I removed the full version of this thread after one of the people named in the original title apologised for sending some of the bizarrest threats I've ever received. Sadly, I think they were a result of some serious mental health issues, which hopefully are getting some attention. I'm not entirely sure the apology was sincere, but I decided to take it as if it were and I subsequently edited this thread. I didn't want to delete the whole thing as, mental health issues aside, I find this saga incrediable interesting and worth my time,
Defector Park Yeon-mi, sure does warrant a thread here as an outspoken survivor of the world's first nuclear-armed cult. Hence, I'm revisiting this by making some edits and removing some names. I kept some comments by the person as they add context. Those that already know of our interactions already know who the person is, and that person had quite a reputation amongst a small subset of North Korea watchers that I'm familair with. Here goes - The Strange Tale of Yeon-mi Park & Her Critics Part 2:
A few days before Christmas last year I checked my inbox and found a mysterious email warning me not to write the book with Yeon-mi and help “spread her lies”.
I also believed that by changing a few details about my family’s escape to China, I could continue to hide the fact that I had been trafficked. I thought that if I was truthful about everything else, then it was okay; if what I lived through was real, then the details shouldn’t matter. Mostly I was reacting, improvising like a jazz musician playing the same melody a little differently each time, unaware that there might be people out there keeping score.
Park Yeon-mi, In Order To Live
As someone interested in cults and as the recipient of some threats related to my interest in North Korean defectors, I'm mostly interested in Yeon-mi's darker critics: those that attack her and the tactics they use which involve threats, fake social media accounts, and misogynistic personal attacks. Having said that, I'm certainly up for exploring some of the controversy - I'm just not as convinced of her evilness as the minority. Still, I'll post as many links as I can find so that those interested in exploring the topic can perhaps make a good start from the links provided and form their own opinions.
I have a wee connection to Yeon-mi as I volunteer with the NGO that helped her with her English a couple of years back. I have seen too many attempts by cults/abusers and their members/supporters over the years to attack people who speak out about abuses to not recognize the same tactics.
Yeon-mi Park is certainly a magnet for attention. As part of a group of recent young defectors able to tell their stories in English, she has certainly garnered the most attention. And also plenty of criticism for inconsistencies in her story. As quoted above, Maryann Volers received a mysterious email warning her not to work with Yeon-mi on her book. The person who sent that may be the person who sent me the following. How he got it into his head that I was involved with alleged plans to blackmail and threaten him with death is a complete mystery. Here are the first two emails he sent me:
... I am a master at collecting information and delivering indisputable intelligence. I can hack, track, and stack it all into nice little aggregated archives with pinpoints and pictures and codes and addresses. I'm not someone to bullshit or to duck around with. And I have a lot of fucking money and security at my disposal.
I have enough evidence to implicate the one who made the threat and the accomplice he used to assist him in doing so. All information will be forwarded to the FBI agent responsible for my security unless you give me reason not to. Yes, I have an agent assigned to me and live in a protected community because I've needed those services on so many occasions.
How did he come to think I was involved? I'm glad you asked, but to be honest, I have no idea. A man he dislikes is the co-founder of the Teach North Korean Refugees NGO I volunteer
with, which is ironically an NGO he claims to support - in theory at least; I doubt he's made a donation. And I do know Craig Urquhart who is named in his email and on his blog as the source of the threats. He claims to be just as mystified as I was. Craig wrote a piece for NK News critical of the WomenCross DMZ peace march
which I'm sure angered the person concerned. We all post on some of the same North Korea-related Facebook groups, and needless to say there are sometimes disagreements. In my experience, the rudest, stupidest, and the most childish comments come from pro-NK faction. Yes, there is a pro-NK faction. Enough of that silliness.
Park Yeon-mi, whose book In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl's Journey to Freedom
was recently published. I just finished reading it the night of November 9. Those bizarre threats served to really boost my reading speed.
Yeon-mi was one of the first students to study with Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR)
, an NGO I volunteer with
. Although I have never met her, I do feel an affinity with her because of that connection and because of the other defectors I have been fortunate enough to meet. She is also the same age as my students, so insults directed towards her didn't sit well with me. But, credit where it's due - he/she did pick up on inconsistencies amongst the various interviews Yeon-mi has given. To be honest, I fully expected those inconsistencies to be the result of Yeon-mi not being fluent in English - and I still think some were - but that can't be said of all of them. She does admit as much towards the end of her book. However, I do not think those inconsistencies justify the misogynistic insults h and others have directed at her, nor the preemptive book burning attempt via that mysterious email that Maryann Vollers received. Claims that Yeon-mi is working for the CIA and ultra-right wing Christian groups to start World War 3 are delusional. Likewise, the claim that Yeon-mi is a war criminal responsible for the suffering of the North Korean people offers further evidence of some rather abnormal though processes.
Skepticism should never be avoided, but those most publicly looking to discredit Yeon-mi certainly have their own agendas (North Korean sympathizers and/or the outright delusional). That isn't to say a skeptical approach to defector accounts automatically makes someone a sympathizer or a loon, but there are certainly sympathizers and loons out for defector blood. There were certainly some inconsistencies, some minor, some less so, in Ms. Park's public statements over the months. The Strange Tale of Yeon-mi Park
, an article by Australian journalist Mary Ann Joley explores the inconsistencies.
From the outset, my sympathies leaned towards the following comment posted under Mary Ann's article:
Speaking as a grad student in clinical psychology, I can tell you that victims of trauma (especially those with PTSD, which is considered to be very common although rarely diagnosed for obvious reasons among political refugees) have trouble with consistencies in their stories because the trauma actually changes the way memory works in order to protect you from those sorts of memories. Your memories become jumbled, or you can't recall some information, and there's also some information that victims of trauma and abuse just aren't ready to tell, which can lead to inconsistencies in stories.
Further reading has not caused me to change my mind. That last sentence, given Ms. Park's later admission, is quite prophetic. And we have language barrier issues as well. Plus, of course, there are the elements of her story (99%) that are entirely consistent with numerous other defector stories and with what we know about the regime. And I admit that having been threatened by her most visible critic and realizing he is mentally ill have perhaps colored my view or at least made it harder/nigh impossible for me to take that particular person seriously even though I'm reminded of the old adage that a broken clock is right twice a day.
I don't know if that's my bias showing or even if bias is the right word, but after some 12 years operating this site and reading countless attack-the-messenger comments directed at former members of cults and totalitarian regimes.The first Holocaust testimonies were met with similar disdain and skepticism by some;
likewise, actresses unfortunate enough to encounter Bill Cosby.
The allegations against Ms. Park sounded to me like more of the same.