Yeonmi Park, a defector from North Korea held the United States’s commitment to free speech and free thought in high regard until she went to Columbia University, where she was immediately taken aback by what she perceived as an anti-western view and an unhealthy obsession with being “politically correct”, a report published in the NY Post said.
Disillusioned by the woke culture perpetuated at the American schools, Park pondered: “Even North Korea isn’t this nuts”.
“I assumed all the sacrifices I made, time and energy spent would be utilised in developing and honing critical thinking ability. But here, they are railroading you to think the way they want you to think,” Park said in an interview to Fox News.
The North Korean defector was aghast to find the eerie similarity between the United States and her home country. “I thought America was different but then I saw so many similarities to what I saw in North Korea that I started worrying.”
Speaking to The Post, the 27-year-old said she could not believe she would be asked to do “this much of self censoring” at a university in the United States.
“I literally crossed the Gobi Desert to be free. But now I realise America is not free,” Park asserted.
Park fled the repressive regime in North Korea when she was 13. Her family went to China and South Korea before ending up in the United States for their pursuit of a free, just and equitable society.
In 2016, Park joined a school in New York. She says she was baffled to find her professors issuing “trigger warnings” to students on contentious topics so that they can opt out of reading or sitting in the classroom during the discussions.
Talking about the prejudice at the Columbia University, Park said they were taught to link every problem to white men. She said some of the discussions pertaining to white privilege reminded her of the caste system prevalent in her native country, where people were segregated based on their ancestral lineage.
In one of the classes she attended, most students objected to the topic when their teacher asked them if any of them had a problem discussing western civilisation. Park said some of the students who raised objection highlighted the colonial slant of the discussion.
Classes, Park recalled, often started with professors asking students for their preferred pronouns, with the use of “they” becoming increasingly prevalent as she feared being socially punished for not being inclusive in her vocabulary.
Park said English was her third language and it was incredibly difficult for her to use pronouns correctly. “I sometimes interchangeably used he and she pronouns,” she said.
Cancel culture and shouting down on opposing voices have become a norm in the United States: Yeonmi Park
The North Korean defector said she was chastised for saying she enjoyed the writings of Jane Austen. Apparently, Park was told at the college that authors like Austen were racist and bigoted and had a colonial mindset.
“When I told them I loved those books, they tried to dissuade me from reading them. I was told these authors had a colonial mindset. They told me these authors were racist and bigots and were subconsciously brainwashing me,” she said.
The 27-year-old said she was constantly reminded of ‘American Bastards’. “I thought only people in North Korea hated Americans. But as it turns out, there are lots of people already here who hate this country,” she added.
Park also spoke about the cancel culture becoming norm in the university. She said shouting down on dissenting voices and forcing them to censor contradictory viewpoints is increasingly being practiced in campuses around the United States.
She also expressed concern at the readiness of American people to give away their rights. She says American people have not fathomed yet the perils of shunning their rights, not realising they may never come back.
“These people are voluntarily silencing each other, forcing each other into acquiescence,” said Park, who had chronicled her escape from North Korea in a memoir released in 2015. “In other times, there’s coup d’etat when the rights are taken away and people are silenced. But this country is voluntarily choosing to be silenced, choosing to relinquish their rights away.”
People in the United States behave as if they are brainwashed: Defector from North Korea
For Park, this perverse behaviour of giving up one’s rights and forcing others to conform to one’s worldview is starkly similar to the North Korean society, where rights are curtailed and individual freedom is nonexistent.
“North Korea was pretty insane country. My mother taught me very early in my childhood to not even whisper, the birds and mice could hear me,” Park said while describing the repressive regime in North Korea.
Park believes Americans are obsessed with oppression even though there is not much oppression they have witnessed firsthand. “This is completely nuts. I don’t know why people are collectively going crazy like this here in America,” she said.
Park is still bewildered as to why Americans behave the way they do despite having such a vibrant democracy and seemingly just society. She said people in North Korea lived a cloistered life as they don’t have access to outside world, but here in America people have access to information and yet they behaved in an inexplicable manner.
Speaking about the people in the United States, Park says they are brainwashed to a certain extent to behave contrary to what the evidence suggests. “In some ways, they (in the US) are brainwashed. Even though there’s evidence so clearly in front of their eyes they can’t see it,” she lamented.