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When I was growing up in North Korea, I never saw anything about love stories between men and women.
There is no books, no songs, no press, no movies about love stories.
There is no Romeo and Juliet.
Every story was propaganda to brainwash us about the Kim dictators.
A turning point in my life was when I saw the movie Titanic.
It was fascinating to me that anyone would make a movie out of such a shameful story.
I was wondering if the directors and actors would be killed.
By the way I'm really glad that DiCaprio is alive.
Actually that is what would happen to anyone who would make a movie about such a shameful story in North Korea.
How could they release such a movie?
I was so curious.
My curiosity didn't end there.
When I was growing up in North Korea, the regime told us that dying for the regime was the most honorable thing that anyone could do.
When we were young, my sister and I saw a movie showing how beautiful it could be to die for the regime.
We were inspired by it, and we pledged we would be willing to die, if necessary, for the Kims.
When I was growing up in North Korea, the only story I heard about the outside world
was how bad it was, and how lucky we were to be in North Korea.
The North Korean regime always tried to convince me to do something for it, to die for it.
Controlling what we sing, say, read, listen to, or think what we want.
But I realized that Titanic showed me a human story about love, beauty, humanity.
It showed me that people could value something for themselves.
I was able to connect with the film.
It give me a taste of freedom.
It wasn't propaganda, but a story about people dying for love.
A man, willing to die for a woman.
It changed my thinking. It changed the way I saw the regime and their endless propaganda.
Titanic made realize that I was controlled by the regime.
I was not aware, like a fish is not aware of water.
North Koreans are abducted at birth, so they don't know the concept of freedom or human rights.
They don't know that they are slaves.
I'm 21 years old, and there are many changes going on inside North Korea today.
And, it's my generation often called "jangmadang," or "black market generation," that will make change permanent.
North Korea's black market generation has three main characteristics.
The first characteristic of our black market generation is it has no devotion to the Kim dynasty.
I was born in 1993, and Kim Il-sung, the country's founder, he died in 1994.
And I was brainwashed to glorify him, and his national self-reliant economic system.
But, I have no actual memory of him.
The second characteristic of our black market generation is it has had wide access to outside media and information.
The private market provided us with more than food and clothing.
It provided us DVDs with movies like Titantic, and USBs with Wikipedia.
The third characteristic of our black market generation is we are capitalistic and individualistic.
We grew up with markets.
We experienced selling and buying.
I still remember when I was 7 years old, my father told me:
"As long as you know how to count money, then you don't have to learn anything from school."
When I was 12, I made my first business deal with my mom.
She gave me some start-up cash, and I bought rice vodka, which I bribed the orchard guard
He allowed me to sell persimmons from that orchard in the market.
With the profit, I bought some candy for my mom.
And I think it's a very important fact:
Once you start trading for yourself, you start thinking for yourself.
And that's a big threat to the Kim regime.
This development of markets is important, because it undermines the "songbun" system,
where the regime puts people into strict classes.
When the government is in charge of the social classifications and food distribution,
it always determines who will acquire wealth, and who will starve.
But the private market is removing that from the Kims' control.
I escaped North Korea in 2007
and I lived as an illegal immigrant in China for more than a year.
After my father passed away in China, my mother and I decided to escape to Mongolia.
Along with five people in our team, we walked and crawled across the Gobi Desert
evading Chinese police, kidnappers, wild animals
and into Mongolia, we followed the compass.
When that stopped working, we followed the stars to freedom.
It seemed that, only the stars were with us.
Armed with knives, we were ready to kill ourselves, if we were going to be sent back to North Korea.
We begged the Mongolian soldiers who caught us, not to send us back to North Korea.
We wanted to live as humans.
In 2009, I made it to South Korea.
Even though I escaped, I wasn't completely free of the regime's ideology.
I still thought the Kims had a special power
I even thought Kim Jong-il, the North Korean dictator, could read my mind.
I was not free to think.
In 2011, having the freedom to read whatever I wanted, I happen to read a book, Animal Farm.
It seemed that George Orwell was talking about North Korea.
This book set me free from the emotional dictatorship in my head.
It showed me that Kims are dictators, using powers to oppress people
And that, North Koreans deserve freedom.
I cried all night as i read it.
Even now i get goosebumps as i read it.
Titanic opened my eyes to see that people can live differently.
And that there is something else out there.
The black market gave me an opportunity to be exposed to the outside world
And Animal Farm set me free from brainwashing.
They both symbolize freedom to me.
In North Korea the regime says they are so strong
but the reality is they are so weak
so they can't allow other ideas.
As I read it, and even when I read Communist Manifesto,
I thought: this is freedom. The freedom to read opposing ideas.
Lots of people think change in North Korea is impossible.
But they might not realize that huge changes have already happened
and they are getting bigger and bigger every day
Before the 1990s, the regime's control was total
was like water that a fish cannot feel.
But increasingly, the regime's propaganda does not match with the reality of people's lives.
Everyone knows they have to break the rules by operating in markets to survive.
So since the 1990s, the regime's structure of oppression has been a lot more obvious and visible to North Koreans.
It's like a cage that you can run up against, but now people are finding ways to go around that structure
finding ways to break it and bend it.
That's why the North Korean regime's control is unsustainable.
The outside media and information are setting us free.
The change that I went through is why I'm optimistic that
if we can expose North Koreans to the outside world, we can make a difference.
I hope that we can work together to make something beautiful happen
Everyone has the power to help and support North Koreans.
You can help get information inside North Korea and free people's minds.
Every day, in China, or elsewhere, thousands of refugees are facing the daily terror of deportation.
You can help them escape to freedom.
When I was crossing the Gobi Desert, scared of dying
I thought nobody in this world cared.
It seemed that only the stars were with me.
But you have listened to my story.
You have cared.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
Let's do what we can to eliminate the injustice of the Kim regime.
Please join me as you make this a global movement to free North Koreans.
Thank you very much.
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Yeonmi Park - 박연미 - North Korea's Black Market Generation

1418 Folder Collection
Jessie published on March 17, 2016
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