“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.