Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West
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The heartwrenching New York Times bestseller about the only known person born inside a North Korean prison camp to have escaped
North Korea’s political prison camps have existed twice as long as Stalin’s Soviet gulags and twelve times as long as the Nazi concentration camps. No one born and raised in these camps is known to have escaped. No one, that is, except Shin Dong-hyuk.
In Escape From Camp 14, Blaine Harden unlocks the secrets of the world’s most repressive totalitarian state through the story of Shin’s shocking imprisonment and his astounding getaway. Shin knew nothing of civilized existence—he saw his mother as a competitor for food, guards raised him to be a snitch, and he witnessed the execution of his mother and brother.
The late “Dear Leader” Kim Jong Il was recognized throughout the world, but his country remains sealed as his third son and chosen heir, Kim Jong Eun, consolidates power. Few foreigners are allowed in, and few North Koreans are able to leave. North Korea is hungry, bankrupt, and armed with nuclear weapons. It is also a human rights catastrophe. Between 150,000 and 200,000 people work as slaves in its political prison camps. These camps are clearly visible in satellite photographs, yet North Korea’s government denies they exist.
Harden’s harrowing narrative exposes this hidden dystopia, focusing on an extraordinary young man who came of age inside the highest security prison in the highest security state. Escape from Camp 14 offers an unequalled inside account of one of the world’s darkest nations. It is a tale of endurance and courage, survival and hope.
for food and pressure to snitch. Trying to win extra food rations, children told teachers and guards what their neighbors were eating, wearing, and saying. Collective punishment at school also turned classmates against each other. Shin’s class was often given a daily quota of trees to plant or acorns to gather. If they failed to meet expectations, everyone in his class was penalized. Teachers ordered Shin’s class to give up its lunch ration (for a day or sometimes a week) to another class that
was Saturday morning, April 6, 1996. “Hey, Shin, come out as you are,” the teacher said. Puzzled as to why he had been summoned, Shin hurried out of the dormitory and into the schoolyard. There, three uniformed men were waiting for him beside a jeep. They handcuffed him, blindfolded him with a strip of black cloth, and pushed him into the backseat of the jeep. Without saying a word, they drove him away. Shin had no idea where he was being taken or why. But after a half hour of bouncing along
Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Copyright © Blaine Harden, 2012 All rights reserved Photograph and drawing credits Insert page 1 (top), 2 (bottom) (photo of government image), 3 (top and bottom) (photos of paintings), 6 (top), 7 (top), 8: Photos by Blaine Harden 1 (bottom): Kyodo via AP Images 2 (top): Korean Central News Agency / Korea News Service via AP Images 4 and 5 (six drawings): From Escape to the Outside World by Shin Dong-hyuk, courtesy of the
North Korean prisons after crossing illegally into the country in 2009. They were released after former president Bill Clinton flew to Pyongyang and had his picture taken with Kim Jong Il. 6. Hyun-sik Kim and Kwang-ju Son, Documentary Kim Jong Il (Seoul: Chonji Media, 1997), 202, as cited in Ralph Hassig and Kongdan Oh, The Hidden People of North Korea (Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2009), 27. CHAPTER ONE: THE BOY WHO ATE HIS MOTHER’S LUNCH 1. Author interview with Chun Jung-hee, head
North Korea: A Country Study (Washington, D.C.: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1993). 2. Yuk-Sa Li, ed., Juche! The Speeches and Writings of Kim Il Sung (New York: Grossman Publishers, 1972), 157. Quoted in the Stanford Journal of East Asian Affairs 1, no. 1 (Spring 2003), 105. CHAPTER ELEVEN: NAPPING ON THE FARM 1. Stephan Haggard and Marcus Noland, Famine in North Korea (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007), 175. 2. Wonhyuk Lim, “North Korea’s Economic Futures” (Washington, D.C.,