Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West” as Want to Read:
Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  63,054 ratings  ·  5,480 reviews
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
Hardcover, 205 pages
Published March 29th 2012 by Viking (first published 2012)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Escape from Camp 14, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Bon Tom And wouldn't you hate it even more if the book was (and it is) true? Well, if somebody told me this book is as true as Harry Potter, that would really…moreAnd wouldn't you hate it even more if the book was (and it is) true? Well, if somebody told me this book is as true as Harry Potter, that would really make my day. But what I really hate to think is I have read something that's sheds painful and true light at the world we live in. So rest without worries, my friend, you've read testament of truth that might only be false in minor, unimportant details. Everything of substance is out there.(less)
Charlie Bomberg Nobody know how North Korea works. Nobody outside NK really knows how the internal political structure of Pyongyang works, and those inside NK who kno…moreNobody know how North Korea works. Nobody outside NK really knows how the internal political structure of Pyongyang works, and those inside NK who know won't ever, ever tell.
So, what should the UN or the USA do? Nuke the country and kill thousands, if not millions of innocent people? The people who, their entire life, have heard that the USA is their greatest, darkest enemy, and now suddenly they come and nuke their great leader? Probably a bad idea.
Should someone try to infiltrate the country? How? NK knows exactly who gets into the country, for how long they are staying and are generally monitoring their every move.
Start a war? Great idea! Look what happened in Iraq or Afghanistan. Those sure a civilized, rich countries without problems now.

Don't get me wrong. I don't support the system in North Korea a single bit and I'd wish there was something we could do, but it's pretty hard just going into a country and, you know, do something because WE think it's wrong. Luckily we are over the times where you could just wander into another country and declare a war, because that hasn't really gotten us anywhere. I don't think anyone has done anything because it would require a huge sacrifice of innocent people.
Also: I don't think anyone will do anything before NK decides to actually attack "the West", which they probably won't do anytime soon because they know the consequences. Yes, they do have nuclear weapons in NK, but they probably would never use them. They can "only" reach countries like China (their only ally so probably a bad idea), South Korea, Japan and Guam; the last three of which would then receive help from the UN and the USA who North Korea knows they can't stop. NK teaches its people to believe they are the superior power in this world, but I'm pretty sure Kim Jong Un and his people know they can't win a war agains, well, anybody.
Also, notable: I'm not sure the world is ready for the huge flow of NK immigrants if the state of NK was suddenly demolished. If you've read Camp 14 or seen any interviews with people escaping NK you will know that integration is immensely hard for them. They haven't learn to think for themselves and suddenly allowing yourself to think is harder than one can believe. And I'm not sure any country is ready to take on the responsibility that comes with that.

Correct me if I'm wrong; this is only my assumptions.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.98  · 
Rating details
 ·  63,054 ratings  ·  5,480 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West
Jesse (JesseTheReader)
I've been watching a lot of documentaries on North Korea recently and it had me wanting to pick up books on it. This was a very eye opening read, though I'd like to pick up books that are written directly by people who have fled North Korea, because this was more of a recount based on interviews with Shin Donghyuk. I can't even begin to imagine facing all that Shin Donghyuk faced being born and raised in one of the prison camps. From the cruel atmosphere to not really understanding what it means ...more
Clif Hostetler
Ever wonder why the world didn't do more to end the horrors of Stalin's gulags or Hitler's work camps? Someday our children (or perhaps grandchildren or great-grandchildren) will ask the same question about our world today. Why doesn't the world do more to end the horrible inhumanity imposed on people in the work camps of North Korea? And the political prison camps in North Korea have existed twice as long as Stalins Soviet gulags and twelve times as long as the Nazi concentration camps, and the ...more
P8tra X
Ostensibly getting rid of families, rather than individuals, considered undesirable by the regime, in actuality slave labour for the State.

A mixture of 1984, Animal Farm and the Nazi Dachau concentration camp. It is the story of North Korea and worse in every single respect than every dystopian novel you've ever read. Here, one is born, lives one's whole life and dies in a vast camp where fear rules through hunger and brutality. One man, only one, escaped and this is his story.

Not an easy book t
Ahmad Sharabiani
Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West, Blaine Harden

Shin Dong-hyuk (born Shin In Geun, 19 November 1982 or 1980) is a North Korean-born human rights activist. He is reputed to be the only known prisoner to have successfully escaped from a "total-control zone" grade internment camp in North Korea.

