Debra Lowman's Reviews > Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West

Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden
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Mar 27, 12

Read from March 19 to 27, 2012

Shin Donghyuk was born in a North Korean political prison camp. He is the son of a man he barely knows; his father was put in the camp for the transgressions of his brothers. He has siblings that he barely acknowledges and considers them, as well as his own mother competition for food. In fact, Shin snitched on his mother and brother as they were planning an escape from Camp 14 and, after denying it for years, now admits responsibility for their death. Shin was raised in Camp 14 and taught nothing of humanity, loyalty or love. His entire childhood was comprised of competing for survival and gaining necessities at the expense of the lives and survival of others. Even his escape, when hunger finally drove him over the fence, came at the expense of another person; he climbed the electric fence to safety by scaling over the dead body of another. No one comes out of that situation okay.

Harden tells the story of Shin and the state of North Korea with honesty and care. The picture Harden paints of the current state of North Korea both inside the gulag prison camps and outside, although sparse due to government regulation, is brutal, harsh and heartbreaking. Harden dispenses with rhetoric, the novel is a sparse 224 pages but every one of them made me either squirm in my chair or furious about the vulgar treatment of this nation of people, roughly 200,000 starving and beaten in camps and many more on the outside of the camps not faring much better while the government fat cats feast.

Pair this book with Johnson’s Orphan Master’s Son or Beah’s A Long Way Gone or give it to fans of historical WWII , Nazi movement literature.

Digital galley copy courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley.com.
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