In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl's Journey to Freedom

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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.
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About the author

Yeonmi Park is a human rights activist who was born in North Korea.
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4.9
81 total
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Additional Information

Publisher
Penguin
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Published on
Sep 29, 2015
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Pages
288
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ISBN
9780698409361
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Personal Memoirs
History / Asia / Korea
Social Science / Women's Studies
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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An extraordinary memoir by a North Korean woman who defied the government to keep her family alive.

Born in the 1970s, Lucia Jang grew up in a common, rural North Korean household—her parents worked hard, she bowed to a photo of Kim Il-Sung every night, and the family scraped by on rationed rice and a small garden. However, there is nothing common about Jang. She is a woman of great emotional depth, courage, and resilience.

Happy to serve her country, Jang worked in a factory as a young woman. There, a man she thought was courting her raped her. Forced to marry him when she found herself pregnant, she continued to be abused by him. She managed to convince her family to let her return home, only to have her in-laws and parents sell her son without her knowledge for 300 won and two bars of soap. They had not wanted another mouth to feed.

By now it was the beginning of the famine of the 1990s that resulted in more than one million deaths. Driven by starvation—her family’s as well as her own—Jang illegally crossed the river to better-off China to trade goods. She was caught and imprisoned twice, pregnant the second time. She knew that, to keep the child, she had to leave North Korea. In a dramatic escape, she was smuggled with her newborn to China, fled to Mongolia under gunfire, and finally found refuge in South Korea before eventually settling in Canada.

With so few accounts by North Korean women and those from its rural areas, Jang's fascinating memoir helps us understand the lives of those many others who have no way to make their voices known.

An eye-opening account of life inside North Korea—a closed world of increasing global importance—hailed as a “tour de force of meticulous reporting” (The New York Review of Books)
 
NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST • NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD FINALIST
 
In this landmark addition to the literature of totalitarianism, award-winning journalist Barbara Demick follows the lives of six North Korean citizens over fifteen years—a chaotic period that saw the death of Kim Il-sung, the rise to power of his son Kim Jong-il (the father of Kim Jong-un), and a devastating famine that killed one-fifth of the population.
 
Demick brings to life what it means to be living under the most repressive regime today—an Orwellian world that is by choice not connected to the Internet, where displays of affection are punished, informants are rewarded, and an offhand remark can send a person to the gulag for life. She takes us deep inside the country, beyond the reach of government censors, and through meticulous and sensitive reporting we see her subjects fall in love, raise families, nurture ambitions, and struggle for survival. One by one, we witness their profound, life-altering disillusionment with the government and their realization that, rather than providing them with lives of abundance, their country has betrayed them.

Praise for Nothing to Envy

“Provocative . . . offers extensive evidence of the author’s deep knowledge of this country while keeping its sights firmly on individual stories and human details.”—The New York Times

“Deeply moving . . . The personal stories are related with novelistic detail.”—The Wall Street Journal

“A tour de force of meticulous reporting.”—The New York Review of Books

“Excellent . . . humanizes a downtrodden, long-suffering people whose individual lives, hopes and dreams are so little known abroad.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“The narrow boundaries of our knowledge have expanded radically with the publication of Nothing to Envy. . . . Elegantly structured and written, [it] is a groundbreaking work of literary nonfiction.”—John Delury, Slate

“At times a page-turner, at others an intimate study in totalitarian psychology.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer
With a New Foreword

The heartwrenching New York Times bestseller about the only known person born inside a North Korean prison camp to have escaped. Blaine Harden's latest book, King of Spies, will be available from Viking in Fall 2017.

North Korea’s political prison camps have existed twice as long as Stalin’s Soviet gulags and twelve times as long as the Nazi concentration camps. No one born and raised in these camps is known to have escaped. No one, that is, except Shin Dong-hyuk.

In Escape From Camp 14, Blaine Harden unlocks the secrets of the world’s most repressive totalitarian state through the story of Shin’s shocking imprisonment and his astounding getaway. Shin knew nothing of civilized existence—he saw his mother as a competitor for food, guards raised him to be a snitch, and he witnessed the execution of his mother and brother.

The late “Dear Leader” Kim Jong Il was recognized throughout the world, but his country remains sealed as his third son and chosen heir, Kim Jong Eun, consolidates power. Few foreigners are allowed in, and few North Koreans are able to leave. North Korea is hungry, bankrupt, and armed with nuclear weapons. It is also a human rights catastrophe. Between 150,000 and 200,000 people work as slaves in its political prison camps. These camps are clearly visible in satellite photographs, yet North Korea’s government denies they exist.

Harden’s harrowing narrative exposes this hidden dystopia, focusing on an extraordinary young man who came of age inside the highest security prison in the highest security state. Escape from Camp 14 offers an unequalled inside account of one of the world’s darkest nations. It is a tale of endurance and courage, survival and hope.

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • In this unforgettable memoir, Ashley Judd describes her odyssey, as a lost child attains international prominence as a fiercely dedicated advocate.
 
In 2002, award-winning film and stage actor Ashley Judd found her true calling: as a humanitarian and voice for those suffering in neglected parts of the world. After her first trip to the notorious brothels, slums, and hospices of southeast Asia, Ashley knew immediately that she wanted to advocate on behalf of the vulnerable. During her travels, Ashley started to write diaries that detailed extraordinary stories of survival and resilience.
 
