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Yeonmi Park

Some of us must risk everything in the pursuit of freedom, dignity, and justice.

North Korean Defector and Human Rights Activist | Author of In Order to Live

Contact Yeonmi For Booking
Yeonmi Park | North Korean Defector and Human Rights Activist | Author of In Order to Live
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

Born in North Korea, human rights activist and TED Speaker Yeonmi Park grew up in a punishing society devoted to the worship of Kim Jong-Il. But at the age of 13, she and her family made a daring escape to China in search of a life free of tyranny. In her viral talks, viewed online nearly 350 million times, Park urges audiences to recognize—and resist—the oppression that exists in North Korea, and around the world.  

Growing up in Hyesan, North Korea, it was normal for Yeonmi Park to see dead bodies as she walked to school, and to be so hungry that she ate wild plants. After watching a pirated copy of Titanic, the veil of tyranny began to fall. Having caught a glimpse of a free world, Park realized that her experience of life wasn’t the only one—and that she might one day find a way out. In 2002, Park’s family suffered a crucial blow when her father was arrested and sent to prison camp for engaging in “illegal trading”—selling materials that no one would be punished for in a free society. In 2007, Park’s sister escaped with a friend before she and her mother followed her to China. But before they could locate her, Park and her mother were sold separately to Chinese human traffickers. In 2009, Park and her mother crossed the Gobi desert to Mongolia from China in -40 degree weather, finding their freedom in South Korea. She recounts this incredible story in her searing memoir In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom, and in the insightful, moving talks based on her experiences.  

 

An articulate and candid speaker, Park is fast becoming a leading voice of oppressed people around the world. At the Oslo Freedom Forum and the One Young World Summit in Dublin, she became an international phenomenon, delivering passionate and deeply personal speeches about the brutality of the North Korean regime. Her address to One Young World on the horrors of detention camps, political executions, and sex trafficking has been viewed over 320 million times. The BBC named Park one of their Top 100 Global Women.  

Speech Topics

Politics & Society
The Fundamentals of Freedom We Must All Fight Against Tyranny
Everything must be taught, even the fundamentals we sometimes take for granted: freedom, compassion, love. For Yeonmi Park, growing up in North Korea, right vs. wrong, justice vs. injustice—these weren’t concepts inherently understand or taught. Telling her electrifying story of escape from North Korea, Park explains that the life she left there was “a totally different planet.” There’s only one definition of love in North Korea—“love for the Dear Leader.” Romantic love doesn’t exist as a concept or possibility. And for most North Koreans, neither does freedom. Now a US citizen, Park calls for us to fight for North Koreans—for all oppressed people around the world—who cannot speak for themselves. Freedom is fragile, she says. Who will fight for us when we’re not free?