Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl's Journey to Freedom” as Want to Read:
In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl's Journey to Freedom
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl's Journey to Freedom

4.49  ·  Rating details ·  28,617 ratings  ·  3,075 reviews
Human rights activist Park, who fled North Korea with her mother in 2007 at age 13 and eventually made it to South Korea two years later after a harrowing ordeal, recognized that in order to be "completely free," she had to confront the truth of her past. It is an ugly, shameful story of being sold with her mother into slave marriages by Chinese brokers, and although she a ...more
Hardcover, 273 pages
Published September 29th 2015 by Penguin Press (first published September 25th 2015)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.49  · 
Rating details
 ·  28,617 ratings  ·  3,075 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl's Journey to Freedom
Jan 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I don't think any review I write for this book can do it justice. It's a truly remarkable story, but more than that, it shows a truly remarkable young woman who is resilient and hopeful even in the bleakest of moments. It's the epitome of inspiration, and I wish every single person would read this book and be inspired by it.
Dec 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Some of you will probably skip reading this review since it’s a memoir and most of my friends and followers, like me are lovers of fantasy & fiction books. Believe me, memoirs or any kind of non-fiction books is a genre I avoid the most. However, after watching Yeonmi Park’s viral video on YouTube back in 2014, I was so moved and when I found out there’s a book based on her life since her birth until her escape from North Korea, I bought it straight the next day. If you decided to not read this ...more
Whitney Atkinson
Jun 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars

everything hurts and i'm crying

This book just makes you take 10 seats. It's a story I can't even fathom being in. It's like an actual dystopia. Everything was so outrageous and haunting that it was almost unbelievable.

What I found myself enjoying was not just Yeonmi finding physical freedom outside the borders of North Korea and the human trafficking industry, but the mental freedom of learning how to be opinionated and advocating for others' rights. This book is so touching, but so sa
Education. Re-education and even more re-re-education. Or you could just call it programming or that nice, old-fashioned Cold War word, brainwashing. But who, in the end, is being brainwashed? It wouldn't be us now, would it?

Yeomi Park is born into a subsistence-level existence in North Korea which is reduced to almost lower than that when her father, a smuggler of metals, is sent to a labour camp. When he is released, he is a broken man.

"At three the following morning, Yeonmi and her mother to
April (Aprilius Maximus)
Oct 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
I honestly don't even know what to say. What can you possibly say after reading Yeonmi's story? Completely heartbreaking and horrific, yet inspiring all at once.

Around the Year in 52 Books Challenge Notes:
- 19. A non-fiction book
Helene Jeppesen
Feb 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most important books I’ve read in my life!
“In Order to Live” tells the true story of Yeonmi and her family growing up in the dictatorship of North Korea. Yeonmi is very honest from the beginning, and her story tells about the bravery she and her family had to have in order to escape North Korea and survive.
I knew a little bit about North Korea beforehand, but this book was an eye-opener! Never have I imagined what the truth is actually like for North Korean people, and it wa
Mar 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Matt by: Mariah Roze
Shelves: audiobook, buddy-read
Shifting focus on this biography journey away from men with significant power, I wanted to find a piece that would not only educate, but also exemplify some of the struggles of the common person. That this is also a buddy read with a good friend of mine only adds to the interest when it was suggested I read this memoir by Yeonmi Park. Growing up in North Korea, Park offers the reader some history of the country and the autocratic Kim Family dynasty, some of which directly related to her own ance ...more
Sarah Churchill
Oct 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I'm not normally an autobiography fan. I mostly read fiction. But Yeonmi's story is just... you know how they say truth is stranger than fiction? That.

We have to bear in mind here that I met the lovely, kind and humble lady herself before I read this. I'll hold my hands up that that probably had an impact on how much this book touched me.

Split into three parts to document her escape from North Korea, set in NK, China and South Korea, the account is heartbreaking, fascinating and punctuated by th
Umut Rados
Aug 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites-2018
WOW! This book was just impactful because it's full of a very young woman's strength, endurance and emotions. I loved every bit of it, and I admire Park with all my heart.
Full review coming soon.
Sep 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
I’ve read a few books from North Korea defectors. Most noticeably A River in Darkness: One Man's Escape from North Korea and Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, but I hadn’t really read anything from a purely female perspective until now.

