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Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable…

Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to… (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Blaine Harden

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1,037738,137 (3.94)105
Title:Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West
Authors:Blaine Harden
Info:Viking Adult (2012), Hardcover, 224 pages
Collections:Your library, Read but unowned
Tags:read 2012, biography, north korea, library, korea

Work details

Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden (2012)

  1. 60
    Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick (rebeccanyc)
    rebeccanyc: Demick's book explores the lives of several people who lived in and escaped from North Korea, while Harden's focuses on one individual who was born in and escaped from a North Korean slave labor camp. The two books complement each other.
  2. 10
    Escape from North Korea: The Untold Story of Asia's Underground Railroad by Melanie Kirkpatrick (TomWaitsTables)
  3. 10
    Gulag: A History by Anne Applebaum (rebeccanyc)
    rebeccanyc: Harden's book describes life within one specific slave labor camp in North Korea, and Applebaum's explores the Soviet Gulag in depth, making use of Soviet archives and prisoners' writings.
  4. 00
    The Aquariums of Pyongyang by Chol-hwan Kang (ecureuil)

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» See also 105 mentions

English (70)  Dutch (1)  Danish (1)  Italian (1)  English (73)
Showing 1-5 of 70 (next | show all)
A few times during this book I felt like dropping everything and becoming an activist. While I had a vague awareness of North Korea as repressive government, one that had experience famines in recent history, and one that imprisoned some of its citizens, I had no idea what this all entailed. I did not realized the North Korean prison camps (which were hardly an improvement over a Nazi concentration camp) have existed for decades - to the extent that this book is about a man born in a prison camp, who had practically no experience of a loving family, normal food, or typical schooling. The brutality and atmosphere depicted in this book is truly heartbreaking. My understanding of North Korea was dramatically altered by this book and I hope more find their way to reading it. ( )
  wagner.sarah35 | Sep 21, 2016 |
It could have been written with more finesse and emotion, but the content is devastating and important. It's outrageous that this is happening anywhere in the world. ( )
  aclaybasket13 | Jul 29, 2016 |
This book read like a newspaper article (with no deep insight or revelations). A pretty mundane read, littered with untruths. North Korea still fascinates me though....... ( )
  meloncolly | Jul 25, 2016 |
There's a definite draw to reading books about North Korea, if only because trying to understand the scope of the horrors that people can manage to perpetrate on each other is inherently interesting and valuable. And possibly more than anywhere on the planet over the past few decades, that's been the role of North Korea: to show how badly a society can misshape itself in hard, uncaring, terrible ways. I've read a few books about the place over the past few years, fiction and non-fiction, and I doubt I'm done with this one. This wasn't the best, but it's an interesting addition.

Escape from Camp 14 gives you exactly what it says on the cover: it's the story of Shin Dong-Hyuk, who was born to parents in a prison camp for political prisoners. You see, the policy is that you punish political prisoners for generations, so people are born, grow up, live their whole lives, and then die in these camps. Camp 14 is a particularly bad one. The book details Shin's life growing up there, his weak relationships with his parents, his attitude towards the authorities and other prisoners, the brutalities and torture he suffered, and then eventually, his escape from the camp, his circuitous route to South Korea and then to the US, and his struggles to adjust to life outside.

My feeling when going through the book (and I listened to the audiobook here, read by Blaine Harden, the author) was that Harden decided for the most part to leave the prose unadorned and journalistic, and let the power and brutality of Shin's biography just carry the reader through. But I don't really think this was the most effective choice; the horror of the situation is perhaps unchanged by it, but it does feel like you're at more of a remove from Shin's tale than I'd have expected. Some parts are just glossed by, which may be just the amount of detail Harden could get, but I feel like the story could have been more affecting, given the core material.

That said, like, it is still really powerful as is. Some of it is the terrible stuff that, somehow, I end up expecting - the lack of food, the killing of one of his fellow students by a teacher for a trivial offense, the generalized amorality among the prisoners at the camp, who are trained to basically value none of their relationships and confess everything immediately. But much of it is still surprising, too - what ends up happening to Shin's mother and brother, for instance. Or why he wants to escape the camp; he's not motivated by a desire for freedom. Or the nature of some of the working conditions in the camp. Or how once Shin is out and in South Korea, he's different from the other North Koreans and tries to avoid them. He's not been indoctrinated to the Kim family mystique, because why bother? And his attitude towards life and personal relationships and how hard it's been to change was also really enlightening.

I do really feel like this is an important book, and I hope many people hear about his story. It's horrifying how widespread this is in the country, and how little we are doing to change it, even if I don't have a great suggestion about what we could do to bring about change. I think it could have been somewhat better presented, but Shin's life story is gripping enough that it doesn't lose too much. Just don't come to this one with happy thoughts. They won't last too long. ( )
  Capfox | Apr 17, 2016 |
I'm giving it 5 stars because honest reporting about modern-day atrocities deserves no less.

In truth, I found "Dear Leader" to be more riveting and more revealing about North Korea. "Night" is a more poignant story of survival in a death camp. This one is still well worth reading, however. If you wonder how a system of 'guilt by association' affects the children and grandchildren of defectors, this says it all. Shin is no hero. He survived through sheer luck, and carries psychological scars that will never go away. But he gives voice to people who are otherwise unknown and unheard. This is important. Tens of thousands of people suffer as he did, and are robbed of the chance to live normal human lives. The truth of what's going on in forced labor camps should be acknowledged. ( )
  Abby_Goldsmith | Feb 10, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Blaine Hardenprimary authorall editionscalculated
Harden, BlaineNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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
For North Koreans who remain in the camps
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Nine years after his mother's hanging, Shin squirmed through an electric fence and ran off through the snow.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description

Never heard the word "love" -- The boy who ate his mother's lunch -- School days -- The upper crust -- Mother tries to escape -- Mother tries to escape, version two -- This son of a bitch won't do -- The sun shines even on mouse holes -- Avoiding mother's eyes -- Reactionary son of a bitch -- Working man -- Napping on the farm -- Sewing and snitching -- Deciding not to snitch -- Preparing to run -- The fence -- Stealing -- Riding north -- The border -- China -- Asylum -- K'uredit k'adus -- South Koreans are not so interested -- U.S.A.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0670023329, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:19 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Twenty-six years ago, Shin Dong-hyuk was born inside Camp 14, one of five sprawling political prisons in the mountains of North Korea. This is the gripping, terrifying story of his escape from this no-exit prison-- to freedom in South Korea.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 5 descriptions

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