April 13, 2023 : By Logan Smith - Office of Communications & Public Engagement
North Korean defector, human rights activist, and popular TED speaker Yeonmi Park, who fled the tyrannical communist state when she was 13, warned audience members Thursday night to recognize and resist the growing oppression of brutal dictatorships in North Korea and around the world.
Park’s session was part of the Liberty University Helms School of Government’s third annual public policy conference, “Promise of the Declaration: Building on the Legacy of ‘Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.’” The three-day event runs through Friday and includes Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Convocation address Friday morning.
A packed audience in the Montview Alumni Ballroom greeted Park with a standing ovation. Park recounted her childhood growing up in North Korea, fleeing to China, and the treacherous principles that turned her country into the dark state it is today. She also warned of the growing progressive ideologies taking hold in American culture and how those same ideals contributed to her country’s fall.
“In North Korea, seeing dying people is like looking at a tree. That’s how common it is,” she said. “In North Korea, we don’t even have a concept of love. The only love that North Korean people are allowed to know is the love for the dictator. … Until my father passed away, he never told me he loved me.”
“A lot of people don’t understand how North Korea became this way. It resembles exactly what’s happening in America right now,” she said, referring to her concerns with Critical Race Theory, gender ideology, and intersectionality seeping into the American Education system, which she said fosters a victim mentality. “Now thinking about (these ideologies), what an insult that is to all the students. They were on purpose making me a disabled person.”
After her talk, conference attendees participated in a Q&A, where Park unraveled more details about her experience being trafficked as a girl, the dangers of gun control, and why so many American citizens take their freedoms for granted.
Park is the author of two books: “In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom” and “While Time Remains: A North Korean Defector’s Search for Freedom in America.” Her viral talks have garnered over 350 million views, including a session on the Joe Rogan Experience, the nation’s leading podcast on Spotify.
Thursday also marked the 280th birthday of Thomas Jefferson. The Helms School hosted a dinner reception in the ballroom to celebrate the occasion.
“In light of our celebration of the legacy of one of our most important Founders, it was especially meaningful to have Ms. Park with us to remind us all in the most compelling way of the true blessing of American freedom and the courage and sacrifice required to preserve it,” said Helms School of Government Dean Robert Hurt.
The School of Government’s public policy conference allows students to present research, participate in panel discussions, and listen to leading voices on matters of national security, emerging technology, foreign relations, and more.
Panel guests this year have included Neil Wiley, a retired naval officer who served as Principal Executive in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence under the Trump administration; Kevin Freeman, host of the Economic War Room podcast; Mike Harasimowicz, Director for Artificial Intelligence Innovations at Lockheed Martin’s AI Center; and many more national authorities, service members and commentators.
“We could not have been more pleased to host such a distinguished series of guests and scholarly papers over the past three days,” Hurt said. “Based upon the tremendous student turnout, there is no question that the conference has been a great success in creating a useful dialogue about winning public policy. It is our hope and prayer that this will help better prepare our students to be Champions for Christ when it comes time to graduate from the Helms School.”