“The light shines in the darkness. But the darkness has not overcome the light.” John 1:5, NIV~
What’s your favorite color? It’s a simple question. But it’s one Yeonmi Park found impossible to answer.
When Park was 13, she and her mother decided to escape from North Korea. Her sister had gone ahead days earlier. The girls’ father planned to follow later.
Park and her mother, as Park’s sister had, paid a broker to get them across the Yalu River thinking they could get jobs in China and be free.
Free–even though the citizenry of North Korea has no word for the concept of freedom or justice. Or an understanding of the pronoun I. There is only we, Park says in her book In Order to Live.
When they got to China, Park and her mother learned they were to be sold as prostitutes or wives for Chinese farmers since the country’s one child policy had created a dearth of women through sex-selective abortion.
Park watched helplessly as a broker raped her mother. Exploitation continued until they met Christian missionaries.
You might think the gathering between grace and those seeking freedom would be one of joy. But the missionaries told Park and her mother that their work in a sex chat room, the only work they could find because of their illegal status, the only work they could do to eat, was sin. They were “dirty”. They must repent or risk their entire group being captured and repatriated to North Korea.
That possibility was no small threat since North Korea typically executes defectors.
Park felt as judged as she had in North Korea during the daily self-criticism sessions.
Park was 15 when they arrived in South Korea through Mongolia. The South welcomed defectors from the North. Yet the transition from oppression to freedom was not a simple one.
Imagine growing up in a society where you almost never have to make a decision, what to wear, where to go, what your job will be, even what to eat because famine meant you ate what you could get–even dragonflies and roaches.
Park had no way to answer questions like What do you think? or What is your favorite color? She even thought that, if not for the death sentence that would ensue, it might be better to go back to North Korea where there was no burden to make decisions.
We in America give no thought to such questions. We know what we think. We know we’re right, most often without listening to those who disagree with us.
And we know which colors we prefer for our clothing, houses, and cars.
We take so much for granted. Our abundant food, our electricity that is reliable for the most part, our freedom in matters large and small.
Such abundance and freedom impressed Park–even in China, not a country most in the West would point to as a bastion of liberty.
North Korea is a land of, not only spiritual darkness, but also physical darkness. The photo above is a satellite image of electrical light at night. One bright spot indicates the capital city where dictator Kim Jong Un resides.
Darkness comes in different forms. Park was surprised and pleased to learn that South Korea had a law forbidding men to beat their wives. Abuse in the North is common and accepted. It’s not that the law is unenforced. There is no law against abuse.
North Korea is a land of darkness, physical, spiritual, moral, and intellectual.
America is a land of artificial light with a sense of freedom that is sometimes deceptive.
What’s your favorite color? You need light to perceive color.
You need light to understand oppression and to navigate freedom.
Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; the one who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” John 8:12, NASB~
Escape the darkness. Embrace the Light.
18 Replies to “Your Favorite Color in the Land of Darkness”
Nancy, this is one of the most powerful and important pieces of writing I have read in ages. We are truly a land of artificial light at times, while other countries are fully immersed in darkness. But in Jesus we have true light. As you say, “You need light to perceive color. You need light to understand oppression and to navigate freedom.” Only through the light can we truly SEE.
Only through Jesus. Thanks, Jessica. God bless!
I wondered what it must be like to describe a color without using its name. I further considered what it would be like to not even know what color something was or what to name it. My heart cried out for this precious child, but I reminded myself that God was aware of her plight and had plans to use all she suffered through in His plan. Having been near the South Korea border while in inner Mongolia, I recalled the desolation of that area of the world. I reminded myself that for those who grew up there, it was “home.” Your post caused me to consider how many here in the U.S. (the land of plenty that God has so richly blessed us with) might one day grow up without hearing of God, without experiencing freedom of choice, and without having any personal favorites. My heart broke yet again in realizing that this might one day be the world I helped to leave behind.
It truly is heartbreaking. She knew what colors were but had been trained never to ask questions. When someone asked what her favorite color was, she wanted to know the “right” answer since throughout her childhood there had been only one right answer.
We did help build what will come after us. Such wisdom in your comment, JD. Thanks and God bless!
This breaks my heart. I am thankful to know Jesus is the light of the world and the darkness will not overcome His light.
Amen. Darkness cannot defeat Light. Thanks, Melissa. God bless!
What a powerful post, Nancy. A heartbreaking look at what enslaved people in closed countries must endure. The lies and oppression of North Korea are shocking and horrifying.
Thank you, Melinda. Their ordeals are heartbreaking, indeed. God bless!
“You need light to perceive color.” Well said, Nancy. We take so much for granted, and we do not take advantage of the light we have and the opportunities we’re given. Thanks for a thought-provoking piece.
Thank you. CS Lewis said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” Light gives us perception. God bless!
Your message is a reminder for us to be grateful for our blessings, not be complacent about the blessings of freedom, and to recognize the plight of so many who live in the terrible conditions Park’s family endured. Thank you for taking on the hard topics that most of us ignore
We do have more of a feeling of entitlement about our freedom than gratitude for it. Thanks, Katherine. God bless!
Sometimes we have no clue to how others live and how blessed we are here. I am praying for those trapped inside countries like North Korea and I pray for us to see the light. Thanks for this great message.
Amen to your prayers, Yvonne. Thanks and God bless!
What a fascinating story, Nancy! I recall when I began to travel to eastern Europe being surprised by the lack of choice. I many ways, it really did make life easier. Your larger point about deceptive freedom is a warning worth heeding. God bless you!
Thank you, Annie. I hope our kids all learn to make good decisions for themselves, and we learn that freedom reuires a great deal of us. God bless!
Wow, what a story, Nancy. This is a sobering and somber thought, “America is a land of artificial light with a sense of freedom that is sometimes deceptive.”
Yes, Karen. There’s freedom that requires responsibility and freedom that denies its existence. May God grant us the understanding to choose the former. Thanks and God bless!