Yeonmi Park, 26, explained life in North Korea was filled with “oppression and complete darkness”. The activist also explained how Kim Jong-un’s regime “chose” to leave its population starving.
Speaking to the Post, Ms Yeonmi detailed how North Korea was unique from other countries like Iran and Cuba.
She said: “In those countries, you have some kind of understanding that they are abnormal, they are isolated and the people are not safe.
“But North Korea has been so completely purged from the rest of the world, it’s literally a Hermit Kingdom.
“When I was growing up there, I didn’t know that I was isolated, I didn’t know that I was praying to a dictator.”
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Ms Yeonmi also explained the struggles of starvation in the country, and said she ate insects as a child to avoid going hungry.
She added she saw “dead bodies on the street” frequently, and said: “I never thought that was something unusual.”
“I have visited slums in Mumbai, I have visited slums in other countries, but nothing is like North Korea because North Korean starvation, it’s a systematic starvation by a country that chose to starve us.”
Ms Yeonmi then pointed to North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme, and said: “If they would spend just 20 percent of what they spent on making nuclear weapons, nobody would have to die in North Korea from hunger but the regime chose to make us hungry.”
The activist fled from North Korea when she was 13, crossing into China before being captured by human traffickers.
After escaping her captors, she and her mother fled to Mongolia and found refuge in South Korea, before moving to the US.
She now lives in Chicago with her husband and has become a human rights activist, and said she’s grateful to be born in North Korea despite her hardship.
She added: “If I hadn’t been born in that oppression and complete darkness, I don’t think I would see the light here.”
In the interview, Ms Yeonmi also claimed her contacts in North Korea believe Kim Jong-un is still alive.
The leader was absent from public view for three weeks in April, leading to reports he had died or fallen seriously ill.
Ms Yeonmi said: “We can agree that Kim Yo Jong is not taking over North Korea and I don’t think that is in her interest.
“Kim Jong Un is very much in power and he’s not dying anytime soon.”
It comes as North Korea is preparing a massive display of military power in a Pyongyang parade in October.
Satellite images, reviewed by a US thinktank, claimed North Korean troops and military vehicles are rehearsing for a huge parade.
A report by 38 North said: North Korea has been widely expected to hold a major military parade on October 10 this year to mark the 75th anniversary of the Workers’ Party of Korea.”
The parade comes amid the coronavirus pandemic, but North Korea has so far reported only one suspected case.