Escape From Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey From North Korea To Freedom In The West
- Pan Macmillan
- Publication Date:
- 06 April 2012
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Shin Dong-Hyuk was born in Camp 14, a North Korean political prison/labour camp, a camp from which there is no release for its inmates, a camp with a strict and harsh regime,where there is little food, and where the work often results in early death. No one has escaped from Camp 14 or any other such camp, that is until Shin succeeded in early 2005, eventually making his way via China and South Korea to the US.Escape From Camp 14 is his story as told to Washington Post journalist Blaine Harden. It details the inhuman existence that is life within Camp 14, where prisoners are pressured to inform on each other including their own family, where punishments are harsh and handed out at the whim of their superiors be they prison guards or fellow prisoners designated as supervisors. Life is cheap within Camp 14, beatings can be so extreme they result in death, there are regular public executions and possibly much more regular private executions. Anyone caught trying to escape is executed, and members of their family face reprisals. Born into such an existence Shen knew no other way of life, he knew nothing of the world outside of the camp, that is until he met a new inmate who gradually enlightened him, and fuelled his desire for escape.This is an easy read in that the prose is fluent and very accessible, but it if far from an easy read when considering its content, the descriptions of life in Camp 14 do not make for comfortable reading. Harden eases the readers progress through Shin's harrowing account by regularly interspersing it with facts about life in North Korea, Korea's history and its relations with the rest of the world.This is a story that deserves to be told, and that needs to be read. It is much more than a heart wrenching account of the terrible existence that is life in the North Korean prison camps. It raises questions about life in general in North Korea where the people are kept in awe of its leader Kim Jong-il (the proof copy I read was completed before the succession, the published edition will have been updated by the author), where they are kept in ignorance of the rest of the world, where they are told that they, the people of North Korea and their regime, are the envy of the world. North Korea will not admit to the existence of these camps, but China, the US and the rest of the world knows they do exist and have existed for around half a century, and satellite images readily available on the Net clearly reveal them. But Shin's story raises more questions, notable about the difficulties of adapting to life in the free world for those raised under North Korea's repressive regime. Shin has not found it easy, and unlike the general populace of the country he has not been brainwashed.Hopefully Shin's account will raise awareness of these North Korean prison camps, and of the deprivations of life in general in that country, and the difficulties of assimilation for those who do make it out of the country.
‘Escape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West’ by Blaine Harden is a harrowing biography of a person born and raised in a political camp north of Pyongyang, North Korea. Shin-In-Geun’s earliest memory is watching his mother and brother executed. He now blames himself for it. He was only four years old but he was trained to not trust his family but to be a snitch. So when he figured out that the two were planning an escape, he turned them in. He saw executions often in the camp. The guards stuffed stones in the prisoner's mouth so they couldn’t make a noise and made them wear a hood. His food was meager, corn porridge, cabbage soup, and pickled cabbage. When he and the other boys were allowed, rats, snakes and insects that they caught were added to their diet. One girl in his class was beaten to death for stealing five grains of rice. When he was school age, he slept on the floor of a dormitory and learned counting and more obedience to the camp’s rules. No geography, no history, in fact he grew up thinking that his world was the same everywhere. He didn’t even know about the ruling dynasty of Northern Korea, the Kims. If he thought that camp life was all there was, why did he escape? Not for freedom, I think you would be very surprised to find out why he squeezed through an electric wire fence.How did he first find out about the outside world? He had no sense of family, when and how did he learn of that? This is a riveting story, a true story and makes you think of what a different world it is in North Korea and even worse, in one of the camps. I could talk all day about this book, there is so much more to it.I cannot recommend this book high enough for an eye opening true story from the other side of the world.
"Escape From Camp 14" is a book that everyone should read. It's hard to believe that people are being treated this way in our world. Shin is an amazing person and should be so proud of himself for escaping and trying to help the ones left behind.
I could not put this down. It's only about 180-190 pages and I read it in two sittings. It's hard to read at times and amazing that South Korea is seemingly unconcerned about these prisoners. This is the storey of the escape of a man born in the prison camp, where families are punished for 3 generations for crimes against the government. He is the only person known to have escaped and survived.
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