A boy is born in prison, to parents who were awarded each other for good behavior.
The boy is considered a traitor, his blood tainted by the sins of his parents’ families. Sins like leaving the country.
His world is one of starvation, where snitching on friends and family is promoted, attempted escapes meet with public killings, and children are beaten to death for offenses as slight as hiding a few kernels of corn.
He is familiar with intense labor and cruel guards.
He doesn’t understand loyalty. He doesn’t know that the world is round.
No, this isn’t the plot of another book set in a dystopian future where the government is evil and goodness has shriveled up to die.
This is now. This is real.
This is the story of Shin, a young man from North Korea who has managed to flee the prison within a prison – the labor camp he was born in, as well as the prison that is North Korea.
Shin is the only person born inside one of North Korea’s labor camps who has successfully escaped.
Journalist Blaine Harden spent more than two years interviewing Shin Dong-hyuk about his experiences; Escape From Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey From North Korea to Freedom in the West is the result. In it, Harden describes Shin’s life growing up inside the prison, his harrowing escape, and his struggle to survive in the outside world.
All three aspects are tragic. As Shin remarks to Harden, “I am evolving from being an animal. But it is going very, very slowly. Sometime I try to cry and laugh like other people, just to see if it feels like anything.”
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