Thursday, June 13, 2013

“Escape from Camp 14” by Blaine Harden – Born and Raised in Prison

Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden - book cover
Though we tend not to pay too much attention to North Korea (after all, they are decades and decades behind in their technology), we forget that it is one of the most repressed places on Earth, with one of the most violent regimes there is.

Though the government has continuously denied, satellite images have provided irrefutable proof of there being political prison camps in North Korea, and it is estimated that somewhere between 150,000 and 200,000 people are held in them.

It is even quite common for people to be born and raised in those prisons, even spending their entire lives inside of them. To date, only a single person with such a destiny has managed to escape and find freedom in the West: Shin Dong-hyuk. Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden chronicles his harrowing life and his daring escape.

As you can guess, even though a huge part of the book is dedicated to the escape operation itself, there are still many chunks of it devoted to Dong-hyuk’s life in the camp and the atrocities he saw committed around him. We are shown what it is like to be raised without love, education and freedom, what it is like to see your family executed, the horror of living at the mercy and whims of the guards, and never seeing an end to it. Every place on the planet that is not North Korea needs to learn about what is happening in these camps, how the people in them are forced to work through inhumane schedules and are constantly subjects of unimaginable cruelties.

As ghastly as it may sound, Harden did a very good job at capturing the many details and emotions that make these gut-wrenching accounts feel so important, relatable and realistic. It’s almost as if you are going through the unbelievable pains suffered by Dong-hyuk alongside with him. The escape itself is masterfully-narrated, and even though as the reader we know Dong-hyuk succeeded in the end, you still can’t bring yourself to turn your head from the pages until it is finally over.

Though the book may be a bit short, it still does more than most news outlets and websites to expose the horrors committed by the North Korean government, and should really be read by everyone out there who is even remotely concerned with basic human rights.

In the end, Escape from Camp 14 may be one of the most important works of literature, not only shedding light on the atrocities happening in this world, but also for bringing to us a true story of overcoming incredible odds in search of freedom.

Blaine Harden

Blaine Harden

Personal site

Blaine Harden has recently gained a lot of notoriety as an author because of his book, Escape from Camp 14, which chronicled the incredible life of the only person born in a North Korean prison camp who managed to escape to the West. His second book about North Korea is in the works and will bring to light the lesser-known horrors of the country.

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