He was the subject of a biography, Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey From North Korea to Freedom in the West, by former Washington Pos

Picture from documentary Camp 14

Imagine the Unimaginable

Imagine growing up with no comprehension, let alone experience of love or friendship, where every day you struggle for scraps of food, rest, and warmth, striving to avoiding abuse, imprisonment, and maybe execution.

Where you view your own mother as “competition for survival”, rather than a source of love, security, and comfort.

Where “redemption through snitching” and hard work is essential for survival, and you are inured to the punishmen
Mar 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
When I hear the term "labor camps," I think of the Nazis. The Holocaust. Concentration camps -- something that happened decades ago and surely -- surely -- doesn't still exist. Right?

Wrong. Even though North Korea publicly insists that prison and work camps don't exist, evidence has been seen on satellite photos and on Google Earth. Additionally, numerous North Koreans who have witnessed the camps have defected and have testified to the hellish conditions there.

Shin was unlucky enough to be born
Sep 08, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: informational
I think Shin's story is an important one, but the way that it's presented makes it a little tough to really connect with. Shin, born and raised in a North Korean labor camp, was the first person actually born in a camp to escape. Having had no prior knowledge of the outside world, he was raised, in his own words, as an animal, taught to rat out others, to feel little more than fear, with no affection for anyone. He does some pretty horrible things as a result and while I can logically understand ...more
Doug Bradshaw
May 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I rate this book five stars not because it's beautiful literature or great story telling, but because it is a huge eye opener and important information. There are approximately 200,000 prisoners kept in camps or virtual prisons in North Korea. Many of the cellmates are the children and grandchildren of people who broke "the law" in Northern Korea. The theory is that it takes at least three generations of purging to get rid of the bad seed of law breakers. The description of the horrible control ...more
Mo Shah
May 14, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2012
I'm split on this book.

On one hand, the subject matter is utterly compelling. Little is heard in mainstream media about these detention camps that hundreds of thousands of prisoners live in for (literally) generations. Entire Families are doomed because of the real or imagined actions of one, and apparently treason must be wiped out over three generations. So children are born in these camps between assigned parents and never learn filial love or even learn any emotional state higher than the a
Nov 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
5 stars...not because it's a "classic" but because I learned so much about North Korea. I knew North Korea was a horrible place but I had no knowledge of the prison camps. The conditions are horrific. For example: A classmate of Shin's (the man who's story is being told) was beat to death by a teacher in front of the class for having a few kernels of corn in her possession. Shin's mother and brother were hung, while Shin watched on, for having an escape plan. Shin is the one who reported them to ...more
Apr 15, 2012 rated it it was ok
This was not at all what I was expecting. From the marketing material, I expected a story of survival from the North Korean camps that, until now, has been largely untold. Knowing a little about the atrocities of the camp, I expect to this to be an emotionally charged book but, unfortunately, I found it quite the opposite.

From the beginning we learn that Shin is an unreliable narrator. The author is quick to point this out and explain to us how Shin has changed his story repeatedly over the yea
Melinda Worfolk
Jan 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars.

This is an incredibly gripping book. While I was reading it, I was so immersed in the story that it took a while to come back to the real world.

I am glad I read Barbara Demick's Nothing to Envy before reading this, because I already knew how bad the situation is for ordinary citizens in North Korea, and it was all the more powerful to realize that there are people who live even worse lives in the country's prison camps.

This is the story of Shin Dong-hyuk, a young man born and raised i
Jan 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've read a few books now, focusing on North Korea and about the atrocities to humans, and to their own people in fact, that are allowed to be carried out. I have to say, the North korean regime makes me feel an incredible repungence towards them, and what actually makes this worse in every sense, is that the world does not seem to care.
Everything we know about about North Korea is worse than we could possibly imagine. Sure, there's brainwashing, but this book explores the utter horror that Shi
Jake Miller
Jun 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
“High School students in America debate why President Roosevelt didn't bomb the rail lines to Hitler's camps. Their children may ask, a generation from now, why the West stared at far clearer satellite images of Kim Jong Il's camps, and did nothing.”

No more brazen and poetic meaning could be found than reading this line from the book, once upon a time seems almost pertinent to this book. But once upon a time gives the semblance of fiction, and while this book eerily reminds one of a few George O
Michael Gerald
Should be taken with a grain of salt.
Jason Koivu
Aug 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The story of a man escaping a prison camp would pique my interest at any time, but add the detail that it's a North Korean camp and I'm definitely interested. After all, North Korea's been in the news lately. Perhaps you've noticed.

