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
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March 29, 2012
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A New York Times bestseller, the shocking story of one of the few people born in a North Korean political prison to have escaped and survived.

North Korea is isolated and hungry, bankrupt and belligerent. It is also armed with nuclear weapons. Between 150,000 and 200,000 people are being held in its political prison camps, which have existed twice as long as Stalin's Soviet gulags and twelve times as long as the Nazi concentration camps. Very few born and raised in these camps have escaped. But Shin Donghyuk did. In Escape from Camp 14, acclaimed journalist Blaine Harden tells the story of Shin Dong-hyuk and through the lens of Shin's life unlocks the secrets of the world's most repressive totalitarian state. Shin knew nothing of civilized existence-he saw his mother as a competitor for food, guards raised him to be a snitch, and he witnessed the execution of his own family. Through Harden's harrowing narrative of Shin's life and remarkable escape, he offers an unequaled inside account of one of the world's darkest nations and a riveting tale of endurance, courage, and survival.

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An Incredible Tale that Must be Told
(Updated: June 13, 2012)
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I am going to take this opportunity to beg you to read this book. I am going to persuade you in whatever way I can to take the time out of your fiction-reading-repertoire to pick up a nonfiction book that will not have a necessarily happy ending, but should keep you turning the pages nonetheless. I will bring up The Hunger Games because, if that book moved you—if that book caused you to reel over the injustice and the suffering of the people of Panem, a fictional land—then you need to be aware of the real-life injustices of that degree in our world today.

North Korea’s political and social atrocities have been pretty well-known for a while. I myself took notice when Kim Jong Eun came into power last year after his father’s death, and have been very interested in the welfare of NK’s people for quite some time. What I didn’t realize was that there was another level of oppression going on within that nation—a level that rivals that of the Nazi concentration camps. North Korea has several prison/labor camps that keep hundreds of thousands of people in harsh, slavish, and near-starvation conditions throughout their entire lives, and most of them, for the “sins” of their relatives, which can include simply leaving the country—50 years ago. They have lasted “twice as long as Stalin’s Soviet gulags and 12 times as long as the Nazi concentration camps.” I remember reading and learning about concentration camps throughout my life, and there is a different attitude one takes towards that history when it is just that—history. One takes comfort in the fact that those terrible things occurred in the past. However, this is here and now. When I read the Hunger Games series last summer, I told my husband that what hit me most is that oppression like that depicted in the books was occurring in our world right as I read the books. I didn’t even know to what extent. I keep up with what is going on in the world so that I can pray for human rights and learn about and then help causes when I see fit to do so. I am pained to know that these camps have been in existence for so long and yet so much of the world, and this nation, is ignorant of them.

This book chronicles the life and escape of Shin Dong-hyuk, a man who was born and raised in the prison Camp 14. I could not put this book down. What is described is a world completely foreign to our luxurious American mindset. If you’ve read Elie Wiesel’s Night, then you have something to compare it to. Reading about daily life in the camps, the treatment, the labor, the relationships, even their meager food rations, cut me to the core. Knowing that Shin is outside is good news, however, because he can do so much to raise awareness. This book is a huge step towards that end. That’s where you come in. Again, I cannot stress enough—if you liked the Hunger Games because you have a human heart—you understand the importance of human rights and freedom—read this. Your awareness of the prison camps , and the daily life of those living in North Korea, your heightened knowledge of the regime of Kim Jong Il and now, Kim Jong Eun, is a big step towards these people’s freedom. The generation who is currently addicted to the Hunger Games series is the generation who will ignite change—good or bad—in our world. History proves it has always been that way. Read this book, spread the word, and make a difference. I truly believe that knowledge can be power.
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