In Order to Live

In Order to Live

A North Korean Girl's Journey to Freedom

eBook - 2015
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"I am most grateful for two things: that I was born in North Korea, and that I escaped from North Korea."
Yeonmi Park has told the harrowing story of her escape from North Korea as a child many times, but never before has she revealed the most intimate and devastating details of the repressive society she was raised in and the enormous price she paid to escape.
Park's family was loving and close-knit, but life in North Korea was brutal, practically medieval. Park would regularly go without food and was made to believe that, Kim Jong Il, the country's dictator, could read her mind. After her father was imprisoned and tortured by the regime for trading on the black-market, a risk he took in order to provide for his wife and two young daughters, Yeonmi and her family were branded as criminals and forced to the cruel margins of North Korean society. With thirteen-year-old Park suffering from a botched appendectomy and weighing a mere sixty pounds, she and her mother were smuggled across the border into China.

I wasn't dreaming of freedom when I escaped from North Korea. I didn't even know what it meant to be free. All I knew was that if my family stayed behind, we would probably die—from starvation, from disease, from the inhuman conditions of a prison labor camp. The hunger had become unbearable; I was willing to risk my life for the promise of a bowl of rice. But there was more to our journey than our own survival. My mother and I were searching for my older sister, Eunmi, who had left for China a few days earlier and had not been heard from since.

Park knew the journey would be difficult, but could not have imagined the extent of the hardship to come. Those years in China cost Park her childhood, and nearly her life. By the time she and her mother made their way to South Korea two years later, her father was dead and her sister was still missing. Before now, only her mother knew what really happened between the time they crossed the Yalu river into China and when they followed the stars through the frigid Gobi Desert to freedom. As she writes, "I convinced myself that a lot of what I had experienced never happened. I taught myself to forget the rest."
In In Order to Live, Park shines a light not just into the darkest corners of life in North Korea, describing the deprivation and deception she endured and which millions of North Korean people continue to endure to this day, but also onto her own most painful and difficult memories. She tells with bravery and dignity for the first time the story of how she and her mother were betrayed and sold into sexual slavery in China and forced to suffer terrible psychological and physical hardship before they finally made their way to Seoul, South Korea—and to freedom.
Still in her early twenties, Yeonmi Park has lived through experiences that few people of any age will ever know—and most people would never recover from. Park confronts her past with a startling resilience, refusing to be defeated or defined by the circumstances of her former life in North Korea and China. In spite of everything, she has never stopped being proud of where she is from, and never stopped striving for a better life. Indeed, today she is a human rights activist working determinedly to bring attention to the oppression taking place in her home country.
Park's testimony is rare, edifying, and terribly important, and the story she tells in In Order to Live is heartbreaking and unimaginable, but never without hope. Her voice is riveting and dignified. This is the human spirit at its most indomitable.
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group

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From the critics


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l
lyndasclater
Aug 01, 2019

Excellent book! Could not put it down.

a
aleahwinston
May 07, 2019

Excellent book. I learned the difference between life in North Korea vs. South Korea. I recommend this book.

r
Revacard
Feb 20, 2019

I thought her story as a child going through the famine in North Korea to the human trafficking in China to adjusting to life in South Korea to be fascinating and horrifying. It is a story that must be told and she said it so well. I am happy she did well in school and hope she continues to do good work.

a
ayang2689
Nov 25, 2018

I finished reading the book this weekend after several pauses. It was a tough read especially for a young girl. It was written with description that it makes the reader feel like we are with her in the journey. I know nothing much on what goes on in North Korea other than what I see in headline news and most likely it's nuclear issues, etc, but never what goes on in North Korea. I have been to China, but know nothing about how human trafficking works. I'm glad that she and her family made it out to South Korea and is living better than before. After reading the book, I appreciate what I have compared to what she went through. I too hope along with her that North Korea will be democratized one day or at least starting to.

k
kmttab03
Aug 24, 2018

Excellent read. Culturally informative. I realize she had no time/ability to feel, but it would have added depth to the book.

