The Hard Road Out: One Woman’s Escape From North Korea

Jihyun Park, Author and Political Activist

September 20, 2023  |  12:15-1:30 PM
Virtual - Zoom

On Wednesday, September 20, the Asia Policy Program hosted Jihyun Park, author and political activist, for a virtual event to discuss her book, The Hard Road Out: One Woman’s Escape From North Korea. The talk was moderated by Dr. Sheena Chestnut Greitens, director of the Asia Policy Program and Associate Professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. The Asia Policy Program is a joint effort of the Clements Center for National Security and the Strauss Center for International Security and Law

The Hard Road Out is the harrowing story of a woman who escaped famine and terror in North Korea, not once but twice. North Korea is an open-air prison from which there is no escape. Only a handful of men and women have succeeded. Jihyun Park is one of these rare survivors. Twice she left the land of the ‘socialist miracle’ to flee famine and dictatorship. By the age of 29 she had already witnessed a lifetime of suffering. Family members had died of starvation; her brother was beaten nearly to death by soldiers. Even smiling and laughing was discouraged. The first time she ran, she was forced abandon her father on his deathbed – crossing the border under a hail of bullets. In China she was sold to a farmer, with whom she had a son, before being denounced and forcibly returned to North Korea. Six months later guards abandoned her, injured, outside a prison camp. She recovered and returned China to seek her son, now six, before attempting to navigate the long, hard road through the Gobi Desert and into Mongolia. Clear-eyed and resolute, Jihyun’s extraordinary story reveals a Korea far removed from the talk of nuclear weapons and economic sanctions. She remains sanguine despite the hardship. Recalling life’s tiny pleasures even at her darkest moments, she manages to instill her tale with incredible grace and humanity. Beautifully written with South Korean compatriot Seh-lynn Chai, this compelling book offers a stark lesson in determination, and ultimately in the importance of asylum.


Jihyun Park is a North Korean refugee who settled in the UK in 2008 after escaping North Korea twice. She is the author of the book The Hard Road Out, a Korean language tutor, public speaker, and TedxOxford lecturer. In 2018, she was awarded the NatWest’s Chairman award at the Asian Woman Achievement Award, and in 2020, she was awarded the Amnesty Brave Award. Park is also the UK’s Conservative Party candidate for local council, the first North Korean defector to speak at the UK Conservative Conference, and she has met King Charles III of England.

For more information about this event, contact Mara Sherry at