Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden

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

This is an escape memoir, written with remarkable restraint by long-time journalist Blaine Harden, and based on the adventures of Shin Dong Hyuk, the first known prisoner to escape a “complete control zone”, Camp 14 in North Korea. In cool tones, Harden transcribes and probes the remembrances of Shin’s childhood and youth in Camp 14, and his subsequent escape through China to South Korea and finally, to southern California.

As remarkable as it is horrifying, the memoir describes a childhood of starvation and deprivation difficult to comprehend. The inmates were starved not only for food, but also for information, social interaction, and personal relationships. The canny and cruel instruction Shin received and grew to embody allowed him to survive his escape and subsequent relocations. It is terrifying to think there are millions of people who learned similar lessons of disassociation, disaffection, and disregard.

Let us hope that Kim Jong Un is more of a man than his father was and will give more than a measure of life-saving freedom to his citizens.

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