Yeonmi Park grew up in North Korea, under the watchful eye of then-leader Kim Jong-il.
Though she escaped with her family when she was 15, it took her years to get over the intense brainwashing she experienced. In a recent interview with Australian public broadcasting channel SBS, Park went into unbelievable detail about growing up in the totalitarian state.
Growing up in North Korea, according to Park, was like “living in hell.” She describes constant power outages, no transportation, and watching classmates and friends disappear without a trace. While that may be unsurprising, the most interesting part of Park’s experience is her admission that she believed Kim Jong-il to be “a god” who could literally read her mind.
“I had to be careful of my thoughts because I believed Kim Jong-il could read my mind. Every couple of days someone would disappear,” Park said.
She and her family eventually escaped North Korea, crossing the border into China in the dead of winter. After several hard years in China, Park and her family traveled to Mongolia with the help of South Korean missionaries. Even then, she feared Jong-il.
“This whole time, I was still so brainwashed that I thought Kim Jong-il could read my mind from afar. Even though I had escaped, I wouldn’t let myself think anything negative about the regime,” Park said.
Eventually, the family made it to South Korea, where they were finally introduced to the Internet and non-censored books. She says it was like finally seeing “the truth,” but that, even in South Korea, it took her three years to get over the brainwashing.
Here’s the full interview:
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.