Growing up in North Korea, Yeonmi Park did not know of the concepts of love or friendship.
Everyone was a “comrade” and feelings of adoration were reserved for the rogue regime’s supreme leader alone. Her parents never told her they loved her.
It was part of everyday life to see people dying of starvation on the streets and with no electricity, Park’s life was ensconced in total darkness and freezing cold.
Park is just one of several hundred North Korean defectors who have escaped to the United States after she and her mother fled in 2007 when she was just 13 years old.
Now 26, the Chicago woman is a human rights activist, and in an interview with The Post this week, described the hell of growing up in one of the world’s most brutal dictatorships, calling it a modern-day Holocaust.
“What you need to know about North Korea is that it’s not like other countries like Iran or Cuba,” she said. “In those countries, you have some kind of understanding that they are abnormal, they are isolated and the people are not safe.”
“But North Korea has been so completely purged from the rest of the world, it’s literally a Hermit Kingdom. When I was growing up there, I didn’t know that I was isolated, I didn’t know that I was praying to a dictator.”
As children, Park and her sister were taught that the late supreme leader Kim Jong Il and his son Kim Jong Un were gods who had the power to read people’s thoughts, making everyday citizens too afraid to speak or think ill of the brutal tyrants.
In school, children are taught to count using metrics like “American bastards” and are forced to do “criticism sessions” where they attack and find faults in their classmates, sewing mistrust and division.
“We don’t have friends in North Korea. We only have comrades. There’s no concept of friends,” she said.
While the world is familiar with Kim’s deadly nuclear testing program, Park is one of the few defectors who have made it out alive and are able to blow the whistle on the horrific conditions inside the rogue regime.
Roughly 40 percent of the country’s population, more than 10 million people, are starving and face severe food shortages, according to the United Nations.
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