North Korean woman, Yeonmi Park had a packed audience in tears as she relayed an account of her escape from ‘the darkest place in the world’ at the peace and conflict plenary session. The 21 year old said she was brainwashed by the propaganda of Kim Jong Il and three generations of imprisonment or execution was imposed on anyone that expressed doubt about the regime.
“North Korea is the only country in the world that executes people for making unauthorized international phone calls. North Koreans are being terrorized today,” said Park. “When I was 9 years old, I saw my friend’s mother publicly executed. Her crime? Watching a
Hollywood movie.There’s only one channel on TV. There’s no Internet. We aren’t free to move, sing, read, wear or think what we want,” Park continued. The repressive dictatorship led Park’s older sister to escape and gave Park and her mother no option but to escape themselves in order to find her sister. However as they escaped across the border, Yeonmi, at 13 years old witnessed her mother’s rape.
“I saw my mother raped. The rapist was a Chinese broker. I will never forget his face. The rapist had targeted me. I was only 13 years old,” said an emotional Park. Park called on chinese One Young World delegates to speak out and petition china to stop repatriation, and called on everyone in attendance to support North Korean refugees that flee the country.
Alongside Park at the session were delegates from South Africa, Dr Congo, Sierra Leone, Ukraine and Northern Ireland. Malibongwe Xaba, of a township in South Africa, rough with violence, aids and drugs, made it clear that although his country achieved democracy 20 years ago, his community is not moving forward.
“People were celebrating their freedom, but in my community people are still holding on the past,” said Xaba. “Kids aged 12 and 13 years are alone and have to take care of themselves after losing their parents in the war. I and The Salvation Army helped over 2000 orphans with clothing and food in 2006. After our visit there was no real progress, we were just giving them a temporary solution,” Xaba explained.
Xaba has been tireless in his work for peace in his community, yet is not simply content to live in a war-free zone. “In all this I have learnt that peace is not the absence of war but it is the presence of love,” he concluded.Gun violence is rife in African nations, with DR Congo featuring in the news as recently as today, where at least 20 people were murdered, mainly women and children in the east side of the country.
“I wish the gun was a pen and the bullet a pencil, I wish there were more educated people and far fewer refugees and we used these things to resolve peacefully our differences, for the sake of the children,” said Dr Congo native, Eddy Musoke Daniel. Solomiia Bobrovska, of Ukraine gave her views on the crisis in her homeland, while Northern Ireland’s Alex Polkey felt that although there is peace to an extent in Belfast, there is still a long way to go. “I feel frustration. Many inside and outside of our society seem to think. That with a signed peace agreement, it follows that we should have peace,” said Polkey.
“But we do not. The Troubles rage on in the hearts and minds of our communities. Our society is swamped in sectarianism,” he explained. The session finished with Park saying “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. I know that you are with me as we free North Koreans.”
What followed was a standing ovation lasting over three minutes and many delegates leaving the auditorium red-eyed with tears, taking a moment to reflect on the atrocities of North Korea.
By Ryan Nugent