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on April 1, 2012
It's hard to imagine places like Camp 14 still exist today. "Escape from Camp 14" by Blaine Harden is a real story about a North Korean defector named Shin Dong-Hyuk, the only known prisoner to ever escape from the living nightmare of Camp 14--considered to be the cruelest labor camp in North Korea. The author points out the fact that even though the North Korean government denies the existence of these camps, they are readily viewed in frightening detail on Google Earth. Thanks to Shin's testimony, this book is able to shed light on one of the most secretive, merciless institutions in the world that are the unfortunate reality of an estimated 200,000 prisoners according to the U.S. State Department.

Shin was born and raised in Camp 14. He knew nothing of the outside world, nothing of technology, and accepted the brutal conditions of the camp as "normal." Some of the vicious rules of the camp include being executed for attempting escape, forbidding groups of more than 2 prisoners from congregating, and the unconditional obedience of all guards. The most striking story to me was the brutal beating of a 6 year old girl to death in front of her classmates for simply having scraps of food in her pocket. None of her classmates batted an eye; this was the only life they've ever known.

Mr. Harden does an excellent job of laying out the context of Shin's story. His book sometimes goes on a tangent away from Shin's story to describe overall conditions in North Korea to help the reader grasp the big picture. This book is an enlightening read not just for those specifically interested in North Korea, but for anybody who respects human rights. Shin's experiences are a first-hand look that will make readers realize the inhumane conditions happening in these labor camps at this exact moment. Shin's story is one you'll never forget.
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on March 31, 2012
The story of this man's life is incredible. If this book were fiction, it would have been an amazing read. It captivates the reader's attention and makes the reader want to know what happened to the man next. However, this book is real. It is a biography of a man who has gone through hardships that are far beyond one's imagination.

Would I recommend it to someone else?: I would have to say depends on the person. Ignorance is bliss, but knowledge has the power to make a change in this world. And I strongly believe there needs to be a drastic change in North Korea: from basic human rights to a change in their wicked government.

-Kevin
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on April 3, 2012
...is that places like Camp 14 still exist and are still guarded by sadists. And the worst of that is what places like Camp 14 do to the children born in them, as Shin (the subject of the book) was.

I find these thoughts terribly depressing. The barbarism just goes on and on.

The author writes that not all of Shin's story can be verified (naturally). But the story jibes with news I've read about North Korea in recent years and so I took it at face value. It's a damned ugly face.

The book is a must read.
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on April 4, 2012
I bought this book on my Kindle this morning and couldn't put it down until I had devoured the whole thing. This book is a fast read and very thought provoking. It's about a young man named, Shin Dong-hyuk. Shin was born and raised in a North Korean prison camp completely unaware of life in North Korea outside of camp let alone the world. It is his story of survival, escape, and his struggle to adjust to his new life. When I first began reading this book I couldn't help thinking about the uncanny similarities between Camp 14 and the world Suzanne Collins had created in her book, The Hunger Games. Big difference though, this story is not fiction, it's not some YA dystopian novel. What's going on in North Korea right now is nothing short of hell on earth.
If you choose to read this book, be warned, this book contains graphic images of men, women and children being tortured and killed. It opens a window into North Korea that most people in the free world can hardly comprehend. You may never be able to get these images out of your mind. You might find yourself thinking about Shin's story at random times of the day and in strange places. In fact, it may change you and the way you look at your own problems, society, and government. This book is very disturbing but in a good way. Hopefully it'll awaken people around the world and brings about change in North Korea.
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on April 29, 2012
Since the story is true, I knew as I read that Shin is now free, that he escaped from an incomprehensibly horrific place, where human life is far less valuable than sewing machines, pigs, or five kernels of corn. But knowing Shin is free doesn't dilute the hell he lived in - in fact, it underscored the hopelessness of the lives of hundreds of thousands of North Koreans still being tortured, maimed, starved, and overworked in the labor camps.

The book overall, seemed to tell the story fairly dispassionately - almost matter of factly. But that also seemed exactly right. How else is Shin supposed to deal, even now as he tells about his life, with the endless parade of horror that made up his first 22 years?