c
csrestall
Mar 28, 2018

This book is a must read. Especially for people that want to learn more about what it is like in North Korea, and for the victims of sexual trafficking. The story is split into three parts. North Korea, China, and South Korea. The first part details the author's experience as a young girl living in North Korea. There are many details and insights into the class system, and every day experiences involving famine, fear etc. The China section shows the devastating effects of human trafficking on vulnerable people. The third section might be considered the happy ending, with the reunion of the family. I cant really begin to express how important and courageous and inspirational this memoir is without you reading it yourself.

g
glenneaton
Jan 14, 2018

The true story of a young North Korean girl's struggle to survive and escape the cruel North Korean regime.

Yeomni gives a detailed picture of what it's like to live under an oppressive regime, the hardships, lack of food, power shortages (playing games in complete darkness).

She explains the "class" system, and how her family was in a higher echelon but fell once her father was caught smuggling metal (the only way he could provide for the family). And once you or anyone go down in the social ladder there's no recovery.

The government is dreadful at managing the country, there are shortages everywhere (except the capital), even major infrastructure like railways suffer with trains unable to complete journeys due to power shortages.

It's sad to read of the hunger to the point they can think of nothing else but food. The whole tragic situation is the worst of all communist dictator governments.

A must read for anyone concerned about human rights.

JCLMeganK Dec 18, 2017

Yeonmi's story is amazing. It is still difficult for me to comprehend that these things are happening today, but that is why this was such an important read. It did get difficult to read towards the middle, because of her experiences being trafficked in China, but I'm so grateful she was brave enough to share her story with the world.

m
moonjo
Oct 13, 2017

It always amazes me how gullible people are. This book is one of those that try to portray North Korea as horrible as possible. The author is one of those so-called celebrity North Korean defectors who are trying to sell their miserable stories in North Korea. The more sensational, the better. Everybody should stay away from this kind of stories, no matter how plausible they sound.

j
jenna_alexandria
Oct 23, 2016

amazing book. Yeonmi definitely had a hard life. I felt the ending of the book was a bit rushed. She described her time in South Korea very brief.

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Age Suitability

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c
csrestall
Mar 28, 2018

csrestall thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over

g
glenneaton
Jan 14, 2018

glenneaton thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

j
jenna_alexandria
Oct 23, 2016

jenna_alexandria thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over

Notices

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c
csrestall
Mar 28, 2018

Frightening or Intense Scenes: frightening scenes during escape, starvation , upsetting descriptions

c
csrestall
Mar 28, 2018

Sexual Content: rape, sexual exploitation of a minor

c
csrestall
Mar 28, 2018

Violence: rape

Summary

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c
csrestall
Mar 28, 2018

This novel is divided into three parts. The first North Korea details the authors life as a young girl in North Korea. In the beginning of her life her father had a good status with the government and was able to provide his daughters with food, clothes, and luxury items to an extent. He fell out of favour with the government and relied on smuggling to make his money and was still doing well for his family. Everything changed when he was arrested and the family's social status changed. There was not much food and the girls were starving, they were not sure if they would ever see their father again. They were often left alone for long periods of time, months on end. Eventually their father was released from prison and they were a family once more. Yeonmi's older sister wanted to try to escape to China, their mother thought it was also a good idea but wanted to go together. Her sister did not wait and went with a friend. She was missing for seven years. Trying to follow her sister Yeonmi and her mother decided to cross into China too, but were trafficked without much knowledge of their situation. They were sold for their bodies and raped. Yeonmi was only 13 years old, she had to live with a man as his mistress to avoid being sold to a farmer. Her mother was sold and they were separated.Eventually Yeonmi's father was able to be smuggled into China where it was discovered he had cancer and died shortly after. After much hardship they were finally able to cross into Mongolia and to South Korea where they were eventually reunited as a family.

Quotes

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d
deepinthought
Jul 12, 2016

"It's amazing how quickly a lie falls apart in the face of truth."

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