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The Harrowing Stories Of Defectors From North Korea

by April DR / Apr 02, 2018 10:51 PM EDT
The lives of North Korean defectors who managed to escape from the tight grasp of dictatorship brings stories of brutality, violence, and depression in the free world. Photo by: CNN / YouTube screenshot

The lives of North Korean defectors who managed to escape from the tight grasp of dictatorship brings stories of brutality, violence, and depression in the free world. Although these deserters have successfully found a way out of the country, they will forever bring with them a troubled past that will forever haunt them for the rest of their lives. 

Yeonmi Park

Born and bred in the country, she fled when she was 13 years old. She decided that she would rather face death head-on instead of suffering another day in the place where darkness thrives. Her father was a successful civil servant for the Working Party until he was sentenced to 17 years in a labor camp for smuggling metal to feed his family. Her father was tortured and fell ill while she, along with her mom and sister were banished as part of the punishment for her father's crime. 

She recalled having to live on insects and grass just to eat. It was Yeonmi's sister who fled first while she and her mother followed eventually. However, it wasn't a successful escape. They spent two years suffering in China. Her mother was forced to sacrifice herself just to prevent her daughter from being raped. However, in the hands of the merciless, there is no room for begging - her mother was violated in front of her and they were sold to become sex slaves. 

Yeonmi became a sex slave but was released after her father rejoined them in China. Sadly, her father died soon due to colon cancer. Following this tragic incident, she and her mother set out again for freedom and have finally seen the light. 

Today, Yeonmi has written a book about her path toward recovery and healing after what she's gone through. Her book is titled "In Order To Live: A North Korean Girl's Journey To Freedom."

Ahn Myeon-Cheol

Tim Franco, a photographer who spends his time mostly between South Korea and China started a new portrait series called "Unperson." The series showcase photographs of defectors along with their horrific tales. 

Myeon-Cheol was a guard in a political prison camp were beatings and killings are part of the norm. Upon entering the camp he was told to leave his humanity behind. It got to him at some point and he admitted to having practiced his taekwondo skills on one of the convicts. What brought light to a darkness he was living in was his father's suicide. His father chose to die than face the punishment of speaking negatively about the regime. 

Following this event, his whole family was taken away to a detainment camp. That was when he decided to escape. He swam across a river for 30 minutes to reach the Chinese side and that's when his new life begun. 

With a heavy past, these defectors may have reached a point of relief but it is certain that they will continue to be haunted by memories of their dark past. Nevertheless, their determination to move on, heal, and start anew is an inspiration to people all over the world. 

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