The parts of the story that touched me the most were when Shin met Uncle and then when he met Park. Those two men, who somehow found a way to hold onto a spirit of love in the midst of deepest hate, transformed Shin's life. It's incredible to think that after all his conditioning to be subhuman, simple love and care gave him a glimpse of his humanity and a deep desire to escape. If it weren't for Uncle and Park, Shin's story would not be.

Shin's ability to function in the outside world, once he escaped, was equally intriguing. I found it so telling that the relative "freedom" of the non-camp North Korea was as shocking to him as anything he saw once he got to South Korea and dealt with the 180-degree differences in lifestyle.

I hope that Shin's story spreads and gives voice to all the North Koreans, in labor camps and out, who have no way of calling out to the world. I also hope for Shin that he will find peace within himself, and see that his escape and the gifts of knowledge he received from Uncle and Park, are meant to help those still living in hell.
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on April 9, 2012
Anyone who values their freedom should please read Blaine Harden's book, "Escape From Camp 14." After reading this book, every time I eat, I think of how the North Korean people are literally starving to death. For what? So that a power-hungry money-grabbing dictator, who brutally crushes the souls of his people can supply his military with arms. I am very thankful to have enough food, but even more thankful that Shin got out and can eat with freedom. Harden also shares that North Korea's military is hungry as well, with reports of stealing food from civilian farms. With unheard of forced self-fertilizer, some North Korean's living in the city go from house to house collecting human feces to grow crops. It is sickening that the Kim family has their own bowling alley, while their people's souls and stomachs are starved. Never again? History is again repeating itself with this holocaust. What did Shin ever do to North Korea's dear leader? Because North Korea does not have freedom of speech, if their people do not think correctly, they are tortured, starved, shot, and treated worse than animals.
In North Korea, the "eating problem" has not only devastated its people, it has eaten the brain of their dear leaders.
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on April 9, 2012
I have read quite a bit about North Korea. This book is unparalleled in its riveting narrative. Blaine Harden skillfully intertwines facts about the Hermit Kingdom and surrounding countries to educate us. Could not put it down and could not sleep. You'll find another similar story: "Eyes of the Tailless Animals" by Soon Ok Lee and her imprisonment tale and escape. Christians are called the Heaven People and are shot if they look up at all.

What is more insane? The fact that these labor camps are so cruel or the fact that they exist with our full knowledge? Support the underground Christian church in North Korea: [...] Also, go to [...] Then go to VOM books and type in North Korea under the search bar for some more amazing resources to educate all age groups about the realities of the Hermit Kingdom. Send a copy of "Escape from Camp 14" to your congressman or congresswoman today!
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on April 3, 2012
Shin was born in a North Korean prison camp, where he witnessed untold horrors and atrocities. He was raised to inform on his camp-mates, saw his mother as a competitor for food and never experienced love or happiness. Shin knew nothing of the world outside of the camp and believed that his life was a result of his parent's sins, ones he had to work hard and repent

The story followed Shin as he decided to escape Camp 14. Miraculously he made it through the electrified fence with only burns on his legs. He traveled by foot and train to China, where he begged and scrounged for work. After a while he traveled across China, looking for work, food and a way to get to South Korea. With the aid of human rights advocates he traveled to South Korea and then America, where he began speaking about his experiences.

I knew nothing about North Korean prison camps before picking up this book. Shin story is heartbreaking and can hopefully bring awareness to this situation. Overall, I highly recommend this book.
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on April 12, 2012
It is both a tragedy and success story on one man's determination to be FREE.

Shin has to battle the demons within him every day and he has the courage and determination to control them,
along with sharing his experience with other so we, as the world, can stop this from ever happening again.

A must read for anyone that believes in the independent spirit can survive anything including HELL.
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on May 2, 2012
Having studied genocide and some of the world's greatest atrocities as a political science major I didn't think I could ever be startled. Escape from Camp 14 reminds you that "Never Again" is still just an empty promise. Absolutely a riveting tale that should be read in every high school throughout the world until the world decides that the phrase "Never Again" actually means something.
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