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North Korean Defector Critiques “Woke” US Schools for Encouraging Cancel Culture and Rejecting Dissent

As a defector from North Korea, Yeonmi Park held the US’s oath to free speech and thought in high regard—until she entered Columbia University.

Credit: TED Conference/

As a defector from North Korea, Yeonmi Park held the US’s oath to free speech and thought in high regard—until she entered Columbia University. 

Yeonmi Park (27) transferred from a South Korean university to Columbia University in 2016. After entering the American university, Park expressed disillusionment over the institution’s obsessive “woke” culture. 

In an interview with Fox News, Park expressed the university’s intense anti-Western sentiment, collective guilt and an unhealthy obsession with political correctness reminded her of North Korea’s micromanagement. 

With Fox News, Park said:

“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 adds: 

“I thought America was different but then I saw so many similarities to what I saw in North Korea that I started worrying.”

Perilous Parallels 

As a student at Columbia, the first thing Park learned about was a “safe space;” however, Park fears America’s schools are projecting the opposite. 

In her interview with Fox News, Park expressed dismay over the institution’s thought-policing. In one example, Park said she was scolded by school staff for sharing that she liked classic literature. Apparently, Park was told at the college that authors like Jane Austen were inappropriate. 

“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,”

Likewise, Park said she was constantly reminded of the “American Bastards” during her stay in the university: 

“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,” 

Other examples include being taught to link every problem with white men and her fear of being socially punished for confusing gender pronouns. Park explained the former reminded her of North Korea’s caste system, while the latter was due to English being her third language. 

Park accused American institutions of discouraging students from thinking critically. According to Opindia, Park shared how students in her classes either objected to discussing western civilization, due to the conversation’s colonial slant, or opted out of covering triggering content. 

Likewise, Park explained that cancel culture had become the norm in the university. Because of this, she believes more and more campuses are censoring dissent or other opposing views.

Yeonmi Park

In 2007, Park escaped from North Korea at the young age of 13. She and her mother escaped to China over the frozen Yalu River and were after sold into slavery by human traffickers. 

By 2009, Park and her mother would cross the Gobi Desert to Mongolia; both achieved this with the aid of Christian missionaries and human rights activists. In Mongolia, Park and her mother won asylum in South Korea. 

Park moved to New York City in 2014 and would begin her higher education at Columbia University by 2016. 

Park now works as an advocate for victims of human trafficking in China and promotes human rights for North Korea and around the globe.

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