By Ayisha Karim (Pharmacist)

It was something that caught my eye on social media. A young lady discussed her story of fleeing from North Korea and crossing freezing deserts and water for a better life - something that as a child of an immigrant in Britain, I cannot fathom, but can understand the need to migrate for a better life. However, this wasn’t just for a ‘better’ life, this was for survival and having a life, let alone a better one. This woman’s story really struck me- from starvation and oppression to separation from her family, human-trafficking, being sold as a wife and then making her way to freedom. When I saw her book, I knew I had to read it. ‘In order to live’ is the story of North Korean ‘defector’, Yeonmi Park.

Without ruining the whole story for you all, I wanted to highlight a few things from this book that resonated with me.

1)The book discusses what the regime in North Korea is like, and what it’s like to live there. It was interesting to see how the regimes had changed and at one point in North Korea, rations were liveable, and eventually in the 90’s it changed to starvation. Yeonmi discusses her experience of eating insects in the air to survive.

2)It also discusses her experiences and her families’ experiences of how they cannot express themselves outwardly. For example, the police would come and pay a visit if they had suspicions over them challenging or remotely discussing anything to do with the nation’s leaders.

3)Even the language was taught in a black and white way - for example the word ‘love’ could only be expressed towards the leaders of the country, but not toward each other.

4)Religion was not allowed. Praising and worshipping something other than the countries leader can get you into serious trouble.

For me, I just could not stop thinking about how lucky I am to be able to complain about anything outwardly, or openly practice my religion. I know there are oppressive regimes all over the world and even in the UK, some people are not treated with the human rights that they deserve to be treated with. If you want to feel lucky, worthy and grateful read this book.

Finally, I wanted to end on this beautiful quote which inspired me from this book.

'I could literally feel my brain coming to life, as if new pathways were firing up in places that had been dark and barren. Reading was teaching me what it meant to be alive, to be human' - Yeonmi Park (page 230).
Although this story is not something I can say I have ever experienced, I felt like I connected with this story and thought it was written beautifully. It really has made me feel thankful for even the opportunity to be able to practice my religion, read books, travel the globe, and talk about how I feel. For this, I cannot express my gratitude.

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