We are always told it is important to work on the things we love and very few of us have found as passionate a career path as Thor Halvorssen, the Venezuelan born human rights activist who is now the leader and public face of the Human Rights Foundation.Thor Halvorssen developed his interest in human rights after a number of members of his own family were robbed of their human rights in their home nation of Venezuela, Halvorssen’s own mother was shot by pro government supporters when taking part in an anti Hugo Chavez demonstration; These events have formed the impression for Thor that human rights should play an important role in every aspect of his life and career.
After graduating in Political Science from the University of Pennsylvania, Thor Halvorssen has looked to combine his interests in human rights and film to develop a career that tackles some of the most important questions facing society as a global whole. Halvorssen has been a successful film producer for over a decade and brought his skills to many documentaries telling the stories of those living under communist rule in Eastern Europe during the latter half of the 20th century. Despite his interest in telling non-fiction stories Thor has recently embraced the possibilities provided by science fiction to express the fears of the world over lost human rights.
Not only does Thor Halvorssen explore the most difficult human rights abuses through his work as a film producer, he has also sought to help filmmakers of professional and amateur status tell the stories of human rights issues that personally affect them. One of the groups founded by Thor Halvorssen has been The Moving Picture Institute that Thor uses to provide funding for films that will tell difficult human rights stories, which may struggle to find funding using the traditional routes taken in the film industry.
The story of Yeonmi Park is a tragic one. In her own words she has stated that growing up that she “didn’t know what freedom was” in her Amazon.com released novel “In Order to Live:A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom”
Park’s coming to terms with the nature of freedom began with her walking out of North Korea in late March of 2007. She came to China having never known what freedom was at the young age of thirteen. It took her several years and several continents to finally get back to South Korea, the nation where she wanted to be.
As amazing as the story of her life is, it also has many of those that have read it questioning it’s authenticity.
North Korea’s capitol city Pyongyang has created a video as reported by NK News, that attempts to present the life of Parks as she mentions it as consisting entirely of falsehoods. The video they created chooses to turn Parks into a coward that is a tool of the United States. Although it may be easy to discredit North Korea’s attempts to discredit Park, others have also cast aspersions on the trustworthiness of her tale, some labeling her as a “celebrity defector”
Yeonmi still stands by her story one hundred percent and believes that the nation of North Korea is scared of her because she knows how horrifying the inside of the nation can be. She believes that North Korea has a vested interest in labeling her life as a falsehood because it casts their government in a negative light.
This story is one that is heavily politicized as there are countless North Korean refugees that depend on the truthfulness of Parks’ tale to validate their own struggles. If the facts are proven to be untrue at all it would manage to cast aspersions on the horrific human rights abuses that they have suffered during their existence.
For more on this story, you can read Reason.com’s fantastic comprehensive write up on the controversies surrounding the Yeonmi Parks saga https://reason.com/blog/2015/11/15/yeonmi-parks-north-korean-defector-story