North Korea

North Korean defector to reach out to Hong Kong students on her escape to China and South Korea

Celebrity activist Park Yeon-mi brushes off death threats following the assassination of Kim Jong-un’s half-brother in Kuala Lumpur

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 April, 2017, 7:57pm
UPDATED : Monday, 03 April, 2017, 10:58pm

A high-profile but controversial North Korean defector will reach out to Hong Kong students on Tuesday as she continues her speaking tour on her escape from the repressive regime.

Park Yeon-mi will attend a sharing session at Diocesan Boys’ School. Apart from pupils from the school, university students and members of the public who have enrolled will also have the chance to meet her.

It will be the first encounter with local students for Park, a 23-year-old studying in New York, who is currently on her third visit to Hong Kong.

She will also address churchgoers on Thursday.

As she addressed an audience at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Central on Monday, Park was asked whether she feared for her safety after the recent assassination in Kuala Lumpur of Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

“I could have been killed many times before,” said Park, who escaped to China with her mother over the frozen Yalu River in 2007 before making it to South Korea via Mongolia two years later.

The daughter was sold to a mainland trafficker as his mistress before she once again escaped.

Her father was jailed in North Korea for illegal trading and later died of colon cancer after escaping to China separately. He died when she was 14.

The celebrity defector, who has been giving speeches for two years, is sometimes questioned on social media for inconsistencies in her stories.

“The more speeches and interviews I read, watch and hear Park give, the more I become aware of serious inconsistencies in her story that suggest it wasn’t [accurate],” journalist Mary Ann Jolley wrote in current affairs magazine The Diplomat in 2014.

She offered different accounts over the death of a friend’s mother, sometimes mentioning that she watched James Bond movies while at other times linking the case to the viewing of South Korean DVDs.

Park did not address such inconsistencies in her speech in Hong Kong. She earlier explained that they arose from a language barrier.

Organisers would not disclose the exact time of her arrival and departure due to security concerns.