But along the way, she realized that she was struggling with her own emotional pain, stemming from childhood abandonment and abuse. Seeking in-patient treatment in 2006 for the grief that had nearly killed her, Ashley found not only her own recovery and an enriched faith but the spiritual tools that energized and advanced her feminist social justice work.
 
Her story ranges from anger to forgiveness, isolation to interdependence, depression to activism. In telling it, she resoundingly answers the ineffable question about the relationship between healing oneself and service to others.

Praise for All That Is Bitter and Sweet

“Ashley Judd has given us magnetic and searingly honest portrayals of diverse women on screen. Now with the same honesty and magnetism, she brings us her true self on the page. From her childhood to her revolutionary empathy with women and girls living very different lives, her path will inspire readers on journeys of their own.”—Gloria Steinem

“Over the last decade I have watched my gifted, brilliant friend grow as an artist, but more importantly, as a wise, deeply empathetic woman. I have read the diaries that are the heart of this memoir since she began traveling the world, fearing for her safety and sanity, baffled why she chooses these grueling missions. All That Is Bitter and Sweet will be a revelation to readers, exposing Ashley Judd for what I have known for years she is: an amazing woman doing extraordinary work.”—Morgan Freeman

“All That Is Bitter and Sweet is all that is enlightening and inspiring. Ashley Judd has composed a memoir that teaches while it entrances and finds hope and faith in the most unlikely places. The book is full of real-life stories that reflect both the compassion of its author and the need for healing in the world.”—Madeleine K. Albright
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • In this unforgettable memoir, Ashley Judd describes her odyssey, as a lost child attains international prominence as a fiercely dedicated advocate.
 
In 2002, award-winning film and stage actor Ashley Judd found her true calling: as a humanitarian and voice for those suffering in neglected parts of the world. After her first trip to the notorious brothels, slums, and hospices of southeast Asia, Ashley knew immediately that she wanted to advocate on behalf of the vulnerable. During her travels, Ashley started to write diaries that detailed extraordinary stories of survival and resilience.
 
But along the way, she realized that she was struggling with her own emotional pain, stemming from childhood abandonment and abuse. Seeking in-patient treatment in 2006 for the grief that had nearly killed her, Ashley found not only her own recovery and an enriched faith but the spiritual tools that energized and advanced her feminist social justice work.
 
Her story ranges from anger to forgiveness, isolation to interdependence, depression to activism. In telling it, she resoundingly answers the ineffable question about the relationship between healing oneself and service to others.

Praise for All That Is Bitter and Sweet

“Ashley Judd has given us magnetic and searingly honest portrayals of diverse women on screen. Now with the same honesty and magnetism, she brings us her true self on the page. From her childhood to her revolutionary empathy with women and girls living very different lives, her path will inspire readers on journeys of their own.”—Gloria Steinem

“Over the last decade I have watched my gifted, brilliant friend grow as an artist, but more importantly, as a wise, deeply empathetic woman. I have read the diaries that are the heart of this memoir since she began traveling the world, fearing for her safety and sanity, baffled why she chooses these grueling missions. All That Is Bitter and Sweet will be a revelation to readers, exposing Ashley Judd for what I have known for years she is: an amazing woman doing extraordinary work.”—Morgan Freeman

“All That Is Bitter and Sweet is all that is enlightening and inspiring. Ashley Judd has composed a memoir that teaches while it entrances and finds hope and faith in the most unlikely places. The book is full of real-life stories that reflect both the compassion of its author and the need for healing in the world.”—Madeleine K. Albright
Yeonmi Park drömde inte om frihet när hon flydde från Nordkorea. Hon visste inte ens vad frihet innebar. Det enda hon visste var att hon flydde för livet, att om hon och hennes familj stannade kvar skulle de dö – av svält, eller sjukdom, eller till och med genom avrättning. Det här är berättelsen om Parks kamp för att överleva i en av världens mest brutala och slutna diktaturer. Vi får följa författaren från uppväxten i den nordkoreanska gränsstaden Hyesan till flykten till Sydkorea via Kinas undre värld av människosmugglare och trafficking; och hur hon sedan utvecklas till en ledande människorättsaktivist – innan hon ens fyllt 21. För att kunna leva är en stark, insiktsfull och angelägen inifrånskildring av en tillvaro som hittills mestadels har varit dold för omvärlden. »En välskriven, brutalt ärlig och levande skildring av den svåra tillvaron för så många nordkoreaner.
Kirkus Review

Yeonmi Park föddes 1993 i den nordkoreanska staden Hyesan, som ligger vid gränsen till Kina. 2007 flydde hon tillsammans med sin mamma till Kina och slutligen till Sydkorea via Mongoliet. Idag bor hon i Seoul och före läser världen över som människorättsaktivist.

På min färd har jag sett de fasor som människor kan tillfoga varandra, men jag har också varit vittne till ömsinta och vänliga handlingar och uppoffringar under de värsta tänkbara omständigheter. Jag vet att man kan förlora en del av sin mänsklighet för att överleva. Men jag vet också att den mänskliga värdighetens gnista aldrig helt utsläcks och att den kan tändas igen om den bara får frihetens syre och kärlekens kraft. Detta är min berättelse om de val som jag gjorde för att kunna leva.
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