North Korea
Comments 5

“I Am a North Korean Millennial”


Young North Korean defector Yeonmi Park gives an informal talk at LiNK. She talks about the Jangmadang Generation – the NK millenials who grew up with the illegal but widespread market system.

The elder generations experienced the “good times” – The North was much better off than the South after the Korean War (1950-53) since it experienced fewer bombings. Within years, the North collapsed and its communist distribution system failed, leaving the people hungry – while the South rebuilt all its infrastructure, becoming the world’s 12th biggest economic power today.

Here is a short summary of Yeonmi’s talk:

  1. North Korean millennials have little, if any, loyalty to the Kim regime.
  2. They have access to foreign media, including South Korean and Hollywood movies.
  3. They see the regime as an obstacle to private wealth and are starting private businesses.

Yeonmi’s family was part of the social elite and of the Communist Party in North Korea, and she was only 13 when she escaped. She currently studies Economics at Columbia University.


Edited on June 15th for clarity and spelling.


  1. sarahbruso says

    ” The North was much better off than the South after the Korean War (1950-53) since it experienced less bombings.” This was actually news to me. The way people talk about US war crimes during the Korean War, I was very much convinced the North had it worse. Thank you for teaching me something.

    The current state of the North Korean millennial is important. It proves, in my opinion, that the loyalty older generations feel to the Kim regime is not completely superficial, while also proving that there’s a very real and much-needed spirit of dissatisfaction among North Korean youth.

    • Emily Singh says

      Hey Sara! Thank you for pointing this out. It seems like I’ve made an error – I don’t know what got me thinking the North experienced fewer bombings, seems like they were both pretty much destroyed by the war. Seoul was the capital of Korea since Joseon times (1392-1897) under the name Hanyang, and as a capital it experienced severe bombings – so did industrial zones in North Korea. I’ll check a few books this summer when I’m back in Korea and let you know. Thank you for making me learn something new! 🙂 The North did much better after the Korean War, up until the early 80s, thanks to centralized planning and financial help from Russia and China.

      If you’re interested in the NK millenial, Hyeonseo Lee and Yeonmi Park are very good pointers. I’m reading their biographies at the moment. It’s great to get facts and numbers, but hearing individual voices matters so much.

      • sarahbruso says

        Sounds good! One of the greatest things about the time we live in is that sharing information like this, and learning from one another, is so easy to do. I love it.
        I’ll definitely check out Lee and Park. I’m sure their stories will be incredibly insightful.

  2. Bong Kim says

    The USA dropped more bombs north of the DMZ than they did in all of WW2. They destroyed everything. There was nothing left to bomb. They even destroyed dams, a war crime, destroying crops, essentially starving people to death.

    Also, there are other points to be made — but Yeonmi Park does not know what is going on. She says what her handlers tell her to say. She hasn’t been in the country for 10+ years, what does she know? And her father was stealing from the people, which is why her family lost their “privileged” status.

    Yeonmi Park is a fraud and a liar. There is a piece written about her entitled something like “defector who fooled the world”, written by a “Joo Park” — who I know very well actually. He uses Yeonmi’s own words to show that she has numerous versions of her “escape” story, that it’s impossible for all of them to be true.

    Additionally, she gets paid up to $40K per speech. There is no way in hell she is in favor of a peace agreement between NK and the USA as it would be the end of her “career”. She lived the elite life in NK, lost it due to her father’s dishonesty, and she lives the elite life now while being dishonest. If it wasn’t for her plastic surgery and youth, she’d just be another depressed defector in South Korea who would have to become a prostitute or work some shitty job and have a much higher chance of committing suicide.

    • Hi Bong Kim, I’m aware of an article by Mary Anne Jolley on The Diplomat questioning Park’s story, but I don’t see any articles from a Joo Park, at least not any published online via a credible source. Would you mind sharing some more info on this?

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