Author: Blaine Harden | Page Count: 210
A perverse benefit of birth in the camp was a complete absence of expectations.And so Shin's misery never skidded into complete hopelessness. He had no hope to lose, no past to mourn, no pride to defend. He did not find it degrading to lick soup off the floor. He was not ashamed to beg a guard for forgiveness. It didn't trouble his conscience to betray a friend for food. These were merely survival skills, not motives for suicide.
Escape From Camp 14 tells the true story of a North Korean man Shin Dong-hyuk as he was born in a political prisoner labor camp, his life growing up inside and his eventual escape from the camp and North Korea. The hardships that he faced are some of the worst crimes against human rights that can be imagined. I felt a sort of disconnect at first like I was reading a history similar to the holocaust or stories of Russian gulags; terrible but with a distance that time and historical perspective brings. The author and Shin however stress in the text how North Korea has perpetrated among the cruelest and most long running campaigns of human rights violations ever that is still going on right now and how it is allowed to continue by a clusterfuck of politics, denial, conspiracy and apathy.
That is the point, but the tale itself is more personal as it relates to Shin. He is one of many who were trained from birth to be subservient to authority with no cause towards things like human dignity and integrity as well as the physical hardships of forced slave labor, malnutrition, starvation and murder. Things like respect and love were not even foreign concepts; they didn't exist at all. When his mother and brother are executed for a planned escape, Shin is forced to watch and won't meet his mother's eye not because he can't bear the sight of her death, but because he was angry at her for putting him in danger by escaping. She was his mother only by fact she birthed him, but there was no love. She was just a person and competitor for food who would beat him when he stole her lunch. Even his eventual escape wasn't prodded on by some grandiose uprising of the human spirit within him. He escaped because he was tired of being hungry and heard from an outside prisoner that grilled meat was particularly good.
A fascinating look at a personal tale behind North Korea's cloak that gives some insight to international geopolitics and the perhaps unseen side of the strength of human spirit.
5 spit roasted rats out of 5