Christina (A Reader of Fictions)'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 23, 12

bookshelves: finishedreviewcopy, favorites-nonfiction, on-my-shelves
Read from March 21 to 23, 2012

I wrote my Independent Study senior year of college about Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's writings. One of the things I read was his Gulag Archipelago. For some reason, which I really don't want to consider too much (this may have something to do with my love for dystopias too), I have always been fascinated with books about the concentration camps and the gulag system. When I read in the blurbs sent to me by Penguin that the North Korean camps make those pale in comparison, I knew that I had to read this book.

The scale of the camps is simply staggering. Shin attended a rudimentary school with approximately 1,000 other children. This is mindboggling, considering that only the children of camp marriages were allowed any form of education within the camp. Marriages were used as a reward for the hardest workers, so just imagine how many people might be in this one camp, of which there were many more. And of all of those people, Shin is still the only person known to have escaped and survived.

Perhaps even more startling are all of the other facts about North Korea. It seems as though, horrendous as life can be in the camps, it's not actually that much better on the outside. In some instances, there may be more reliable food in the camps.

Harden did a great job with this. He includes a lot of details about North Korea in general, whatever he's managed to learn, that add context to Shin's story. Personally, I knew practically nothing about North Korea beforehand; apparently, there's only so much to know, because the North Koreans really don't want anyone else to know anything. Plus, he emphasizes the limits of our knowledge of North Korea and of Shin. There is often no way to corroborate Shin's tale, because he is the only one known to have escaped from a no-release camp.

[Random comment, but I really will never understand why photo inserts in history books/biographys are always put in the middle of a chapter. Hundreds of pages, between any of which the photos could go, but they always put them in the middle of a chapter (actually, usually a sentence), necessitating a back and forth shuffle through the pages. Why not just put them after a chapter and let me flip through the book the way I usually do?]

Although Escape from Camp 14 is a brief book, it packs a punch. For those with an interest in history or contemporary politics, this is a must-read.
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Quotes Christina (A Reader of Fictions) Liked

“I am evolving from being an animal,' he said. 'But it is going very, very slowly. Sometime I try to cry and laugh like other people, just to see if it feels like anything. Yet tears don't come. Laughter doesn't come.”
Blaine Harden, Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West


Reading Progress

03/22/2012 page 128
57.0%

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