May 2018 Club

IN ORDER TO LIVE - YEONMI PARK

For a woman in her early twenties, Park has lived through what most don’t experience in a lifetime.

Growing up in oppressed North Korea in the 1990s, she wasn’t allowed to do much, not even think her own thoughts. The Kim dynasty’s omnipresent rule governed everything from her family’s status, job allocation, songs she sang to the amount of food she ate (not very much! In fact, her and her sister were very close to starvation at one point).

When conditions get worse and her mother and father lose their respectable jobs, Park’s father takes on the highly risky operation of smuggling metal from Pyongyang to China which results in him being sent to a hard labour camp.

Eventually, the only option for a better life is to escape across the border to China. Yeonmi’s sister, Eunmi, orchestrates her own escape a few days early without telling the family, so they have no idea if she survived. Yeonmi and her mother take their chances with a gang of people smugglers, who manage to get them out of North Korea, but their escape comes at a high cost.

Their lives in China see them shipped from trafficker to trafficker to try to avoid being captured as illegal immigrants. They manage to send word Yeonmi’s father and they are reunited for a short while until he dies of colon cancer, unable to get any treatment or be buried in dignity.

Life in a sex call centre in China becomes unbearable. There’s such a poignant moment when Park says “from there a traveler with a passport could fly to Seoul’s Incheon airport in just over an hour. But North Korean defectors have to take a much more tortuous route to freedom.”

That escape route was made possible by the endeavours of a Christian group who guided them across China to get them close to the Mongolian border. As part of a group of fellow defectors, they were abandoned in the Gobi desert and told to head for the bright lights of a Mongolian habitation rather than the dimmer lights of a Chinese town. When they eventually made it over the border, they were arrested and about to be deported back to North Korea. It was only in threatening to kill themselves rather than go back that they are allowed to stay and finally sent to safety in South Korea.

Colourway inspiration

For the variegated option, I tried to portray Park’s father’s metal smuggling operation. I took a nickel coloured base and added silver, copper and cobalt to it with a touch of blue-teal to tone in with the semi-solid. I called it Metallurgy.

As North Korea is pretty much a colour reference no-go zone, I took my inspiration from the roof of the Blue House in South Korea as a kind of sign for hope. It’s an intriguing blue – almost slightly khaki-blue with tones of teal and grey. I called the resultant colour Cloud Bridge.

I chose Selkino for the yarn base. The silk conjures up images of China and the Silk Road route through Mongolia and it’s a beautifully luxurious base to bring the Winter Club to an end.