This remarkable story of a young man’s childhood and eventual escape from North Korea reveals the astonishing brutality of the North Korean government and the horrors that most of its citizens must endure. Shin Dong-Hyuk was born and raised in a Total Control prison–one created for those who committed some crime against the regime, as well as their children and other family members. Raised in filth, forced to labor even as a young child, watching classmates beaten to death and encouraged to reveal crimes or secrets of others in the camp in order to survive, Shin was forced to watch the execution of his mother and brother. His education consisted of listening to teachers expound on the policies of the regime and then spending school hours working in fields or collecting human waste for fertilizer. For 23 years, his diet consisted of cabbage, cabbage soup and occasional tiny portions of rice. Children caught rats and insects and ate them in secret, fearing they would be punished for not sharing their food. At age 14, he was tortured for months and only survived due to the kindness and care of a fellow prisoner–the first kindness he had known in his life. Knowing nothing of the world outside the camp, Shin believed that others lived as he did–in brutal and inhumane conditions. After learning more about the outside world from a fellow prisoner who had been part of the elite class, Shin eventually escapes to China and eventually to South Korea and the US.He is the only known escapee from a Total Control prison. His difficulty in adjusting to a world of freedom and choice is heartbreaking–facing chronic illness, isolation, inability to form friendships, fear of technology are all issues facing other North korean defectors as well. His outrage at the world’s refusal to confront North Korea over the treatment of prisoners in these camps is understandable and justified.
Escape from Camp 14 is a haunting, gripping story, one that won’t be forgotten and one that deserves to be told.