Yeonmi Park is a North Korean defector, human rights activist, and author who survived an unimaginable childhood and escape from the hermit kingdom before making it to the United States.
Park, 29, grew up in North Korea where she experienced extreme hunger and poverty. She was 13 years old when she and her mother were able to escape to China, but their struggles continued. Two years later, a Christian missionary group helped them flee to South Korea where she experienced freedom for the first time. Park eventually came to the United States to attend school and write her first book. Today, she is a proud U.S. citizen who fears the ideals this country was founded on are in danger.
On Friday’s show, Park – whose second book, While Time Remains: A North Korean Defector’s Search for Freedom in America, came out this week – joined Megyn to share her emotional journey from North Korea to the U.S. and the disturbing parallels she’s witnessed between the two countries’ education systems.
Woke Rhetoric on College Campuses
In 2015, Park moved to America to write her memoir and enroll at Columbia University. She was shocked by the rhetoric and ideology that was being pushed at the Ivy League campus.
She recalled a class during which a professor asked a group of students if they had a problem studying Western civilization and continued asking if anyone enjoyed reading Jane Austen. Park herself loved Austen’s work because she felt like she was able to learn about romantic love – something she was not exposed to in North Korea – and other emotions from her novels.
When Park shared that with the professor, she was told “that’s how you get brainwashed… because [Austen] was living through the white colonial era and she was a racist.” Park said that the implication was that “by reading the work of racist, [you’re] going to become a racist.”
Parallels to North Korea
In many of her classes, Park said the conversations revolved around the evils of “white supremacy,” “colonialization,” and “corrupt capitalism.” White men, in particular, were villainized.
Park’s young son is half-white and she reflected on the similarities of the teachings to life in North Korea. “They said [the problems are] because some of the white people were slave owners,” she shared. “In North Korea, you get punished for your ancestor’s crimes.” As she explained, her generation was punished for the actions of those that came before them. “That’s why I was not in a top class,” she said. “I was punished for my great-great-grandfather’s crime that I was not responsible for.”
Park couldn’t help but see the parallels. “America [is] the land of the free and home of the brave… in this amazing country, they are punishing people for something they have not done,” she lamented. “It is collective guilt [that’s] happening here.” She said the message was that the only way to “fix all this injustice” is through “complete destruction,” “complete dismantling of the system,” “and repealing the Constitution.” All of this led her to wonder: “If you cannot be grateful to live in this country, where can you possibly be grateful,” she asked.
Why Students Are Afraid to Speak Out
Despite disagreeing with the premise of much of what she was taught at Columbia, Park said she and others were afraid to speak out. As she explained, the university made it clear that if you made another student feel emotionally unsafe in the classroom, you may be kicked out. “That fear made me stay silent until graduation,” Park admitted. “I was too scared to.”
With tuition and fees for Columbia totaling upwards of $70,000 a year, Park said the financial burden is too great for students to risk not being able to get a top job out of school. “It’s almost like slavery,” she noted. “They make sure it’s very expensive and afterwards, so you have to get a job that can pay for your debt.”
The belief is that those who talk out of turn will not be employable. “If you have a history of denouncing this mainstream… almost Kim Il-sung-like sermon, you cannot get a job,” she concluded. “Your actual livelihood, and dignity, and reputation [is] on the line if you do not agree with the political correctness.”
You can check out Megyn’s full interview with Park by tuning in to episode 496 on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen. And don’t forget that you can catch The Megyn Kelly Show live on SiriusXM’s Triumph (channel 111) weekdays from 12pm to 2pm ET.