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A North Korean defector is determined to speak up about the government's human rights abuses — even if it lands her on Kim Jong-un's hit list.
Yeonmi Park, 27, escaped the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) in 2007, smuggled out by human traffickers after her father was thrown in a concentration camp.
Now a human rights activist living in Chicago, she still feels the threat of the authoritarian regime she left behind and hires security guards to protect her at events.
"I've been on the target list of Kim Jong-un for many, many years and I worry they will try and kill me," she told The Sun.
"I get hacked. I get threats all the time."
Many of Yeonmi's relatives who stayed behind were punished after she left due to the state's "guilty by association policy", and she doesn't know how many are still alive.
But she knew she couldn't have continued living in the brutal society where she saw people lying dead in the streets and was even forced to attend executions.
"They require the children to go the public executions and they would make us sit at the front because we are shorter than the adults," she claimed.
She also said she was "brainwashed" from an early age to view the government as all-powerful, even believing the late Kim Jong-il (the father of the current leader, who died in 2011) could read her mind.
"North Korea is a religion," she said.
Hopes Kim Jong-un's grip on North Korea is fading as defector claims 'the door is open'
"We are told that Kim is a god and that he knows what you are thinking and how many hairs are on your head."
Yeonmi claims much of the country does not have consistent electricity or access to the internet and is completely ignorant to most of the world beyond North Korea's borders.
The activist fears that by telling the truth about the authoritarian regime, she may have put a target on her own back.
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She told The Sun she worries about suffering the same fate as journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey in 2018.
The North Korean government is believed to have carried out assassinations on foreign soil before, including Kim Jong-un's own half-brother.
North Korea testing Covid vaccine using data 'hacked from foreign scientists'
Kim Jong-nam died in a Malaysian airport in 2017 after a woman splashed a liquid (now known to have been a nerve agent) in his face.
Two female suspects who were later arrested said they'd been duped into killing him and had believed they were taking part in a prank TV show.
Experts believe Jong-nam was killed on the dictator's orders because he still had a claim to the North Korean throne.
A 2014 UN inquiry into human rights abuses in North Korea found that "the gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world".
The North Korean government strenuously denies such abuses take place in the secretive nation.
- North Korea Dprk
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