In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park
  • Title: In Order to Live
  • Subtitle: A North Korean Girl's Journey to Freedom
  • Author(s): Yeonmi Park, Maryanne Vollers
  • Publisher: Penguin
  • Year: 2015-09-29
  • ISBN-10: 0698409361
  • ISBN-13: 9780698409361


In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom” is a gripping memoir by Yeonmi Park that chronicles her extraordinary escape from the oppressive regime of North Korea. Born into a society where every aspect of life is controlled by the totalitarian government, Yeonmi provides a harrowing account of the atrocities she witnessed and the immense struggles she endured to find freedom.

Park’s story begins with her childhood in North Korea, where the constant hunger and fear of punishment are daily realities. She vividly describes the indoctrination and brainwashing she experienced, as well as the brutal public executions that served as a warning to those who dared to defy the regime. After her father is arrested and imprisoned, Yeonmi and her mother embark on a treacherous journey, crossing the border into China under the cover of darkness. However, their escape is only the beginning of a series of trials and tribulations that they would have to endure.

The memoir portrays the harsh reality faced by North Korean defectors in China, where they are vulnerable to exploitation and human trafficking. Yeonmi vividly recounts her experiences as a teenage girl, living under constant fear of being captured and sent back to North Korea. Her determination and resilience shine through as she navigates the dangerous world of smugglers, brokers, and abusive men in order to survive and protect her mother.

Through her book, Yeonmi Park offers a rare and powerful insight into the oppressive regime of North Korea and the struggles faced by its citizens. Her honest and courageous account not only sheds light on the atrocities committed by the government but also showcases the strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity. “In Order to Live” is a deeply moving and eye-opening memoir that will leave readers with a renewed appreciation for freedom and a deep understanding of the resilience of the human spirit.


Book Review

Escaping Darkness: Yeonmi Park’s Journey to Freedom in "In Order to Live"

In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom” is a deeply moving and poignant memoir by Yeonmi Park that sheds light on the harrowing experiences endured by North Koreans living under a regime characterized by oppression, fear, and hardship. Park’s account is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and offers a rare glimpse into a world often shrouded in secrecy.

The book’s narrative begins with Park’s childhood in North Korea, where she provides vivid and haunting descriptions of the extreme poverty and constant hunger faced by her family and the general populace. She explains how the government controls every aspect of daily life, from the information citizens can access to the career paths they can choose. The indoctrination and brainwashing tactics used are chillingly portrayed, highlighting the tremendous psychological toll exerted on the people.

Park’s escape from North Korea is an arduous journey marked by unimaginable challenges. The author and her mother risk their lives by crossing the border into China, where they are exposed to new forms of vulnerability. Yeonmi Park candidly details the harrowing experiences of being captured by human traffickers and sold into marriage at a tender age. Her story encapsulates the desperation and exploitation faced by North Korean defectors in their quest for freedom.

One of the most striking aspects of the memoir is Park’s unwavering determination, despite enduring unimaginable hardships. She describes how she made a dangerous journey through the Gobi Desert, enduring extreme temperatures and scarcity of food and water, until they eventually reach Mongolia. Through her vivid prose, Park takes readers on a transformative journey as she transitions from a naive and brainwashed girl to a resilient and self-aware young woman who yearns for freedom and justice.

Throughout the memoir, Park emphasizes the importance of truth and resilience. She recounts how the regime manipulated history and disseminated propaganda to control the minds of its citizens. Park writes, “There was nothing more dangerous than a person who had nothing to lose. And so the North Korean government did everything in its power to make sure you had something to lose.” Her words are a poignant reminder of the power truth holds in dismantling oppression.

Yeonmi Park’s “In Order to Live” is not without moments of hope. The author shares instances where acts of compassion shine amidst the darkness and despair. One particular example sees Park and her mother find refuge in a Christian missionary group, who offer support and help them reach freedom. These moments serve as a powerful reminder of the resilience and compassion of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

The memoir offers a stark contrast between the unfathomable realities of life in North Korea and the freedom and opportunities available outside its borders. Park’s story serves as a call to action, urging readers to recognize and confront the oppressive regimes that exist in our world and the consequences faced by those seeking freedom.

In Order to Live” is a deeply moving and eye-opening memoir that leaves a lasting impact. Yeonmi Park’s courageousness in sharing her story is commendable, as she provides a voice for those who may otherwise be silenced. This powerful memoir challenges readers to reflect on the value of freedom, the strength of the human spirit, and the importance of standing up against injustice. It is a must-read for anyone seeking a greater understanding of North Korea’s oppressive regime and the resilience of those who strive for freedom.