Shin Dong-hyuk was born into a prison labor camp. It's totalitarian rules and draconian punishment was life to him. He barely knew his father and viewed his mother as competition for food. He was raised to snitch out his fellow prisoners to the guards. This included
Apr 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing

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

Camp 14 is a North Korean labor camp (gulag) with a security level of “Total Control Zone”.

Camp 14 is as large as a city with 40,000 prisoners.

Camp 14 has the highest security level (Total Control Zone) which means whoever lives in this camp will never leave it alive. Inmates remain imprisoned until they die. There is no parole. There are no release dates. Most inmates will never make it to their
Ash Wednesday
Oct 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: aspiring dystopian writers
Recommended to Ash Wednesday by: P8tra X
”Tibetans have the Dalai Lama and Richard Gere, (the) Burmese have Aung San Suu Kyi, (the) Darfurians have Mia Farrow and George Clooney. North Koreans have no one like that.

Actually North Koreans have imgur, Dennis Rodman and Ken Jeong in Stevie Wonder glasses.

A couple of months back, Petra recommended this book to me after posting this link in Booklikes. I’m the least literate person I know when it comes to world politics but human depravity is always fascinating even within the har
Aug 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: north-korea
“I escaped physically,' he said. 'I haven't escaped psychologically.”

“High School students in America debate why President Roosevelt didn't bomb the rail lines to Hitler's camps. Their children may ask, a generation from now, why the West stared at far clearer satellite images of Kim Jong Il's camps, and did nothing.”

What makes Escape from Camp 14 an exceptionally important story to tell is it gives voice to the atrocities of a North Korean prison camp through the eyes of Shin Dong-hyuk, the r
Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont
A picture is worth a thousand words, even when that picture is an amateurish drawing. The drawing in question shows a fourteen-year-old boy, stripped naked and suspended above a charcoal fire. He is secured to the ceiling by a rope tied around his wrists and a chain around his ankles. As he writhed in agony away from the flames, he was secured in place by one of his tormentors by means of a steel hook through his abdomen.

The boy’s name is Shin Dong-hyuk. The time is 1996. The place is North Ko
I'm not sure how one should rate a journalistic account of some of the worst attrocities happening at this very second in our world, but I'll give it three stars... a sort of neutral ground. The writing is definitely not groundbreaking - it is the story that matters. Shin was born and raised in Camp 14, one of the worst of the 18 that NK has. He, obviously, suffered from brainwashing, but it was not the kind of it where your head is filled with mush about the ideology of the ruling party, but ra ...more
Connie G
Sep 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
"Escape from Camp 14" is a disturbing account of the life of Shin Dong-hyuk, a North Korean who was born in a political prison camp and knew nothing about the outside world. Every day brought hours of constant labor with the hope that he managed to find enough food to survive and avoided beatings by the guards. The children had no idea that love or morality existed, and were taught by the guards to snitch on everyone, including their families. People had been imprisoned for three generations for ...more
Zöe Yu
Apr 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: korean
I am surprised to find this book at the last glance to the bookstore in Hong Kong International Airport. I know it is already in my To-Read section in Goodreads. This is the only book I finished reading within 12 hours while I’m sitting next to beautiful clouds.

Barbara Demick’s Nothing to Envy introduces us how ordinary North Koreans escaped from DPRK, but Blaine Harden’s Escape from Camp 14 tells us how a criminal who was born in Camp 14 completed the mission impossible.

The world hasn't settl
Meg - A Bookish Affair
4.5. Oh man, this book is really, really good. North Korea is such a strange country. Some of the things that you hear about it sound like they'd have to be fiction. This country is still mostly a mystery to most outsiders. The government keeps a very tight rein on what information gets out about the country. This book tells the true (true being the operative word, as this story is so unbelievable) story of Shin, a young man, who has lived his entire life in Camp 14, one of the infamous work cam ...more
Sleepless Dreamer
Mar 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Long story short, does anyone want to recommend me positive and happy books because wow, this book was not happy at all.

This book tells the story of Shin, the only known defector who was born into a labor camp and managed to escape. This book is pretty short but it's an incredibly hard book to read. A lot of very terrible things happen. Harden's writing style is very matter of fact which only makes it more challenging to read as he simply describes these horrible situations.

