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.