Recently, I chanced upon this video of North Korean youth defector Yeonmi Park, of her escape account and experiences in North Korea. What she shared wasn’t anything new, but hearing about all the atrocities and oppression again in North Korea tugged on my heartstrings and reminded me of the brief interaction I had with North Korean youth defectors myself last year.
When Park described her ordeal, it seemed almost surreal, something that seem to only happen on television and in movies. Some have even stated that Park’s account was inaccurate or untruthful, a highly publicised stint by the organisation that she is representing. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but to me, I feel the sincerity and rawness of Park’s account. Yes, what she is sharing is something unfamiliar, out of the ordinary, so much so that one might doubt the truthfulness of her words. All this is fair, but why would you choose to doubt a person before you even allow yourself to trust them? Just because they went through something that you don’t usually experience, doesn’t make it a whole lot less real for them.
And I guess one of the reasons to why I find myself having such a strong reaction to this account by Yeonmi Park is because it reminded me of the brief interaction I had with North Korean youth defectors myself last year. I have heard their stories, and I have personally witnessed how their experience has affected an integral part of who they are. To name a few, they have smaller physiques and psychological health issues as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and all of what they experienced has played an integral role in shaping their personalities and identities. Some of these youths have difficulty opening up to new people because they were taught to trust no one. Some were forced to grow up and mature faster than their age because they were separated from their parents at a young age. And because, some of these children had to witness the traumatic ordeal of seeing their families and friends die in front of them, these scars remain with them even until many years later. I only pray that the scars fade with time, and these youth defectors can find peace within themselves and lead lives with a semblance of normalcy.