Anti-trafficking and human rights activist Jihyun Park, born 1968, is one of the few outspoken North Koreans in the UK. Park campaigns to raise awareness of the human rights abuses North Koreans endure not only at the hands of the regime but also in China.
Park is writing a book of her experiences, The Black Sun: One woman’s escape from North Korea and slavery in China in collaboration with Eunjung Chai Robinson, a South Korean. Both women live in the UK and they hope that their unique co-operation is a symbol of the future for the two Koreas.
Park arrived in the UK in 2008 after twice defecting. In 1998, she fled North Korea with her surviving family after watching her father and her uncle starve to death in the famine that claimed the lives of one million people.
In China, Park was sold into slavery by her mother and forced to marry a drunken farmer with whom she had a son, deemed stateless by the Chinese government. In 2004, Park was denounced and repatriated to North Korea.
She was tortured and endured horrific conditions in a labour camp but managed to defect for a second time. Her longing for her son kept her alive. Park’s story is not only a rich and colourful one of a family torn apart by a brutal regime but is also one of love and renewal. Park's account is not only a dramatic story but a timely account of one family’s experience living as refugees in the UK.
Today, Park is the Outreach and Project Officer at the European Alliance for Human Rights in North Korea, and lives in Manchester with her new husband and three children.
In 2013 Park testified before the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea and has spoken at Parliament on three occasions. Park provides crucial eyewitness evidence of the severity of the 1990s famine still raging in 2004 and of the infamous Camp 25. Park's account is also unlike most other defectors, as she lived much of her adult life in North Korea before fleeing and, due to her age, remembers growing up in relative prosperity in the northern city of Chongjin and as a teacher, Park was not only brainwashed by propaganda but was part of the system that has a mystical and tyrannical hold over the North Korean people.
Park's story was also featured in a high profile 2015 Amnesty International campaign where a documentary, The Other Interview, was made about her defection. Jihyun also featured in Under a Different Sky, a documentary by PANOS London human trafficking.