Dec 10, 2019
In light of the questions around whether or not Virgil Griffith's talk at a blockchain conference in Pyongyang could have helped everyday North Koreans, Yeonmi Park, a North Korean defector, human rights activist, board member of the Human Rights Foundation and author of “In Order to Live, A North Korean Girl's Journey to Freedom,” talks to Unchained. She tells us about her life growing up in North Korea, how she thought the "dear leader" could read her thoughts, why freedom of thought is not allowed in North Korea, and how a South Korean had to teach her that Kim Jong Il was fat and not starving for the North Koreans, as she had been taught. She talks about what happened after her father was sent to a prison camp for selling copper, silver and nickel, how three generations of her family were then tainted and put in the "hostile" class of the caste system, and how watching the movie Titanic introduced her to the concept of romantic love. She tells the story of how, because of hunger, she fled to China — right into the hands of human traffickers, but decided to stay because of what trash cans in China signified to her, and describes the first time she heard the word "free." She also covers the difficulty of her transition to freedom and how reading George Orwell's Animal Farm was a turning point for her.
We discuss why the strategy for liberating North Korea is mostly about getting outside information in, who benefits from tours to North Korea and why lifting sanctions would only help the regime. She also explains why the only people who would have benefited from Griffith's talk would have been North Korean elite, and how any actions in line with what the dictator wants help him maintain power. She says the best ways to improve the situation in North Korea are to boost awareness of what is happening, empower the people there by getting outside information in and helping during the rescue, as 300,000 defectors, most of them women and girls living as sexual slaves, are hiding in China.
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Yeonmi Park: https://yeonmi.com/
Yeonmi Park on Twitter: https://twitter.com/YeonmiParkNK
Human Rights Foundation: https://hrf.org/
One of the first speeches by Yeonmi that went viral: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ei-gGvLWOZI
New York Times video op-ed with Yeonmi's message for President Trump: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/11/opinion/north-korea-trump-kim-human-rights.html
DOJ complaint against Virgil Griffith: https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdny/pr/manhattan-us-attorney-announces-arrest-united-states-citizen-assisting-north-korea
Economist video on the efforts to get outside information into North Korea: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVRQpfXGQyc&app=desktop
Guardian article on North Korean defector activist groups attempting to get outside information into North Korea: https://amp.theguardian.com/global/2016/aug/27/north-korea-defectors-ian-birrell
Wired article on getting outside information in: https://www.wired.com/2015/03/north-korea/
The story of Otto Warmbier: https://www.gq.com/story/otto-warmbier-north-korea-american-hostage-true-story
South Korean woman shot for crossing line at a resort in North Korea: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/jul/12/korea
Unchained interview with Alex Gladstein of the Human Rights Foundation: https://unchainedpodcast.com/alex-gladstein-of-the-human-rights-foundation-on-the-3-reasons-bitcoin-matters/
Unconfirmed interview with Alex Gladstein: https://unchainedpodcast.com/alex-gladstein-of-the-human-rights-foundation-on-the-first-crypto-war-ep-021/