was ready to counter any threat posed by the United States.
“Our revolutionary force is ready to respond to any kind of war the American imperialists want,” he addressed the lavish military parade. “Through the line of Songun [military-first] politics, our Korean People’s Army has become the strongest revolutionary force and our country has become an impenetrable fortress and a global military power.”
Despite all his angry statements and livid threats, the world continues to see him as a petulant child with too much power, but a young North Korean defector disagrees with that viewpoint.
“Please don’t see Kim Jong-un as a joke,” exclaimed Yeonmi Park, a young North Korean defector who was trafficked and raped at the age of 13 after fleeing to China. “He is killing millions of people.”
The 22-year-old human rights activist, who has written about her harrowing childhood in an autobiography, broke down in tears as she recalled the horrors of her earlier life – giving rare insight into the oppression and terror that North Koreans still live under.
“I believed my dear leader could read my mind, I thought if I thought a bad thing he could punish me,” Park told the Women in the World summit in London during a tour to promote her newly released memoir, In Order To Live: A North Korean Girl's Journey to Freedom. “I grew up with fear. My mother told me not to whisper because the birds and mice might hear you.”
The young activist and her mother fell into the hands of human traffickers after crossing the frozen Yalu River into China in 2007. She told the audience at the summit that it was the first time she saw her mother get raped, adding that she was sold as a worker for $260 while her mother was sold for $65. Two years later, at the age of 15, Park and her mother crossed the Gobi desert into Mongolia, to reach South Korea.
“To me it’s not a joke. This [the west] is a paradise; it is a heaven,” Park continued. “He [Kim Jong-un] is a criminal, he is killing millions there, I hope we see him as not a joke.”
In addition to urging the world to see Kim Jong-un as a serious threat, she also revealed that her intention for going public with her life story was to shine a light on “the darkest place on earth” – her country.
“I wish it had all never happened, and I never had to talk about it again. But I want everyone to know the shocking truth about human trafficking," her memoir reads. “If the Chinese government would end its heartless policy of sending refugees back to North Korea, then the brokers would lose all their power to exploit and enslave these women.”
In 2014, Park described North Korea as another “holocaust” the world chooses to ignore. Her speech at the One Young World Summit in Dublin was viewed more than 2 million times on YouTube.
Although some have criticized and questioned her story, Park has claimed that even though she wasn’t comfortable with telling her life story at first, the events mentioned in her book are totally accurate.