Yeonmi Park’s new book, While Time Remains: A North Korean Defector’s Search for Freedom in America, is a broadside against current American political indoctrination, which is a propaganda campaign that reminds Park of her adolescence spent living in a “dictatorship of the mind.”
Park’s first book, In Order to Live, recounted her impoverished and brutal childhood under the evil Kim regime in Pyongyang, her escape into China where she was sold to human traffickers, and her final journey to South Korea and then to the United States. In While Time Remains, she briefly recounts this terrible time in her life, giving readers enough background to understand her perspective on America. Reading even this brief account of starvation and horror should produce sympathy for her and a fierce gratitude that we live in the United States.
At first, our country overwhelmed Park: the friendliness of the people; the freedom to travel; the lights of New York City; the food that was everywhere; even the fact that people were dieting to lose weight, which was unimaginable to her in her early years when food was precious. When our government granted her permanent residence, Park was ecstatic.
She was still largely ignorant of the political and cultural wars that were tearing the country apart when she entered Columbia University in 2016 and stepped onto that battlefield. On her first orientation day, an instructor asked a group of freshmen who liked the novels of Jane Austen. When Park and several others raised their hands, the professor informed them that Jane Austen propagated “‘the idea that women are inferior to men …’ [and that she] supported white supremacy and racism.” In a core class on masterpieces of western music, the lecturer asked which of the students “might have a problem with studying ‘Western Music.’” All of them except Park raised their hands.
During her time in school, Park won some renown as a speaker and was several times invited to conferences attended by many of the rich and famous: Hollywood stars, sports heroes, corporate heads, and politicians. She soon became aware of their shallowness and, in some cases, of the economic chains that bound them to China. Through meeting them and others, she also discovered that, like the dictatorship she’d fled in North Korea, “the American elite used their new ideology to cancel and de-platform political and ideological dissidents.”
Park also witnessed firsthand the rot and corruption in American politics. She says that, in September 2019, she attended a private dinner party at New York’s five-star St. Regis hotel. Park recounts that the guests, many of them investors and foreign heads of state, included Nancy Pelosi. Later that evening, according to Park, Pelosi spoke to the assembly and told them that the next day she would announce the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump, adding, “You all know what this means. You need to prepare.”
“The message,” writes Park, “was clear to me: When the impeachment news comes out, the market will fall. You have one night only to short it.”
Pelosi made the announcement, and the market fell.
Further into While Time Remains, Park writes, “The dirty secret about left-wing attacks on capitalism, the family, and meritocracy in America is that they’re regarded as quite the hilarious joke in China—which is happy to watch Americans devalue and degrade every ounce of strength they have.”
Despite all this bad news, While Time Remains offers us glimmers of hope for the future. First, we still live in a country where such a book can find a publisher and an audience. Second, Park continues to make appearances: She’s had interviews with Jordan Peterson, who wrote the book’s foreword; with Joe Rogan; and with Candace Owens, among others. That she was able to do so, and that those platforms are available, demonstrates that freedom of speech still exists in the U.S. Finally, our past is quite different than that of North Korea or China. We have heroes from our founding right up to the present who have stood up to tyranny and oppression. To those ranks we can now add Yeonmi Park.
In the book’s preface, Park inventories the reasons why she wrote this book. At the end of this list are these:
“Because I don’t want anything bad to ever happen to my new home. Because I want us—I need us—to keep the darkness at bay.
Because I need your help to save our country, while time remains.”
Much later, Park observes:
“[Our country] is producing more and more people who want to destroy the system because they don’t understand it. They don’t appreciate how fragile their freedom is, how precious their system of government, how rare their way of life. And so they entertain fantasies of tearing it down. In some cases, those fantasies are becoming reality.”
But time remains.
And we’ve been warned.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons-Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.04 comments