A North Korean defector said she viewed the US as country of free thought and free speech – until she went to college here.
Yeonmi Park attended Columbia University and was immediately struck by what she viewed anti-Western sentiment in the classroom and a focus on political correctness that had her thinking “even North Korea isn’t this nuts.”
“I expected that I was paying this fortune, all this time and energy, to learn how to think. But they are forcing you to think the way they want you to think,” Park told Fox News. “I realized, wow, this is insane. I thought America was different but I saw so many similarities to what I saw in North Korea that I started worrying.”
The 27-year-old told The Post that she could’t believe she would be asked to do “this much censoring of myself” at a university in the United States.
“I literally crossed the Gobi Desert to be free and I realized I’m not free, America’s not free,” she said.
North Korean defector Yeonmi Park said after attending Columbia University that US schools are forcing students to think a certain way and are worse than the indoctrination in her home country.
Alamy Stock Photo
Yeonmi Park fled North Korea at age 13 in 2007, a voyage that took her and her family to China and South Korea before she went to school in New York in 2016.
Her professors gave students “trigger warnings,” sharing the wording from readings in advance so people could opt out of reading or even sitting in class during discussions, Park told The Post.
“Going to Columbia, the first thing I learned was ‘safe space,’” she said.
“Every problem, they explained us, is because of white men.” Some of the discussions of white privilege reminded her of the caste system in her native country, where people were categorized based on their ancestors, she said.
Park said Columbia failed to teach students to think critically and believes “even North Korea is not this nuts.”
In one class, a teacher discussing Western Civilization asked students if they had a problem with the name of the topic – most students raised their hands, according to Park. Some, she said, mentioned issues with the “colonial” slant of the discussion.
And classes often began with professors asking students for their preferred pronouns, with the use of “they” becoming scary as she feared being socially penalized for not being inclusive enough in her vocabulary.
“English is my third language,” she said. “It’s very hard for me to say he and she sometimes, I misuse them.”
Park, 27, transferred to Columbia University in Manhattan in 2016 and eventually learned to “just shut up” so she could get good grades and graduate.
She told Fox that she also was chided for saying she enjoyed the writings of Jane Austen.
“I said ‘I love those books.’ I thought it was a good thing,” Park told the network. “Then she said, ‘Did you know those writers had a colonial mindset? They were racists and bigots and are subconsciously brainwashing you.’”
Park said North Korea students were constantly informed about the “American Bastard.”
“I thought North Koreans were the only people who hated Americans, but turns out there are a lot of people hating this country in this country,” she told The Post.
Park said American students don’t understand real oppression or “how hard it is to be free.”
South China Morning Post via Getty Images
Cancel culture and shouting down opposing voices is becoming an issue of self-censorship.
Park, who chronicled her escape from North Korea and life in the repressive regime in the 2015 memoir “In Order to Live,” said Americans seem willing to give their rights away not realizing they may never come back.
“Voluntarily, these people are censoring each other, silencing each other, no force behind it,” she said.
“Other times (in history) there’s a military coup d’etat, like a force comes in taking your rights away and silencing you. But this country is choosing to be silenced, choosing to give their rights away.”
Monument to North Korea’s ruling party
In North Korea, represented by a monument to the ruling party, Park was taught what to think — not how to think.
Alamy Stock Photo
Park said she knows what a country could become with rights and discourse stripped away.
“North Korea was pretty insane,” she said. “Like the first thing my mom taught me was don’t even whisper, the birds and mice could hear me.”
Video length 41 seconds:41Florida parents speak out against critical race theory
Florida parents speak out against critical race theory
“She told me the most dangerous thing that I had in my body was my tongue,” Park said. “So I knew how dangerous it was to say wrong things in a country.”
Park, who grew up in the last Stalinist dictatorship and witnessed people dying from starvation, said Americans are obsessed with oppression even though there is not much oppression they’ve witnessed firsthand.
“This a completely nuts, this is unbelievable,” she said. “I don’t know why people are collectively going crazy like this or together at the same time.”
She said the situation in North Korea is one thing because the people don’t have access to the internet and have limited exposure to the globe, but students here have much more access to information.
Park said as a child she had thought dictator Kim Jong Un was “starving” and overworked until she was in South Korea and was shown pictures that showed how large he was in pictures compared to other people who looked thin and hungry.
“That’s what it does when you’re brainwashed,” she said.
“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.”
Columbia University did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment.