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Universities must change course ‘while time remains,’ North Korean defector warns America

ANALYSIS: Yeonmi Park found her Ivy League miseducation uncomfortably familiar

One of the very few North Korean defectors to become an American citizen wrote a new book warning our academic and other elites to correct their slide into dangerous woke ideologies, and encouraging ordinary Americans to resist.

If we fail, human rights activist Yeonmi Park warned, our country may increasingly resemble the socialist dictatorship she escaped.

“Because I love America so much, and because I’m committed to resisting any encroachments on its freedoms, I do draw on my knowledge and experience of North Korea to illuminate — not exaggerate — threats to liberty in America,” Park wrote in “While Time Remains,” her second book, released last month by Simon & Schuster.

In both volumes, Park “attempt[s] with all her heart…to warn us here in our luxury and comfort not to fall prey to the same ideological temptations that doomed the Soviet Union and all its satellites and that still possess the billion-plus people in China,” Jordan Peterson, who interviewed Park on his podcast last year, wrote in the “Forward” to her new book.

“While Time Remains” briefly recounts Park’s escape at age 13 and journey through sexual slavery in China and refuge in South Korea and then the United States, topics covered in greater depth in her first book, before shifting to the education in American privilege and leftist ideologies she absorbed in college at Columbia University. Park graduated in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in human rights.

She entered Columbia’s campus on the Upper West Side of New York with wonder and gratitude, its beauty and grandeur seeming to her even greater than the lights and skyscrapers of Times Square.

“What an unbelievable honor to start my studies as an Ivy League student!” she described herself as thinking.

However, Park quickly encountered an environment that she found hostile to liberal learning and excellence and replete with ideological absurdities.

During the first day of her orientation, an instructor told her that she was wrong to find Jane Austen’s characters relatable, because the famous English author’s books “promote female oppression, racism, colonialism, and white supremacy.”

In an orientation session for a class called “Masterpieces of Western Music,” every single student in the class agreed that they had a problem with studying music from the West, she wrote.

When Park suggested to the professor that perhaps the class could learn something from the music masterworks on the syllabus, the instructor informed her that she “had likely been ‘brainwashed.'”

“We were taught that gender is a societal construct imposted by white men; that science and math itself were also invented by white men to further the agenda of white supremacy,” she wrote.

Even more, her professors instructed her that “the goal of technology was not the improvement of life or to push the limits of human knowledge and abilities for its own sake, but as a means of imprisoning the masses…and that Christianity, a religion born in the Middle Eastern desert, was the religion of white people, used for no other purpose than to indoctrinate the indigenous tribes they conquered through the use of technology.”

The indoctrination continued over four years.

“Professors in the humanities frequently challenged us to demonstrate how woke we were. We had to be diligent…learning to locate the white male Bastards behind every crime, behind every problem, in the air we breathed,” according to Park.

Her language echoes “American Bastards,” the common term for Americans that her teachers in North Korea taught her, she wrote.

Park was raised under the rule of then-Supreme Leader Kim Jong-il and spent her childhood in a dark, impoverished city called Hyesan. She recounted starvation so severe she had to catch grasshoppers to eat, her father and mother’s disappearance to prison camps, and her teachers’ propagandizing in collectivist ideology and hatred of Americans as literally inhuman, “cold-blooded reptiles with horns and pitchfork tails.”

“Like all totalitarian heirs of Joseph Stalin, the Kim regime knows that it is important to control people’s bodies, but more important to control their thoughts,” she wrote.

Kim Jong-il and his 2011 successor, Kim Jong-un, share with Stalin an ideological inheritance in Marxism-Leninism, the philosophy that inspired the Soviet Union. Marxism was developed in new ways in the 1920s by Mao Zedong, who led China’s Cultural Revolution and then became dictator of the Chinese Communist Party, and in the 1940s by Kim Il-sung, the first Communist leader, or more precisely tyrant and ideologist, of North Korea.

In turn, Marxism inspired critical race theory, antiracism, and other “woke” ideas on the rise in the West and its college campuses.

“Critical race theory and antiracism share with Marxism-Leninism (and Juche, its North Korean offshoot) an arcane vocabulary and impenetrable set of ideas that serve less as a tool of political change than as a social sorting mechanism that keeps the governing class as separate as possible from ordinary people,” Park wrote.

The power of these woke ideas mounted in America after the murder of George Floyd and the rise of Black Lives Matter, when “the elite started to force ordinary people and employees to take part in ‘diversity trainings’ in order to internalize the official ideology of wokeism as a condition of education and employment,” she added.

“In order to survive, American students and employees were told they needed to master this increasingly complicated set of rules, exceptions, and quirks of ideology and language,” she wrote.

Park’s book is short, a quick read, but it cuts to the heart of the leftist ideologies that we too often dismiss as merely silly or peculiar to American campuses. She aptly describes the rot in one of the most revered universities in the world — which has spread to the elite of most sectors of American life.

Nonetheless, Park still considers America to be “nothing less than a miracle.”

She advises Americans to participate in a new “founding” of the country, a reaffirmation of “personal responsibility and local government.” She tells her readers to get involved in their city councils, school board meetings, and houses of worship.

If so, she tells us, “the light of your example will shine so brightly that no woke mob will be able to extinguish it.”

I recommend you read Park’s book and heed her closing advice: “Don’t give up on our country.”

MORE: On anniversary of her son’s death, Cindy Warmbier opens up about North Korean brutality

IMAGES: Simon & Schuster

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About the Author
assistant editor
Maggie has previously worked as an associate editor of Columbia magazine, an editorial assistant at DNAinfo.com, and an elementary school teacher at a charter school in Phoenix. She holds a B.A. from New York University and lives in Philadelphia.