Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West by Blaine Harden
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book was recommended to me by John Green in one of his vlogbrothers videos and is the first book that they have recommended to me that I have liked, other than some of John's own books, excepting maybe some of the classics recommended on both their channel and on CrashCourse Literature.
I had misunderstood or at least been lead to believe that this story was an autobiography, rather than simply a biographical tale, but here Blaine Harden tells the story of Shin Dong, the only man known to have escaped from a political camp in North Korea. Harden was very clear that much of the story was unconfirmable as North Korea is so closed. Even so he did the best he could to verify the tales including: interviewing released prisoners from other camps, prisoner guards, multiple interviews and background follow-ups with Shin. He was clear to point out when Shin changed his story and how worried that made him until the story painted Shin in a worse light than before and the overall arc remained unchanged. As the author pointed out, the easiest way for North Korea to disprove such allegations would be to open up to the West or the outside world in general and let what is hidden come to light. As it is, technology like Google Earth and miniaturized electronics that are easily smuggled make it possible to get some information out of the otherwise silent North Korea.
This book has stuck with me for the short while since I have finished reading it, because as the author pointed out the North Korean prison camps have been open multiple times longer than Nazi Concentration Camps and the Soviet Gulag combined were. Furthermore, unlike so many Holocaust books I cannot simply think of it as something horrible that happened in the past that we can learn from, but beyond that there is nothing to do, but remember. No, this book is about an atrocity that is currently on-going, and yet the international community is somehow not stepping up to do much about it. Not that I think that America, or NATO, or even the UN should be the world-police and just swoop in and take over another nation, but we will all be chagrined if we turn a blind eye to the injustice and the inhumane treatment of people again. This going on now and I cannot, should not be comfortable with it, even though I am a world away. This story was hard to hear and I admittedly skipped over it many times in part because I preferred to remain blinded to it, but now I know and I can't get it out of my head. Even if, in the end, the story has been exaggerated, if there is any basis of truth [which it seems there must be] then this is a humanitarian crisis that needs more light shined upon it. It should be obvious from the title that (view spoiler)[Shin escapes the camp. He isn't really sure where to go or what to do from there, but does end up sneaking into China (hide spoiler)]. It is a shame when China, with its abuses and humanitarian problems, is viewed as the refuge, when China is the save and civilized place to go to escape oppression.</["br"]></["br"]>
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