Refugee Testimony: “I am a North Korean Millennial”



Direct refugee testimony remains one of the most important sources of information on North Korea; in the past we have provided links to a number of presentations including TED Talks from Hyeonseo Lee and Joseph Kim.

We now have a new entry from Yeonmi Park. Born in Hyesan in 1993, Park has seen both sides of life in North Korea. From a privileged family, she enjoyed a relatively comfortable childhood until her father was imprisoned for three years. With their future in shambles, the family resolved to escape to China in 2007, where she eventually made the dangerous trek through the Gobi Desert into Mongolia.

Her presentation makes three salient points about her thoughts on North Korea’s new generation, reinforced in a CNN interview about black markets here:

  • There has been a seismic-shift in the outlook on the Kim regime: as opposed to older generations, young people today have only known leadership that has failed to feed and provide for its people;
  • There is far more access to the outside world, including Western media and entertainment; and
  • There is more focus on capitalist individualism, with people seeing the regime as an obstacle to personal wealth.

The entire twelve minute presentation can be viewed below. For purely research purposes, Park’s account is a single data point in our patchy understanding of life in North Korea, but it is also a remarkable story of human perseverance.

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