A young woman who fled North Korea has shared her experiences of growing up in the totalitarian state and her harrowing escape to China.
Yeonmi Park, who now lives in New York, was 13 when she and her mother fled the rigidly state-controlled country in 2007.
Writing in her new book In Order to Live, the 21-year-old said North Korea’s big decline began 1990, as the Soviet Union broke apart and Moscow dropped its “friendly rates” for exports to North Korea.
The country’s economy ground to a halt and vast numbers of North Koreans reportedly died from starvation or disease during the worst years of famine.
Ms Park describes how starving citizens struggled for food under the dictatorship of Kim Jong-il.
Proper ingredients were not available and her family were forced to eat “flowers, grasshoppers, dragonflies”, she wrote in the Telegraph.
Miss Park’s family struggled under the conditions where she was “ordered to inform on anyone who said the wrong thing” and grew accustomed to seeing heaps of dead bodies in the streets.
When her father was arrested for smuggling Ms Park’s mother persuaded a man to traffic them into China, in a journey that took them over the Yalu river and past guards to reach the Chinese border.
When they reached China the trafficker raped her mother, according to Ms Parks.
The pair were forced to stay at the trafficker's home in China where, Ms Parks claims, he repeatedly raped her.
Ms Park told the Daily Mail: “When he pushed her to the floor and raped her, that was my introduction to sex.”
"It was a nightmare, only in your nightmares can that sort of thing happen."
The trafficker eventually let the pair go after two years. Ms Park and her mother where then able to safely reach Mongolia and fly to South Korea.
Ms Park now travels the world, raising awareness about conditions in North Korea.
She has become a high-profile activist and her speech at One Young World Summit in 2014 has received over two million views on YouTube.
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