Word Count: 615

But the truth was, we weren't supposed to have such subjective thoughts. In North Korea, you weren't free to say what you thought or felt. Your tongue had to spout only the party line. Anything else could make you suspicious.

Key Ideas

The key ideas in “In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom” by Yeonmi Park revolve around the oppressive regime in North Korea, the resilience of the human spirit, and the pursuit of freedom. Through her memoir, Park aims to shed light on the atrocities committed by the government, inspire readers to confront injustice, and emphasize the importance of truth and compassion.

  1. Oppressive Regime Yeonmi Park provides a chilling portrayal of life under North Korea’s totalitarian regime. She exposes the extreme poverty, hunger, and fear experienced by the citizens. The government’s control over every aspect of life, including information, education, and career choices, is vividly depicted. Park highlights the indoctrination and brainwashing tactics employed by the regime to maintain control over its people.

  2. Resilience and Determination The memoir showcases the extraordinary resilience and determination of Yeonmi Park. Despite facing unimaginable hardships, including trafficking, marriage at a young age, and the perils of escape, Park never loses hope or gives up on her dream of freedom. Her unwavering spirit and refusal to be defeated by the challenges she faces are recurring themes throughout the book.

  3. Pursuit of Freedom The central theme of the memoir is Yeonmi Park’s journey to escape from North Korea in search of freedom. She describes her treacherous journey across the border into China, her struggles as a North Korean defector, and her ultimate goal of finding safety and liberation. Park’s story highlights the immense risks and sacrifices individuals are willing to make to live a life free from oppression.

  4. Truth and Compassion Yeonmi Park emphasizes the power of truth in challenging and dismantling oppressive regimes. She exposes the systematic manipulation of history and dissemination of propaganda used by the North Korean government to control its citizens’ minds. Additionally, Park highlights the moments of compassion and kindness she encounters along her journey, underscoring the importance of empathy and supporting one another in the fight against oppression.

  5. Awareness and Action “In Order to Live” acts as a call to action for readers to become aware of the struggles faced by those living under oppressive regimes. Park’s memoir compels readers to take a stand against injustice and work towards creating a more compassionate and just world. Through her brave story, she encourages others to recognize their privilege and use it as a tool for change.

Overall, “In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom” explores the themes of oppressive regimes, resilience, pursuit of freedom, truth, compassion, and the power of individual action. Yeonmi Park’s personal experiences provide a profound insight into North Korea’s harsh realities and inspire readers to reflect on their own lives and the plight of others living under similar circumstances.


Target Audience

The book “In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom” by Yeonmi Park is targeted at a diverse audience interested in themes of human rights, social justice, and personal resilience. The book is recommended reading for the following audiences:

  • Human Rights Advocates and Activists This book offers a gripping firsthand account of the gross violations of human rights within North Korea, exposing the oppressive regime’s control over its citizens. Park’s story serves as a call to action, inspiring readers to advocate for the rights and freedom of individuals living under similar circumstances.

  • Global Citizens and Readers Interested in Politics “In Order to Live” provides a rare and unfiltered perspective on the political and social realities of North Korea. It offers a deeper understanding of the complex issues surrounding the country and its international relations. Readers interested in political systems and conflicts will find this book insightful and thought-provoking.

  • Memoir Enthusiasts The memoir genre appeals to a wide range of readers due to its personal and intimate nature. Yeonmi Park’s captivating storytelling and her extraordinary journey make this book captivating for fans of memoirs. The narrative is emotionally charged and offers a unique perspective on one’s struggle for personal freedom and self-discovery.

  • Asian Studies Scholars “In Order to Live” provides valuable insights into the political, cultural, and social dynamics of North Korea. Scholars interested in Asian and Korean studies will find this book to be a valuable resource, offering a firsthand account and personal narrative that complements academic research.

  • Young Adults and Teenagers Park’s journey from a naïve young girl to a strong, resilient young woman can resonate with young adult readers who may still be exploring their own identity and place in the world. Her courage, determination, and triumph over adversity can serve as an inspiration for young readers facing their own challenges.

In conclusion, “In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom” is recommended reading as it offers a powerful and thought-provoking account of life under an oppressive regime, the pursuit of freedom, and the resilience of the human spirit. It has the potential to enlighten and inspire a diverse range of readers, from human rights advocates and scholars to young adults seeking stories of courage and perseverance.

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