“There is no human rights issue in this country, as everyone leads the most dignified and happy life.” – [North] Korean Central News Agency (March 6, 2009)
Escape From Camp 14 is a nonfiction book by Blaine Harden, which documents the life of a young man born into a North Korean labor camp, and his eventual escape from the camp. Shin In Guen was born in the Kaechon Internment Camp on November 19, 1982. The camp he grew up in was known as a total control camp, where escape is impossible, and the slightest error can lead to torture or even death. Shin grew up in a life unknown to most children. He was tortured over a fire, his finger chopped off, and often ate rats and insects to avoid starvation. As he grew older, he witnessed the execution of his mother and older brother, caught for planning an escape. He was locked up for 7 months at the age of 13 after the discovery of his mother and brothers planned escape. Shin worked in a farm, and then in a sewing factory till he met a Chinese prisoner that would change his life.
This book does a very good job at showing how life is like in a North Korean labor camp. If someone commits a crime that harms the government or its separate entities, that person is sent to the camp to live and die forever. Only one person escaped and that person is Shin Dong Hyuk, formerly known as Shin In Guen. Not only do North Korean labor camps torture you, they torture and kill two more generations of offspring after you in order to cleanse their populace. I felt this book was incredibly interesting and thrilling, as Blaine Harden did an excellent job of portraying the imagery behind Shin’s story, just by how he described it to him. At times it did feel emotional, as there are still people in those camps, longing to get out, but knowing they’ll live there forever. This insight to North Korea has brought out more coverage for human right campaigns and hopefully this hell can be wiped off the planet.
I can never imagine how life must be in a labor camp like Camp 14 simply because of the atrocities committed against humans by other humans who believe their superiority can determine the fate of others. In no way can this be related to any aspect of my life, as I am an average kid from suburban New England. This book can be recommended to people who want to learn more about North Korean history, as it is so interesting and not like any other country on Earth. I also recommend it to people who enjoy a good thriller and interesting story on someone’s deadly, daring escape from hell on Earth.