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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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911669,650 (3.92)98
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 98 mentions

English (63)  Dutch (1)  Danish (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (66)
Showing 1-5 of 63 (next | show all)
Its not just the soldiers who beat us.It is the prisoners themselves who are not kind to each other.Theres no sense of community, 20 September 2015

This review is from: Escape From Camp 14 (Paperback)
Horrific story of life in a N Korean 'gulag': the prisoner in question was not even a 'criminal' but had been born there, his parents in a kind of arranged marriage as a reward for good conduct.
Reporter Blaine Harden relates the story of Shin Dong-Hyuk, the only escapee from a N Korean political prison camp. Cold, starvation, slave labour and torture and hangings were a part of life. And co-operating with the authorities by snitching on fellow inmates was the only way to survive.
The reader's heart is in his mouth as Shin makes his successful break for freedom...just. But finally reaching the West, he must come to terms with a very different life, and the psychological trauma wrought on him by years of inhumanity.
Very readable work, but utterly shocking. ( )
  starbox | Sep 20, 2015 |
Very moving experience to read of this man journeys - physical and psychological. It takes a journalist to provoke and address those thoughts of how real could this story be. ( )
  joeydag | Jul 23, 2015 |
The only person known to have been born and raised in one of North Korea's prison camps and then escape* (others, brought to them have been released after some years), Shin Dong-hyuk lived more than two decades in North Korea's Camp 14.

Estimates have between 150,00-200,000 people living in North Korea's political prison camps. Isolated, starving, routinely beaten and cut-off even from the rest of their country, those living in these camps know very little (if anything) of the outside world. While most in North Korea are taught of South Korea and the United States' evil, growing up in Camp 14, though, Shin heard none of this. Expected to work long 15 hour days from a young age (10-year-olds worked together to push two-ton coal cars up a hill), prisoners subsisted (just barely) on corn, cabbage and salt.

Beatings were routine - from the guards, from family members, from other prisoners - and life was beyond hard, everyone sold everyone else out.

It would be no wonder that people wanted to escape. But few seemed to dream of it and even fewer try. Those, like Shin, who has always known this life didn't know there was a better world - with more food, something called love and friendship and trust. Not only that, the consequence for escape, attempting it, or even talking about it made it, often too dangerous: death.

Until the idea for escape did form in his mind. And he acted on it.

While the reading level of Escape from Camp 14 is not difficult (especially compared to many nonfiction books), it's the content that makes reading Shin's story hard at times.

Harden admits, quite frequently, that there is not, truly, a way to fact check Shin's story. He can't go to the camp and do interviews, he can't call anyone up and ask them questions, he can't even go into North Korea. While this does make the reader slightly dubious of Shin's story - especially when it's acknowledged that the story has changed in some dramatic places - the tale has been vetted in a way. Other memoirs have been published about people's experiences in the camps (those that were released or former guards) and different groups have led investigations/inquiries. These individuals and groups do contend that Shin's recollections are in line with what happens in the prison camps. He has the physical scars, as well.

Harden's background as a reported and knowledge of the area adds some great extra information to the book. I learned a lot more about not only North Korea and its politics, history, and practices but also about South Korea and China as well (including their relationships with North Korea and its defectors).

While Shin's life and the life of those in Camp 14 was so separate from what was happening elsewhere in North Korea, it was very nice to know what was happening concurrently in the rest of the country.

The book doesn't wait for a nice, neat ending; it shows us how Shin's life is today. How he's adjusting to life, learning about being a regular human being whose life is not completely controlled, under constant threat of violence by prison guards. I wish him well.

Rating: 8/10

*This according to the book, the synopsis on Goodreads makes it sound as if there are others, so if my review is wrong, I apologize. I'm basing it on the text of the book.
  BookSpot | May 18, 2015 |
May or may not be entirely true but enough evidence shows that the camps are horrendous and to fault Shin for anything not 100% true is faulting a abused child for not remembering adult concepts. So whether or not it's 100% accurate, I HIGHLY RECOMMENDED this if you can stand descriptions of inhuman abuse. Blaine Harden does a good job narrating, and I was engrossed in this story. ( )
  marshapetry | Apr 20, 2015 |
Sober reportage from Blaine Harden of the Washington Post, who interviewed the only person born in a North Korean prison camp who has escaped North Korea. The result is not literary, but is instead a blunt and harrowing reading experience. Throughout, Hardin is careful--I loved this about him as a writer--to orient the reader about what evidence, or lack of evidence, is available from other sources to corroborate Shin Dong-hyuk's account of his life in Camp 14. This care, and the story Harkin pieces together, are well worth the time you will need to finish this short, important book. ( )
  poingu | Jan 29, 2015 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Blaine Hardenprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
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
First words
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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Wikipedia in English (2)

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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