We Be Book’n: Escape from Camp 14

This book is set in 2005 under the terrible regime of North Korea. Escape from Camp 14 is a chronicled journey, written by Blaine Harden of The Washington Post, of the only known person born in an internment camp who has successfully escaped. Shin Dong-Hyuk’s journey to freedom from a dystopian, secretive land still haunts him. His past is bred by a life of back-breaking labour, cutthroat rivalries and a complete absence of human affection. His ascension and slow realization that the world is actually full of non-adversarial human relationships, is a riveting biography that one must read.

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“North Korea’s political prison camps have existed twice as long as Stalin’s gulags and twelve times as long as the Nazi Concentration Camps. These camps are clearly visible in satellite photos, yet North Korea’s government denies they exist.  No one born and raised in these camps is known to have escaped.  No one, that is, except Shin-Dong-hyuk.  In Escape from Camp 14, veteran reporter Blaine Harden unlocks the secrets of the world’s most repressive totalitarian state through the story of Shin’s shocking imprisonment and his astounding getaway. A tale of endurance and courage, survival and hope, Harden’s harrowing narrative exposes this hidden dystopia, focusing on an extraordinary young man who came of age inside one of the world’s darkest nations.” –Book Synopsis

Like watching a train wreck in the movies, the book offers a squeamish but fascinating look at how a human can grow in the face of adversity, constant starvation, indifference, paranoia and the threat of very real and serious violence. The adjusted sense of morals for Shin and the people imprisoned at the camp showcases how scary living under the regime of North Korea can be. Although bleak, the book is an anthropological gold mine of information and an incredibly rare insight into Kim Jong Il’s rule of North Korea.

Cristina Gottardi

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