In This Review

Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West
Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West
By Blaine Harden
Viking Adult, 2012, 224 pp
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This is the nearly incredible but carefully authenticated story of Shin Dong Hyuk, who was born in a North Korean internment camp for political prisoners and is one of only two people known to have escaped from one. The camps house an estimated 100,000–200,000 members of the so-called hostile classes, who are forced to labor on starvation rations until they die. Shin’s father was imprisoned because his brothers had escaped to the South during the Korean War. Shin was born in the camp in 1982 and inherited his family’s guilt. Each phase of Shin’s young life reveals aspects of the North Korean reality: the merciless regimen of the camps, the poverty and corruption outside them, the parlous existence of North Korean refugees in China, and their isolation in South Korea if they are lucky enough to make it there. Shin eventually came to the United States, where he now promotes awareness of the camp system while continuing what will probably be a lifelong struggle with the psychological damage of his traumatic past. The six known North Korean total-control camps remain visible on Google Earth today.