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

Darrell Langham, the redshirt junior receiver who caused an uproar among Miami Hurricanes fans the p ...

This news release just in from the University of Miami, another impressive class about to be inducte ...

The University of Miami men’s basketball team got a welcome dose of good news on Monday night. Verno ...

After a disheartening week of practice injury-wise following the University of Miami’s victory at Fl ...

University of Miami’s highly-touted freshman Lonnie Walker, who had surgery for a torn right meniscu ...

From a game simulating how whales navigate to a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, the U showcased some of ...

A new mobile game called Blues and Reds, now available worldwide, aims to help researchers study int ...

A major Lancet Commission report, a three-year project headed by UM’s Professor Felicia Knaul and co ...

With a $6.8 million NIH grant, the UM School of Nursing and Health Studies and FIU Robert Stempel Co ...

A summer 2017 excursion unlike any other united a group of University of Miami students and faculty ...

Darrell Langham has been a hero twice this season, but his path to prominence has been a long one. ...

The University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame has announced the Class of 2018 inductees for the 50th A ...

Senior diver Wally Layland was recognized for her standout performance at the SMU Classic with ACC C ...

University of Miami freshman Lonnie Walker IV was among 20 players named to the watch list for the 2 ...

The Miami Hurricanes will begin preparation for the 2018 season when fall practice commences Wed., O ...

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.