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Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West Paperback – April 1, 2012

4.5 out of 5 stars 1,689 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Bookforum

Blaine Harden's chronicle of Shin Dong-hyuk's life in a North Korean prison camp and his eventual escape is a slim, searing, humble book—as close to perfect as these volumes of anguished testimony can be. — Blaine Harden --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

"'This is a story unlike any other... More so than any other book on North Korea, including my own, Escape from Camp 14 exposes the cruelty that is the underpinning of Kim Jong Il's regime... The integrity of this book shines through on every page' Barbara Demick, author of Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea"
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Pan MacMillan; Open market ed edition (April 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230754686
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230754683
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,689 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,703,647 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Once you've started this book, it's very difficult to put down.

How this man survived the brutality of a 'Total Control' North Korean prison camp is impossible to conceive. From watching classmates being beaten to death and his mother and brother being executed, to being tortured over hot coals at the age of 13 and suffering near starvation for the first 24 years of his life, to the soul-destroying work ethic and unparalleled cruelty of the prison guards, how Shin Dong-hyuk is still alive, let alone now living happily in America, is breathtaking. His story is heartbreaking from the very beginning, yet his ability to keep on going in the face of absolute punishment will inspire all who read about it. The worst day you've ever had, will likely pale in comparison to a normal day in the life of this guy.

Blaine Harden has done a great job of presenting the details, and obviously cultivated a strong relationship with Shin. The book is short but there's more than enough in there for you to appreciate the gravity of the situation in North Korea, and its relationship with both South Korea and China.

Worth every penny.
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Format: Hardcover
Shin Dong-Hyuk was born in Camp 14, a North Korean political prison/labour camp, a camp from which there is no release for its inmates, a camp with a strict and harsh regime,where there is little food, and where the work often results in early death. No one has escaped from Camp 14 or any other such camp, that is until Shin succeeded in early 2005, eventually making his way via China and South Korea to the US.

Escape From Camp 14 is his story as told to Washington Post journalist Blaine Harden. It details the inhuman existence that is life within Camp 14, where prisoners are pressured to inform on each other including their own family, where punishments are harsh and handed out at the whim of their superiors be they prison guards or fellow prisoners designated as supervisors. Life is cheap within Camp 14, beatings can be so extreme they result in death, there are regular public executions and possibly much more regular private executions. Anyone caught trying to escape is executed, and members of their family face reprisals. Born into such an existence Shen knew no other way of life, he knew nothing of the world outside of the camp, that is until he met a new inmate who gradually enlightened him, and fuelled his desire for escape.

This is an easy read in that the prose is fluent and very accessible, but it if far from an easy read when considering its content, the descriptions of life in Camp 14 do not make for comfortable reading. Harden eases the readers progress through Shin's harrowing account by regularly interspersing it with facts about life in North Korea, Korea's history and its relations with the rest of the world.

This is a story that deserves to be told, and that needs to be read.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Many excellent books will no doubt be published this year. None will be more disturbing. None will be more unique. There is no one on earth like Shin Dong-Hyuk.

Shin was born in a North Korean labor camp in 1982. His "crime," as he learned many years later, was that two of his uncles defected from North Korea to South Korea (as tens of thousands of others did)--in 1951. He is the only known person born in a North Korean labor camp to escape and defect.

His treatment was horrifying--and routine. In camp he was starved and beaten all the time--as was every other prisoner. His earliest memory is of an execution (everyone in the camp, including children, had to watch them). As a punishment when he broke a sewing machine, a guard cut off one of his fingers.

No matter what I write, you cannot understand the brutality of Camp 14 unless you read this book. Blaine Harden's cold, unsparing prose tells Shin's story in a way that anyone can read it, though no one will quite believe it (I knew Blaine for years while he worked at The Washington Post. I don't believe I'm influenced in the least by my admiration for him in what I'm writing--the shock of the book is too great for that).

There are no answers to the questions raised by Escape from Camp 14. The State Department estimates that 200,000 people live in such camps (you can see them on Google Earth), and most live out their short lives there since they are worked unsparingly and given little food and few clothes. What should be done about it? I don't know. But those who read this amazing book will know a few things about the North Korean regime that others cannot.
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Format: Hardcover
When I heard about Shin's account on NPR, I rushed to the local bookstore to get a copy for myself. Simply the most compelling story I have ever read. I am not well versed enough in the politics of the region or North Korea to provide a qualified review. But I am human.

This book has deeply affected me. I view food differently now. It has even affected my relationships.

I must issue a warning however. The events in this narrative are truly disturbing. It has been less than 24 hours since I finished reading Escape from Camp 14 and I can't stop thinking about Shin.

Fortunately, Blaine Harden provides a detailed bibliography for the interested reader which I definitely plan to consult.

Truly, North Korea is the world's largest prison and Shin's account deserves to be heard. The Kim family in North Korea must and will answer for the crimes against Shin and the thousands of others who have suffered at their hands. To settle for anything less is simply not human.
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