Thursday, October 3, 2013

Escape from Camp 14

Sad.  Moving.  Powerful.  Amazing.  Inspiring.  So many words to describe "Escape from Camp 14".  It is hard to read content in a very well written book.  Blaine Harden, the author, states from the start that it is difficult to verify Shin's story but that he has consulted with as many possible sources to check Shin's account of his escape from a prison camp in North Korea.  I feel Harden treats Shin fairly.

I read recently that under the new leadership of Kim Jong Eun, North Korea has put even more restrictions on the border and any information from the country so it will be more difficult for others to track what is happening in North Korea.  But we can see the prison camps on satellite photos.  Shin was born in the prison.  He never knew a different way to live until his escape.  Reading the book on my couch in Chicago, in the United States, safe and sound, it was hard to imagine taking a shower only a few times a year, receiving clothes once or twice a year, living in fear of being beaten and never having enough food.

If you are at all curious about North Korea I would highly recommend this book.  Through Shin's story the relationship between China, North Korea and South Korea is explained.  The author also makes the point that North Korea does not have a famous champion for its plight which I found interesting.  Why not?  Maybe because groups can't enter the country to help or see the results of their assistance.  There is also an overview of why South Korea is not more demanding in its relationship with North Korea.  It is an uneasy division of a land mass.

Shin's life has not been an easy one and his struggles did not end with his escape.  It does sound by the end of the book that maybe he has found a place in the world where he can spread his message and help others.  I am not sure what it will take to make a change in North Korea.  Every time I read an account about the lack of food and basic human resources I'm surprised that the country does not collapse.

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