Linda'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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's review
Jun 30, 2012

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Looking over the other reviews of this book, I can't help noticing the many remarks to the effect of "Why is the rest of the world standing by and allowing this to go on?" This is a good question, and one that deserves to be asked of all of the conditions where human rights are so blatantly ignored - the Sudan, and Taliban-ruled Afghanistan come to mind here. One of the most telling sections of the book involves the description of what appears to be wholesale indifference on the part of South Koreans to the horrendous situation just outside their doorstep. However, when nationalism and national identity is involved, it's amazing what people will tolerate. The now notorious death camps of Nazi Germany were apparently shoved to the backs of mainstream German consciousness until a military defeat of the country literally forced them to look. The Koreans are a nationalistic people with an intense pride in their culture and identity as Koreans. Moreover, I have even noticed a tendency among some South Koreans to view North Koreans in a faintly sentimental light - as more isolated and less exposed to the rest of the world, and consequently, more "purely Korean". To even acknowledge the reality of places like Camp 14, much less to call world attention to them, entails great emotional risk - so "the band plays on". That South Koreans seem to want unification with North Korea at some vague time in the future "after they are dead" is part of the picture. To me, one of the most disturbing statements on the part of Shin, (the only escapee from those who were born in the camps) was the speculation that opening up North Korea to the rest of the world will probably entail mass executions - in an attempt to hide the existence of the camps and all that the fact of them entails.
A good book to read for context here is "The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans see themselves and why it matters." by R.B. Myers.
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