Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden

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Rate: 3/5


Medium: AudioBook


Overview (Potential Spoilers): While I had previously heard of the political work camps in North Korea, this is the first time I had read anything detailed regarding their history and inner workings. In Escape from Camp 14, Harden spends time interviewing Shin Dong-Hyuk, a North Korean defector who has the unique distinction of being the only individual actually born in the camps to escape.   There have been other North Korean camp escapees, however Shin was born and raised in the camps with no knowledge of the outside world, even the name/face of the North Korean Leader, which plasters most  of the country outside these camps. It is hard to comprehend the horrors Shin endured, despite acknowledging what I perceive as ‘horrors’ were actual norms for him and his classmates. I still struggle to wrap my mind around the fact that Shin, with no working knowledge of technology, social norms, and even normal human interactions was able to not only formulate escaping, but also succeed in avoiding detection. The information, regarding a brief North Korean history and political atmosphere at important time points, was well formulated, as well as Shin’s actual story, however the ending felt incomplete.   Shin had been floundering in Southern California by been resisting to adapt, receive help, or improve his situation, until he had seemed to hit a low upon burning several important bridges. The epilogue leaves off with Shin turning over a new leave and surprising Harden with him delivering a well thought out, polished speech to a church congregation detailing his ordeal. The speech marks a significant swing in Shin’s attitude toward one of motivation and survival in this new strange environment. If Shin continues this transformation, he will become a powerful spokesman for the horrors endured in the work camps and will probably publish a new, powerful memoir with newly gained insight and reflection as he begins to heal some of the guilt and painful emotions that he struggles with and expresses throughout this book.


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8 comments

  1. I’m so glad you read this! It’s the first time I’ve come across a blogger who has read it. It really does paint a bleak portrait of life in the North Korean labour camps. I also recommend reading In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park, although the author didn’t experience life in a labour camp.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It really is mind boggling that he escaped! The feat sounds like something out of a movie! He had help from a prisoner from the outside to plan the escape, however upon escaping alone I can’t believe he eluded capture or found food on his own!

      Liked by 1 person

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