Books, Edge, Reviews

Biography ‘Escape from Camp 14’ details life, suffering in political prison camp

“Escape from Camp 14,” written by Blaine Harden, tells the biographical tale of Shin Dong-hyuk, a man  born in a North Korean political prison camp and escaped. // Photo courtesy Penguin Random House

In 1982, Shin Dong-hyuk was born in the North Korean political prison camp infamously known as Camp 14. Today, Shin, now a free man, tells his shocking and sometimes graphic life story to audiences around the world. Having witnessed the executions of his mother and brother as a young boy, Shin remains one of the strongest voices in the effort to raise awareness of the human rights abuse in North Korea.

Seven years after Shin’s escape from the Kaechon internment camp, American journalist Blaine Harden published “Escape from Camp 14,” an official biography of Shin Dong-hyuk and a daunting read for even the most strong-willed bibliophiles.

The novel starts off with Shin’s earliest memory: an execution. Shin was only 4 years old when he was first exposed to the gruesome horrors of Camp 14. Ten years later, he informed the guards of the escape plan of his mother and brother, whose executions he was forced to witness. Because this was the cold, twisted reality in which he grew up, 14-year-old Shin believed he had done the right thing. He even felt betrayed by his mother and brother, who desired to escape from the only world that he had ever known, a world abound with draconian laws and a severe lack of humanity.

Nevertheless, guards attempted to extract information from Shin regarding the planned escape by torturing him over a coal fire. Beatings and torture became commonplace in Shin’s life. As a child, he witnessed a 6-year-old classmate get beaten to death with a chalkboard pointer. Malnourished and hungry, young Shin often scavenged around the camp for food, resorting to eating rats and insects. As a young man, he had his right middle finger cut off at the first knuckle as punishment for accidentally breaking a sewing machine.

Shin’s chilling tale evokes the tragedy and horror of the Holocaust, but for young Shin, Camp 14 was his home, a place where a life devoid of happiness and comfort was only natural. He had no knowledge of the outside world and therefore had no hope to lose.

Shin had never mustered up the desire to escape until he met Park, an educated and well-traveled man who shared mystifying tales of the outside world. It was then that Shin made his clumsy escape in a series of grisly events which officially marked the end of his days in the wretched prison camp that had made his life a living hell.

Today, Shin shares his story with the world. Blaine Harden’s novel is an absolutely necessary documentation of a crisis that exists to this very day. It is ghoulish and bluntly written, sparing none of the painful details of the ongoing human rights issues in North Korea. Shin managed to escape, but hundreds of thousands of people remain imprisoned in the internment camps. While there appears to be no easy solution to the issue, it cannot go unheard any longer. Shin’s work to raise awareness continues, telling tales of a lifestyle that he, according to a 2015 interview with Huffington Post, “never wanted.” As Blaine Harden wrote in the novel’s introduction, “his burden is a heavy one. No one else born and raised in the camps has escaped to explain what went on inside—what still goes on inside.”

Rating: 5/5 stars

“Escape from Camp 14” can be bought from Penguin Random House online.

 

January 18, 2017

Reporters

Israel Aragon Bravo


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

It was a good day for the Miami Hurricanes basketball team. They moved up to No. 6 in the AP Top 25 ...

Erykah Davenport and Shaneese Bailey made key plays back-to-back late in the game and four players s ...

1. MARLINS: Jeter's Fish trade Gordon. Stanton next?: While others spend -- like the Angels to ...

A six-pack of Hurricanes notes on a Thursday: ▪ With the first ever early signing period just two we ...

University of Miami coach Mark Richt and Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst sat on a stage poolside at the ...

A scholarship created by retired Major League Baseball star Alex Rodriguez and born out of his love ...

New Multi-State Institute Focuses on Reducing Damage from Severe Storms ...

Daniela Deu was drawn to both architecture and urbanism, believes architecture can change communitie ...

Canes Basketball player development assistant will graduate with MSED in Sport Administation. ...

UOnline graduate will earn his M.S. in Health Informatics ...

Two Hurricanes receive AVCA All-America recognition for first time since 2014. ...

Coming off its first top-25 victory of the year, the Miami women's basketball team will play it ...

Hurricanes earn highest ranking since March 2013. ...

Walker IV recorded a career-high 26 points, seven rebounds in the win over Boston U. ...

The University of Miami women's basketball team earned an impressive 65-54 win over No. 20/23 K ...

TMH Twitter Feed
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.