And I can't stop th
Dec 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I feel so awkward giving this a star rating that I almost didn't.

I just don't know how to accurately review someone's life. Sure, I've read some biographies and nonfiction, and last year around this time, I read The Complete Maus. And it pretty much broke my heart.

This story did the same. It was such an informative and necessary read. I would recommend it to anyone. Harden did a good job at showing the reader Shin's story, while also showing the atrocities that are continuing to go on in North
CF Dracarys
Nov 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I have been giving so many five star ratings lately!

This book was really amazing. You really get a picture of what life inside a North Korean gulag is like. It really put my problems into perspective. It also gave me a feeling of shame that the world does not do more to end these crimes against humanity.

I think this book should be required reading so the world is not so unaware of what really happens in North Korea. It's not all about the dictator, it's also about the people crushed beneath hi
Diane S ☔
Mar 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
This was another book, that while fascinating because I didn't have much knowledge of North Korea, but horrific as well. The subject matter was at times hard to read, to think that so many people are actually living like this is heartbreaking. Even those considered higher up in the hierarchy are not well off in comparison to the rest of the world, but they do have access to rice and blankets. The only family in any way profiting is the Kim dynasty, they of course have beautiful houses and yachts ...more
Nov 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, korea
First of all I feel an extreme and complete disgust towards the North Korean regime, but after having read this memoir I'm even more ashamed because the world doesn't care.
Money? Yes, it is involved once again, and it's put in the first place ahead of human rights.
Surely I will continue to read books about this topic. It's good to have information since normally everyone ignores what is still happening in the 2000s in North Korea.
Maybe the news should stop talking and blabbing about the same da
Aug 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: no-fic
If this was not a biography, the rating would have been a little lower.

But it's not. And for the non-fiction book it is, it's a pretty good read. A short one.

Shin's story is an interesting one, and really sounds a lot like 1984 except written in the perspective of a child born into that society. But I don't want to comment on his life, but rather the style that this book was written in.

A chapter or so into the story, the author makes a reference to themselves. And for me that's big don't do it
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Book Club: Escape from Camp 14 1 5 Jun 13, 2019 09:55AM  
Goodreads Italia: GdL Saggistica Novembre-Dicembre 2017 - Fuga dal campo 14 60 148 Apr 22, 2018 01:59PM  
Noms & Novels: Korean Noms 3 10 Oct 25, 2014 04:48AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag
  • Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea
  • Long Road Home: Testimony of a North Korean Camp Survivor
  • Dear Leader: Poet, Spy, Escapee - A Look Inside North Korea
  • A Thousand Miles to Freedom: My Escape from North Korea
  • In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl's Journey to Freedom
  • Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite
  • Stars Between the Sun and Moon: One Woman's Life in North Korea and Escape to Freedom
  • This is Paradise! My North Korean Childhood
  • The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story
  • The Tears of My Soul
  • Tomorrow I'm Dead
  • Every Falling Star: The True Story of How I Survived and Escaped North Korea
  • Under the Same Sky: A Memoir of Survival, Hope, and Faith
  • Somewhere Inside: One Sister's Captivity in North Korea and the Other's Fight to Bring Her Home
  • The Reluctant Communist: My Desertion, Court-Martial, and Forty-Year Imprisonment in North Korea
  • KILL BOX (Thriller): Dall'autrice di "Cajo Negro" un nuovo thriller mozzafiato
  • LO STRANO CASO DELL'U-306 (Thriller): Un poliziesco appassionante, un giallo carico di tensione
See similar books…
See top shelves…
Harden is an author and journalist who worked for The Washington Post for 28 years as a correspondent in Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia, as well as in New York and Seattle. He was also a national correspondent for The New York Times and writer for the Times Magazine. He has contributed to The Economist and PBS Frontline.

Harden's newest book, "Murder at the Mission: A Frontier Killing, Its Legacy

News & Interviews

  Here at Goodreads, we've noticed that a funny thing tends to happen when we start talking about audiobooks: The same few titles get...
4 likes · 1 comments
“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.” 43 likes
“High School students in America debate why President Roosevelt didn't bomb the rail lines to Hitler's camps. Their children may ask, a generation from now, why the West stared at far clearer satellite images of Kim Jong Il's camps, and did nothing.” 33 likes
More quotes…