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Why Eunhee Park risked execution to flee North Korea

A North Korean defector turned reality TV star has told of her courageous escape from the totalitarian state after ‘being held captive for dyeing her hair’.

Eunhee Park, 26, fled the world’s most repressive dictatorship in 2012 after she claims she was repeatedly detained by police for clothing choices such as wearing shorts in summer.

The then 22-year-old risked execution by travelling with people smugglers from her home town of Wonsan to China, Laos, Thailand, and finally South Korea where she found fame on reality television in Seoul.

Now, as boiling tensions in the region take the world stage, Eunhee has spoken out and says she fears the possibility of nuclear war after Kim Jong-un this week fired a ballistic missile over Japan.

Eunhee Park, 26, fled the world’s most repressive dictatorship in 2012 after she claims she was repeatedly detained by police for clothing choices such as wearing shorts in summer

Eunhee painted a harrowing picture of life under the regime, where women are thrown behind bars for the way they dress. 

‘I was arrested about 15 times for things like my clothes or for changing the colour of my hair to a lighter shade of brown,’ Eunhee, who has racked up legions of fans for her brave escape, said.

 It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

‘They held me in a police station and forced to stand on my feet for 12 hours at a time.

‘One day I decided, “that’s enough, I can’t do it anymore, I have no human rights here”. 

The brave 26-year-old, who lost both parents to cancer in her teenage years, was living with her grandparents when she began plotting to escape to a brighter future.

She joined more than 30,000 North Koreans who have defected since famine rocked the secretive state in the 1990s.

She joined more than 30,000 North Koreans who have defected since famine rocked the secretive state in the 1990s

She joined more than 30,000 North Koreans who have defected since famine rocked the secretive state in the 1990s

Eunhee paid a human trafficker – which she calls a ‘broker’ – $8,800 AUD (£5,400) to make the perilous journey to China by boat.

The rest was done by foot through the rugged mountains of Laos and Thailand.

‘It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,’ she said.

‘There was almost no food, we were being hunted by police. It was horrible, but I knew it was the price for freedom.’

Eunhee claims the threat of surveillance followed her to Seoul, where she suspects she was under the eye of Pyongyang spies while she began adjusting to life in the capitalist society.

She was taught English through the Teach North Korean Refugees program, who help North Koreans integrate in the South and relearned history after being taught falsehoods back home such as the South starting the Korean war.

She has now shot to stardom on South Korean reality TV shows featuring North Korean defectors in the hope of promoting reunification 

She has now shot to stardom on South Korean reality TV shows featuring North Korean defectors in the hope of promoting reunification 

Eunhee was also introduced to comforts like the Internet and steak, which is not eaten under the regime because cows are used for farm labour.

She has now shot to stardom on South Korean reality TV shows featuring North Korean defectors in the hope of promoting reunification. 

 I don’t want war to happen, but of course it’s a possibility.

But the defector still laments the loss of her family as she left behind her grandmother – something that still weighs heavily upon her. 

‘It’s three years since I last spoke to my grandmother. I paid a broker to speak with her on the phone,’ she said. 

‘She said “don’t worry about me. If you’re happy, I’m happy. Enjoy you’re your life, enjoy your freedom”.

‘I still dream about her all the time. I miss her so much.’ 

Eunhee says she is happy now as she has freedom to live the life she wants and has a proper education

Eunhee says she is happy now as she has freedom to live the life she wants and has a proper education

Eunhee says she is happy now as she has freedom to live the life she wants and has a proper education

'Trump is erratic, but so is Kim Jong-un (pictured). I do wonder what the future could hold. I don't want war to happen, but of course it's a possibility,' she said

‘Trump is erratic, but so is Kim Jong-un (pictured). I do wonder what the future could hold. I don’t want war to happen, but of course it’s a possibility,’ she said

Eunhee says she is happy now as she has freedom to live the life she wants and has a proper education. 

But despite this, she does wonder what the future may hold – especially after recent events.  

‘Trump is erratic, but so is Kim Jong-un. I do wonder what the future could hold. I don’t want war to happen, but of course it’s a possibility,’ she said. 

On Tuesday, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull condemned North Korea’s ‘reckless’ move and said the regime threatened the peace and stability of the region.

But despite pushing the region to the brink of nuclear war, Eunhee believes Kim Jong-un – considered to be one of the world’s worst human rights violators – is just boosting his military might. 

This is his strategy. The area is under threat now. Kin Jung is trying to assert power and reap rewards from that,’ she said. 

‘If other countries help North Korea financially, he will be spending it on missiles and weapons. He doesn’t care about the lives of his people.’ 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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