Many times people feel inadequate and helpless when it comes to invoking change. This feeling of helplessness happens due to different reasons. Many times, people see a situation and feel that they are too small to institute any sort of opposition. Others may excuse a long-standing wrong because of apathy. Some may play a part in the political system, and because of a perceived injustice or wrong, they may decide to stop participating. In many cases people feel like they don’t have a voice in a matter, even though there ideas and actions were right and just. Many give up a cause they don’t see a change.
But many movements and political actions begin with the efforts of one person. Throughout history, we have seen how one person, working toward an end goal, can mobilize like-minded people to change injustices or situations that have the capacity to inflict suffering and pain.
Yeonmi Park is a North Korean human rights activist who witnessed first-hand how the brutal dictatorship of her former homeland affected her compatriots. She was raised by her mother and father in an affluent home. Both of her parents had jobs working for the country’s government, her mother as a nurse in the Korean army, and her father as a high-ranking member of the Workers’ Party. She remembers her very early childhood as a happy one, living with her parents and sister.
Her happiness came to an end when her father was accused of smuggling and sent to prison. He endured several years of hard labor there. Park insists that her father was only trying to make extra money because her family was starving. Nevertheless, his crimes earned him years of hard labor. He was released years later when he became extremely ill. It was at that time that her father insisted that the entire family needed to escape North Korea. Although the family carried out his wishes, he was too sick to make the journey himself, and later died in North Korea.
Park and her family made a harrowing journey, first crossing North Korea into China, enduring during harsh brutality at the hands of Chinese smugglers. Yeonmi Park was forced to watch her mother viciously assaulted, and raped in front of her. Park and her mother continued their journey, until they escaped to China and it crossed over into Mongolia. There, they made contact with South Korean diplomats, who helped him cross over into South Korea.
Park now speaks about her and her family’s ordeal, and about the North Korean government and its oppression towards people. She believes that the ways of the North Korean government are wrong, and that the oppression the North Korean people endures needs to end. Since her escape into South Korea, she has spoken to groups around the world, and is currently writing a book about her escape.
In many cases, it just takes the efforts of one person to change a nation. Park’s story of perseverance and endurance is an example to be followed for all people wishing to evoke change in seemingly unchangeable circumstances.