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review 2014-06-28 22:01
Escape from Camp 14
Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West - Blaine Harden

I read this so that I could be prepared to use it in class as a research-based book for my high school English class, and while I am now prepared to teach the book, I'm not prepared to teach this book. I mean, how can I ever be prepared to teach my students that, even so many decades after the Holocaust when they world said, "Never again," here we have North Korea committing the same kind of inhuman atrocities--in the present day, in OUR lifetimes--and not over much is being done to close these camps and help bring healing to that nation. Yes, I know--the UN is finally in a bit of a flutter, but (forgive me if I inadvertently offend anyone) I don't have overwhelming confidence in the UN to put an end to a ruthless regime.

 

Anyway, Shin Dong-hyuk's story of birth and life in a North Korean prison/labor camp is gut-wrenching in its honesty and cruelty, and I found myself wincing, shaking my head, and wondering when, if ever, the Kim family dictatorship will finally be toppled. The cruelty and inhumanity that is the Kim family legacy is astounding in its depravity. That Shin was able to survive, escape, and (albeit) slowly build a life for himself is nothing short of a miracle. I feel for him; I want others to learn about North Korea and join in the fight to put an end to the travesty that is the DPRK ruling elite, and I hope my students will learn as much as they can from Shin's story. I hope I will continue to learn as much as I can from Shin's story.

 

The book includes pictures drawn by Shin to show some of the conditions and tortures he experienced in Camp 14. It also follows Shin into his post-escape life in the West and talks about how difficult "freedom" has been for him, as well as for other North Korean defectors. I wonder if Shin will ever truly be free. Then again, I ask myself, how can he be? Perhaps God will heal Shin's spirit, which was as broken as his body had been. That, at least, is my prayer for Shin Dong-hyuk.

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review 2014-03-10 01:12
Escape From Camp 14 Review!
Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West - Blaine Harden

I read Escape From Camp 14 by Blaine Harden right at the end of February and I could not put it down. I read it in one day and was completely immersed in the terrifying world of North Korea's concentration camps.

 

Escape From Camp 14 is a nonfiction book that recounts Shin Dong Hyuk's life in and escape from one of North Korea's most brutal concentration camps, Camp 14. I really appreciated how well Blaine Harden balanced the "high action" events in Shin's life with engaging and easy to read background on North Korea's concentration camps and relationship with surrounding countries, namely South Korea and China.

 

Though I took the information that I received through this text with a grain of salt, as I have not been able to do any further research and it is extremely difficult to get any definitive facts about what is happening in North Korea, I felt like this was a really great place to start gaining some information about the extreme conditions in North Korea.

 

It should be difficult to believe that there are still concentration camps in the world, but unfortunately, I didn't find it hard to believe at all. For that reason, I think it is almost more important to spread awareness about these camps. Even with my limited knowledge about North Korea, I was not surprised to learn that many people inside and outside of Korea either do not know about these camp or turn a blind eye to them. 

 

This is a highly political book and one that brings up ethical issues, humanitarian issues, and personal issues as they are exemplified by the treatment of the prisoners and escapees of these camps. 

 

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in fast-paced, engaging, and thought-provoking nonfiction narratives. It is definitely worth reading.

 

Happy Reading!

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