Yeonmi Park grew up in North Korea, near the border with China, with her entrepreneurial father, mother and sister. Although they may not have initially had the worst upbringing due to her father’s ingenuity, this changed when he was sent to prison,
Dec 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, korea
4.5 stars

Incredible and heartbreaking story.

I wanted to write a review but honestly I don't think I'll ever be able to. In my opinion it's impossible to write criticism about a book like this.
I'm happy I read this and that I know a little bit more of what happens in the world.
Since no one ever talks about the conditions of NK I'm going to. Everyone I know will listen to me talking about this huge problem.
I had previously read Escape from Camp 14, but I needed some information about women in NK,
Oct 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I'll have a review of this up next week!
Ionut Velicu
Mar 02, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shameless. This is one of the most frustrating readings I had, not because the writing is bad (on the contrary, the touch of a well versed editor is obvious), but because I simply cannot understand how a story that clearly has A LOT of holes in it can be held in such a high regard.

Nothing adds up in Yeonmi Park's book, but nobody seems to care. This should be a red flag for all of us, since it shows that people look for personal heroes and inspiring success stories whatever the cost. Everybody i
Mariah Roze
Dec 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I read this book for the Goodreads book club Diversity in All Forms. Join the discussion:

I am very glad we read this book because North Korea is a country I know very little about. This book was super eye opening. I also had never heard of the human trafficking in China, especially the trafficking of North Koreans.

Books like these are the reason I read. I love having my eyes and world open. They motivate me to make a difference and a change, even if I can
Sara➽ Ink Is My Sword
5 Unbelievable Stars

After reading, and while reading this book I kept going.... .... ... I just couldn't speak from all the horrors she went through in her life. I kept asking myself, " If that was me, would I be able to survive?"

Yeonmi went through all the unimaginable nightmares when she was ONLY 13 years old, and she was strong enough to survive and tell us her story today and helps us see the reality our world is leaving today. Because while we are here, reading about fictional dystopian
Liz Janet
We are always worried about a dystopia yet to come, without realizing, that in some places across the world, the system already exists.
There are two things to take from this book. 1) The struggle some people around the world have to endure compared to the relaxed lives we have, and 2) Human resilience can overcome all, and that in times of trouble, there will still be good people out there willing to help.
Nov 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was absolutely phenomenal. I had no idea of about 90% of the things happening in North Korea. It sounds like a country that someone made up on a drug high, to be completely honest. Absolutely mind-boggling how something like this still exists in the 21st century.

Yeonmi Park is literally only about two weeks older than me, but has had a life of more hardships and struggling than anyone should ever have to put up with. I can't even begin to imagine what she went through. But then to also be b
Video review:

Yeonmi Park was only 21 years old when she began writing her memoir In Order to Live which tells the tale of how she and her mother escaped from a terrible life in North Korea, to be captured by human traffickers in China and eventually travel across a desert to Mongolia to find safety in South Korea. I have just finished this book and I’m left with a throat full of tears for this wonderful, amazing girl and her courage and power to talk out about things that
Nov 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2015

I talk about this book in my November reading wrap-up video.

Don't worry about my rating for this book. How do you rate a story like this, a book like this? I don't know. I don't know at all. What I do know is that I was unable to put down Yeonmi's story once I picked it up. It at once gave me a glimpse into a life in a place I knew nothing about, had never really thought about, could never imagine even if I tried. Yeonmi's story is incredible and it's the kind of story that makes you think, that
Aug 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Wow. Just wow.

This girl is only 21 years old and has lived a life that most of us could never fathom. Born and raised in North Korea, she was brainwashed to believe the Benevolent Dictator Family, the Kims, could read her mind and was cautious of any negative thoughts she may have about her country. That's how controlled her life was. Due to an incredible series of events performed by her whole family in order to live, Park escapes to China where she and her mother are captured and sold into sl
Oct 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I was sent this book to review by Penguin after I sent a request asking to receive it because I was interested in reading it and hearing Yeonmi's story, but I will always give my honest opinion and for this book that was easy to do. I, like many others who live in the modern, Western part of the world, knew very little about North Korea before I was sent this book. I had watched one or two documentaries and I knew things were bad, but I hadn't yet had the chance to pick up and read an actual acc ...more
Sep 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
It seems strange to give this book a rating due to its nature. These five stars are for Yeonmi Park’s immense courage, resilience and perseverance. She is my hero.

