Friday 30 October 2015

REVIEW: In Order To Live by Yeonmi Park

Pages: 288
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Penguin Press
Genre: Biography
Release Date: September 29th 2015
Buy The Book: Amazon - Amazon UK

'I am most grateful for two things: that I was born in North Korea, and that I escaped from North Korea.'

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.

My Thoughts:
This book is harrowing to read, there is no doubt about it, but it is vital that people take the time to learn Yeonmi’s story. At just 21-years-old, Yeonmi Park’s life has been filled with terrors most of us can’t even imagine experiencing. Her fight for freedom has been long and torturous, but she refused to back down. Now she’s sharing her story with the world, inspiring those who listen, and informing the world of the true horrors that the people of North Korea face on a daily basis.

Yeonmi spent her childhood growing up within the difficulties of North Korea. As children, the citizens are brainwashed into worshipping their ‘Dear Leader’, pushed into believing that he is something more powerful than humans. Even though there are people literally starving to death around them, the people of North Korea are taught that they live in a fair and rewarding land, and that the suffering they face is to be blamed on South Korea and America. 

During the first part of In Order To Live, Yeonmi tells us of the pain she and her family suffered during their years in North Korea. The luck of her parents varied greatly, so they were always jumping drastically between being able to get by sometimes, and starving the next. The family hear stories of people who have fled to China in search of a better life. 

Whilst Yeonmi is in hospital, her sister leaves to get to China. When the family discover that she is gone, a worried Yeonmi and her mother track down the people that helped her to leave, and attempt to follow her. But once they get to China, they realise that they are no closer to achieving the freedom they deserve. They have been tricked and forced into the dark world of human trafficking. 

Whilst much of Yeonmi’s story is difficult to read, it’s so very important that people take the time to learn it. Before reading this book, I didn’t know much about the situation in North Korea, and Yeonmi has really opened my eyes to what the citizens face each day. It also shows what desperate measures families are forced to take in order to live a better, free life. The dangers these people have to put themselves through in order to escape the harsh hands of North Korea is heart-breaking. There are many emotional scenes that show sacrifices that should never have to be made.

Difficult it may be to read, this is a book that is also filled with hope. Yeonmi and her family showed tremendous courage and strength in order to gain freedom. I adored reading how they’re rebuilding their lives after all they have faced. Yeonmi has had to relive everything that she has been through whilst telling her story, but in doing so she is inspiring so many people with her determination to take a stand against the injustice within North Korea. The world needs to be taught more about what is really happening out there, and I’m so grateful there are women like Yeonmi who are willing to teach us.
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