Sunday, July 1, 2012

Review: Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden

Title: Escape from Camp 14
Author: Blaine Harden
Format: Audiobook
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Publish Date: March 29, 2012
Source: Library

Why You're Reading This Book:
  • You're a non-fiction fan.
  • You like learning about current events.
  • You don't mind hard topics.
What's the Story?:

From "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 150000 and 200000 people are being held in its political prison camps which have existed twice as long as Stalins Soviet gulags and twelve times as long as the Nazi concentration camps Very few born and raised in these camps have escaped, but Shin Donghyuk did.

In Escape from Camp 14 acclaimed journalist Blaine Harden tells the story of Shin Donghyuk and through the lens of Shins life unlocks the secrets of the worlds most repressive totalitarian state. 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 own family. Through Hardens harrowing narrative of Shins life and remarkable escape he offers an unequaled inside account of one of the worlds darkest nations and a riveting tale of endurance courage and survival."

My Two Cents: 

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 camps. So what did he do to be put in the work camp? Absolutely nothing except being related to his uncle who displeased the North Korean government and defected. The government has a belief that in order to restore order to society, the families of those they deem criminals must be punished as well in order to wipe away the "badness." It's a really crazy philosophy.

In his latter 20s, Shin was able to escape from Camp 14. He's one of the very, very few that was able to do so. He makes his way through China, South Korea, before finally landing in the United States where he works as part of a NGO to draw attention to the plight of the North Koreans. His story is truly fascinating.

The book does not just cover Shin's story. It also covers North Korea's history and present (both are equally as strange). It covers the issue between North Korea and South Korea (did you know that when polled, most South Koreans want unification but don't want it until after they die?). It covers the trouble that people have when they leave North Korea (freedom is not always that easy to deal with).

This is definitely a story of human triumph. You can go through a lot of bad things but still come out okay in the end. The book doesn't end on a necessarily happy note but it does end on a hopeful note. If you are looking for a book that talks about the North Korea issue from a human aspect, this is a great book.



  1. This sounds like a good one, but it sounds like a difficult read. I definitely want to read this, but I'm going to wait until fall when I have more time for giving it my full attention.

    1. It's definitely a book that you can't go through quickly. Some of the matter is pretty upsetting.

  2. I really enjoyed this book too. It's crazy to think about stuff like this going in the world we live in!!

    1. I found myself shaking my head a lot through this book. It's so sad!


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