Yeonmi’s story demands to be read.
This is how the world really works.

“I lived in North Korea, the country where we were supposed to have nothing to envy, and all I felt was envy – desperate envy for the people on the other side of the river” [in China]

“I knew in my heart that I deserved to be treated like a person, not a hunted anima
Feb 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was such an insightful story. Both terribly horrific and beautifully inspiring.

Im not giving this book a star-rating because it feels odd to 'rate' a story that is real. I do want to recommend it to everyone who is even remotely interested. Don't be hesistant because it's non-fiction; it's very readable and approachable.

I'll be thinking about this for a long time.
Jananie (thisstoryaintover)
"We all have our own deserts. They may not be the same as my desert, but we all have to cross them to find a purpose in life and be free."

One of the most heartbreaking things I've ever read but also the most moving and inspiring. I cannot express the emotions I feel but I am just so grateful that Yeonmi shared her story.
Ashley DiNorcia
I don't even know what to say. The things Yeonmi and many others like her survived in North Korea and China are things most people don't even think about in their lives. This is a must read.
Sam Quixote
I’ve always been curious about life in North Korea but didn’t really make an effort to find out just how weird and harrowing it was until I saw Yeonmi Park’s In Order to Live - a memoir of a girl who grew up in North Korea, defected, and now lives in South Korea - and decided to find out. Well… I found out. Weird and harrowing doesn’t come close.

The book opens with a teenage Park and her mother trying to make it across the North Korea/China border in the middle of the night, bribing guards and r
Oct 23, 2015 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: BBC Radio Listeners
Recommended to Bettie by: Laura

Description: Human rights advocate Oona Chaplin reads the North Koeran defector, Yeonmi Park's remarkable account of her escape from one of the world's most repressive regimes, and her struggle for survival. Aged thirteen, she and her mother crossed the North Korean border into China where the pair fell into an underworld of human traffickers. Following their harrowing experiences, the two crossed the Gobi desert into Mongolia before they finally foun
Aga Durka
Apr 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow!! What a moving story! This book is a must read for everyone. Yeonmi’s story is a powerful and horrifying description of her life in North Korea and her escape from the regime. This book gave me a new perspective on life.
Mar 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to El by: The F-Word
What were you doing when you were 13 years old? I shudder to think because I know I was a disgusting 13-year-old, full of #FirstWorldProblems (back when we still called hashtags the "pound sign") and unwashed hair. Life was ending every single day as far as I was concerned, because the popular girls said something to me that hurt my feelings, or the boy I was crushing on at any point didn't look at me that day, or I was bullied relentlessly. It doesn't really matter because all of those days wer ...more
Apr 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Now it is actually two weeks ago since I read this book and I still do not think that my review can do justice to the importance of this book. But what I can definitely say is that this book is so much worth reading. People who know me also know that about 99% of the books on my shelf are fiction. This is actually the first memoir I´ve ever completely read from start to finish. Every time when Yeonmi described a horrible event which happened to her family I had to remind myself that this story i ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story
  • A Thousand Miles to Freedom: My Escape from North Korea
  • Dear Leader: Poet, Spy, Escapee - A Look Inside North Korea
  • Under the Same Sky: A Memoir of Survival, Hope, and Faith
  • The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag
  • Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea
  • Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite
  • Stars Between the Sun and Moon: One Woman's Life in North Korea and Escape to Freedom
  • Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West
  • The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State
  • Long Road Home: Testimony of a North Korean Camp Survivor
  • Het meisje dat van IS won. Ontvoerd, verkocht, ontsnapt
  • 82년생 김지영
  • Mörk - saga mömmu
  • Estefanía no se vende: Una historia de valentía e instinto
  • Hunted
  • Kennarinn sem hvarf
  • First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers
See similar books…

Related Articles

You might know comedian Colin Jost from his work as the co-anchor of Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update, or perhaps you know him as Scarlett Joha...
9 likes · 0 comments
“I inhaled books like other people breathe oxygen. I didn't just read for knowledge or pleasure, I read to live.” 97 likes
“We all have our own deserts. They may not be the same as my desert, but we all have to cross them to find a purpose in life and be free.” 94 likes
More quotes…