Starvation. Execution. Imprisonment. Rape. Torture. In a human rights report, these can seem like distant concepts or dry statistics, but when told by the people who experience them first hand, they take on new meaning.
That is why U.S. officials invited two young North Korean defectors to address a crowd at the State Department on Wednesday — to share their personal experiences of abuse at the hands one of the world’s most notorious regimes.
Yeonmi Park’s family was part of North Korea’s ruling elite. Her early life was comfortable, and her family even enjoyed access to smuggled Hollywood films and South Korean television shows. From these, Park said, she learned how different life could be in other places, and she started to feel more repressed by the government’s rules.
“I remember wanting to be like Julia Roberts after watching the Pretty Woman,” Park said. “But in North Korea, the regime restricts even what I can wear, so instead I made paper dolls and I made the clothes that I wanted to wear for them.”