A North Korean woman who fled her country with her mother and thought the United States to be a country of free speech and free thought, said that her views changed after she attended college here. Yeonmi Park, 27, who is now a Columbia University student, feels that she is seeing a lot of similarities between the totalitarian regime she grew up in and the education she is now receiving in the United States.
Parker and her mother fled North Korea to China over the frozen Yalu River in 2007, when she was just 13, and the two were sold into slavery by human traffickers. However, the two finally feed China and have now come to the United States but fears the United States' future "is as bleak as North Korea."
Not in a Different Country?
Park has experienced plenty of struggle and hardship, but she does not call herself a victim. She was excited when she came to the United States to attend Columbia University but was immediately struck by what she viewed anti-Western sentiment in the classroom and a focus on political correctness that had her thinking "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," Park told Fox News. "I realized, wow, this is insane. I thought America was different but I saw so many similarities to what I saw in North Korea that I started worrying."
Park said that her professors would give students "trigger warnings" and allow them to opt out of readings and discussions. It came as a shock to Park given that when she started school at Columbia, she was excited to learn more about history, a subject she said was discouraged in her homeland. However, things were no different here.
When her teacher, discussing Western Civilization, asked if students had an issue with the name of the class topic, most did, saying there was a "colonial" slant. "Every problem, they explained us, is because of white men," she said, reminding her of her home country where people were categorized based on their ancestors and caste, the New York Post reported.
That was just one of the many things she found disturbing. During her orientation, a professor asked who all in the class liked classical books, like 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 told FOX News.
The 27-year-old said that she couldn't believe she would be asked to do "this much censoring of myself" at a university in the United States.
Another Kind of Struggle
Park has struggled a lot in her already but she wasn't unhappy. She had expected to start a new life and overcame every obstacle. She along with her mother fled North Korea to China in 2007, where the two were sold into slavery by human traffickers.
Finally they were able to flee to Mongolia with the help of Christian missionaries and trekked across the Gobi Desert to eventually find refuge in South Korea, where Park attended college before transferring to Columbia in 2016.
However, her hopes were dashed once again. "I literally crossed the Gobi Desert to be free and I realized I'm not free, America's not free," she said.
"Going to Columbia, the first thing I learned was 'safe space,'" she said. Park said North Korea students were constantly informed about the "American Bastard."
"I thought 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 added.
Park, who chronicled her escape from North Korea and life in the repressive regime in the 2015 memoir "In Order to Live," said Americans seem willing to give their rights away not realizing they may never come back. Cancel culture and shouting down opposing voices is becoming an issue of self-censorship.
"I don't know why people are collectively going crazy like this or together at the same time." Park said she fails to understand what's wrong with Americans.
"North Koreans, we don't have Internet, we don't have access to any of these great thinkers, we don't know anything. But here, while having everything, people choose to be brainwashed. And they deny it," she said, adding, "You guys have lost common sense to a degree that I as a North Korean cannot even comprehend."
Now, she says, she fears America is going to become like North Korea.
That said, park regrets about the life people are leading in North Korea and sees a dark future. Censorship rules everyone's life and she too was a victim of it. She said she knows what a country could become with rights and discourse stripped away.
"North Korea was pretty insane," she said. "Like the first thing my mom taught me was don't even whisper, the birds and mice could hear me. She told me the most dangerous thing that I had in my body was my tongue," Park said. "So I knew how dangerous it was to say wrong things in a country."
Columbia University is yet to comment on Park's remarks.