Yeonmi Park’s Trip Across the Gobi Desert

Yeonmi Park has become famous the world over for sharing the story of her escape from North Korea. Her home country can barely feed their citizens, and the regime demands that the people worship their “Dear Leader” Kim Jong-Un as if he were a deity. To speak out against him could mean imprisonment or even death. Park says on Daily Mail that things were so dire in North Korea, that the government had a shortage of fertilizer. It was decreed that everyone in the country had to collect their waste as a daily assignment. The demand became so great that people started stealing waste from one another. Yeonmi said that things got to the point that “if we saw a dog pooping in the street, it was like gold.” At the age of 13, she was smuggled out of the country with her mother, but then the smuggler turned against her. Her mother was sold as a bride for $65. To get her mother back, Yeonmi had to agree to become her smuggler’s mistress. This went on for 2 years, until at last Yeonmi and her mother fled in what ended up being the most harrowing experience of Park’s life. She had to cross the Gobi desert with 5 other people, armed with only a compass. The desert was extremely cold, and she feared she would freeze to death. She says that it is during this trip that she had her first negative thought about the North Korean regime. So strong was the propaganda, she worried that the Great Leader could read her mind and might strike her dead. After all, the people of North Korea were taught that when Kim Jong Il was born, a new star sprung into being in the sky and a double rainbow appeared. They were also taught that he could control the weather with his mind, and that he never had to urinate or defecate. The group survived the trek across the desert by keeping warm together and using the compass. By the end of the trip, they were navigating by the stars. Not only had Yeonmi survived the journey, she had also gained a bit of perspective on just how bad things in North Korea had been.