I can tell you straight away that everything you've heard or imagined about the brutality of North Korea is true, and probably worse. Yeonmi recounts her childhood, where her family survived most of the time on little to no food. In one part she recounts how her sister and her would sometimes go and eat grasshoppers and bugs on the hillside to fill their stomachs. At times they were left alone for months at a time while their parents were either in prison (for selling items on the black market) or away trying to make any sort of income. Yeonmi's experience of such poverty and never really having the hope of finding a way out of their situation was heart-breaking.
Its these experiences from her childhood that encourage Yeonmi, her sister and mother to pay smugglers to get them across the border into China where they think they will eventually be free. What follows is the horrible realisation that they are being sold into the human trafficking industry in China. The abuse that follows for them is at times difficult to read as you start to question whether there is actually any one good in the world. And then just when you think that there has to be light at the end of the tunnel, Yeonmi recounts their escape from China over the border into Mongolia in the hope of being take to the South Korean embassy as defectors. At only 20 years old, there is such a horrible amount of pain and suffering that she has experienced in her life.
This book was a real eye-opener to me about the situation in North Korea, the suffering that their 'Dear Leader' is inflicting on millions of people and the horrible lengths that they have to go to survive. I think that if people read this book they would perhaps think differently about the refugee crisis currently happening in Europe (I'm in no doubt that they are being exploited like Yeonmi was when escaping from North Korea)- and perhaps people will start to think differently about North Korea. Their leader isn't just a little mad guy who likes to play with weapons, he is the worst kind of person imaginable and millions are suffering under his rule.
Yeonmi is an inspiration and has now made a life for herself speaking out against the horrors that she had to face. It must have taken a lot of courage to write down everything that happened to her and I can only hope that the next stage of her life is a million times happier to compensate for the last 20 years.
Title: In Order to Live
Author: Yeonmi Park