North Korean Defector, Park Yeonmi, and her Q&A with The Guardian

Park Yeon Mi (박연미) was born in 1993 in North Korea where she lived until March 30th 2007 when she and her mother fled the oppressive and secretive nation to defect to South Korea via China. Her full story on her escape can be read in this article from The Telegraph but I will try to give a brief overview of what happened leading up to her arrival in Seoul.

Via The Telegraph:"Yeonmi Park with her parents and sister Eunmi (left); and with her father (right) in Pyongyang in 2002, before he was arrested PHOTO: Courtesy of Yeonmi Park"

Via The Telegraph:”Yeonmi Park with her parents and sister Eunmi (left); and with her father (right) in Pyongyang in 2002, before he was arrested PHOTO: Courtesy of Yeonmi Park”

“Yeon Mi’s father was a mid-ranking civil servant” who sold precious metals to Chinese smugglers to keep his family fed. Once he was caught doing this in 2002, he was sentenced to 17 years in a prison near Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea – formally Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. After being tortured in unimaginable ways for 3 years he managed to bribe his way out of prison and then began the family’s planning for defection to South Korea – formally Republic of Korea. Eunmi, Yeon Mi’s sister, at the age of 16, fled North Korea without telling her family so Yeon Mi and her mother left home on March 30th 2007 to find her.

“They crossed three mountains and finally came to a frozen river that separated the two countries. It was desperately cold, Yeonmi says, and she remembers feeling terrified that the ice beneath them would give. But they eventually made it to the other side. On dry land, they ran. ‘I ran so fast. The only thing I could think was that I could get shot. I ran and ran and ran.’” Once finally inside China, they began looking for Eunmi, but had no luck. After a period of time passed, Yeon Mi’s father also fled to find where his family was. He found them, but died before being able to leave China. His wife and daughter had to bribe a coroner to burn his body at 3am the following day, after which he was buried in the mountains.
Yeonmi and her mother travelled through China and the Gobi desert into Mongolia where they were detained for many days and then finally put on a plane to Incheon airport in Seoul where they are living now.

Yeon Mi now studies criminal justice at Dongguk University, one of Korea’s best, and is frequently on talk shows around the world raising awareness of what is happening in North Korea. Today she did an interview The Guardian newspaper and I’d like to show your some of her answers. Continue reading


Urine does not help Jellyfish stings

Many people are of the opinion (or should I say, under the impression) that urine can help sooth the pain of a jellyfish sting because it neutralises the chemicals. It doesn’t. It can actually make it even worse.

The following snippets give a general coverage of an article in Scientific American who spoke to Joseph Burnett, a dermatologist at the University of Maryland Medical Centre, and Christopher Holstege, a toxicologist and professor of emergency medicine at the University of Virginia. Continue reading

North Korea, secret photos and how they view America

For me, North Korea is a fascinating place, yet I cannot really find the words to explain why I think that. I suppose my inability to understand how you can control a whole country in such a way plays a part. To be clear, my fascination with the ‘Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea’ is not a positive one, it’s based on the shock of how a country can still be that way. So closed off from the world. My biggest question that I’m unlikely to get a true answer for is this: do the people of North Korea truly believe what their government tells them or are they just to scared to ask questions?

Today I came across a photographer named Eric Lafforgue who has traveled to North Korea many times and has sneaked out several photographs that he was asked to delete. ‘Mr. Eric’, as the North Koreans call him, has covered many countries on his website, but I would ask you to look at two of the PDF files he has posted on the ‘Stories’ page of his website. They are titled: The pictures Kim Jong-Un doesn’t want you to see and America: As seen by the North Koreans. Here are a few snapshots from the collections

All images below belong to Eric Lafforgue

Continue reading

What to do if TV licence “officers” visit

It’s beginning of the new academic year and many student are living on their own for the first whether it be in halls or private accommodation. This means that people all over the country will undoubtedly be receiving letters in the mail from the TV licencing authority reminding you that you need to purchase a TV licence if you watch or record live TV.

When I moved in a couple weeks ago there were plenty of letters of that kind already here and we just received another one today saying that home visits have been authorised in my post code area. I was curious, because the letter strongly implied that they were going to enter my property and check to see if there was evidence of someone in my apartment watching or recording live TV (there isn’t, but that’s besides the point).


I doubt it is just me who read the “What to expect when you are visited” section and thought they had some kind of right to enter my home and search it and I suppose that that specific part of the letter is designed for that exact purpose.



  • Your permission


  • A search warrant signed by a magistrate (or sheriff in Scotland) AND an accompanying police officer

So do not be bullied into thinking they can come into your home and look around and understand that a warrant to enter your home will only be signed by a magistrate (or sheriff) if they have been shown evidence that gives strong reason to believe that your are breaching the Communications Act.

Here is a snippet from the TV licence Freedom of Informations page.

What law authorises enquiry officers to request access to my home? Can I refuse to let them in?

The Communications Act 2003 imposes an obligation on the BBC to issue TV Licences and collect the licence fee. The BBC must ensure that it fulfils its responsibility to the vast majority of households who pay their licence fee, by enforcing the law in respect of those who intentionally evade paying it. TV Licensing uses a range of activities to raise awareness about the requirement for a TV Licence, remind people to pay, inform them of ways to pay, and to deter people from evading the licence fee.
Enquiry officers do not have any legal powers to enter your home without a search warrant granted by a magistrate (or sheriff in Scotland). They (like other members of the public) rely on an implied right in common law to call at a property as far as the door, while going about their lawful business and making their presence known. Enquiry officers must explain to the occupier of the premises why they are visiting, be polite, courteous and fair, and abide by a strict code of conduct.
You have no obligation to grant entry to an enquiry officer if you don’t wish to do so. If refused entry by the occupier, the enquiry officer will leave the property. If enquiry officers are refused access, then TV Licensing reserve the right to use other methods of detection.
Enquiry officers may apply for authorisation to use detection equipment if they are refused entry on to premises. TV Licensing may also apply to a magistrate (or sheriff in Scotland) for a search warrant. However, this is only done as a last resort and when a senior manager and a legal adviser considers that there is good reason to believe that an offence has been committed.