Audrey Park, a master’s student studying political science in Seoul, is working for Conservative Sen. Yonah Martin, the first Canadian of Korean descent to serve in the Senate. Through her six-month internship split between Toronto and Ottawa, Park will explore the similarities and differences of integration policies between Canada and South Korea.
During a widespread famine in the 1990s when Park was seven, her family in North Korea lived off of one meal a day. Park also remembers it was not unusual to see people passed out or dead in the streets due to starvation.
In December 1998, when Park was 10, her mother felt she had no choice but to leave their home in Hamgyong to flee to China. They embarked on a terrifying 12-hour walk to the Chinese border, dodging car headlights at night and walking through forests during the day. Her mother bribed a soldier to cross the border, which was not uncommon.
The pair lived in China for seven years. They were deported three times to North Korea, each time again fleeing the Hermit Kingdom. In 2006, they escaped for the third and final time during the winter, eventually ending up in South Korea.
When asked how she survived her ordeals, the stoic young woman said the need to survive trumped fear.