My VIP for this week is Yeonmi Park, a defector from North Korea. Park was only 13 years old when she and her family fled North Korea in 2007. They went to China and South Korea before she enrolled at Columbia University in New York in 2016. Now 27-years old, Park is talking about the lack of freedom that she found in America. “I literally crossed the Gobi Desert to be free and I realized I’m not free, America’s not free.”
Park was shocked when she realized the amount of anti-Western sentiment in the classroom as well as the focus on political correctness. Her immediate thought was “even North Korea isn’t this nuts.”
I expected that I was paying this fortune, all this time and energy, to learn how to think. But they are forcing you to think the way they want you to think…. I realized, wow, this is insane. I thought America was different but I saw so many similarities to what I saw in North Kore that I started worrying.
In an interview with the New York Post, Park admitted that she was surprised that she was asked to do “this much censoring of myself” at a university in the United States. Students at Columbia were so sensitive that professors gave “trigger warnings” – sharing the possibly offensive words from the readings in advance – to help students decide if it was safe for them to do the reading or even be in class during the discussions about it.
Going to Columbia, the first thing I learned was “safe space.” Every problem, they explained [to] us, is because of white men.
The discussions about white privilege reminded her of the caste system in North Korea, which categorized people according to their ancestors. A teacher discussing Western Civilization asked if the students were sensitive to the topic, and most of the students raised their hands. Some were offended by the “colonial” slant in the discussion. Even though Park speaks at least three languages, the idea of preferred pronouns caused her to panic. Park was even chided for her enjoyment of the writings of Jane Austen.
I said, “I love those books.” I thought it was a good thing. Then she said, “Did you know those writers had a colonial mindset? They were racists and bigots and are subconsciously brainwashing you.
Park thought that “North Koreans were the only people who hated Americans, but turns out there are a lot of people hating this country in this country.” She likens cancel culture and shouting down opposing voices to self-censorship. In 2015, Park wrote a book about her life in North Korea and her escape from her native country – In Order to Live. She said that Americans are giving up their rights without realizing that they may never get them back. “Voluntarily, these people are censoring each other, silencing each other, no force behind it.”
Other times (in history) there’s a military coup d’etat, like a force comes in taking your rights away and silencing you. But this country is choosing to be silenced, choosing to give their rights away….
This [is] completely nuts, this is unbelievable. I don’t know why people are collectively going crazy like this or together at the same time.
Park has a difficult time understanding how people can give up their rights when they have so much information available to them. It is different in North Korea because the people do not have access to the internet and limited exposure to the world. “In some ways they (in the US) are brainwashed. Even though there’s evidence so clearly in front of their eyes they can’t see it.”