Escape from Camp 14 Chapters 10-13 Summary & Analysis

Blaine Harden

Escape from Camp 14

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Escape from Camp 14 Chapters 10-13 Summary & Analysis

Chapter 10 Summary

In 1998, Shin was 15 and working on an urgent project that involved building an electric dam. The Soviet Union had supplied North Korea with cheap fuel until the 1990s but, when this ceased, the oil-based generators stationed in North Korea’s cities came to a halt. The government had therefore become conscious of the need for a reliable source of electricity. Still, under the Kim dynasty, the North Korean government has yet to build a reliable electricity grid, and there is not enough power in the country to maintain consistent lighting—even in Pyongyang.

The building of hydroelectric plants has thus been a priority since the 1990s, and this is an ideological as well as a practical matter, as the official stance is that national pride goes hand in hand with self-reliance. However, self-reliance is impossible in such an ill-governed country, and North Korea continues to depend on financial assistance from abroad. In fact, it would have lost the Korean War and vanished as a state had it not been for China’s help. Likewise, South Korea provided the country with food and fertilizer from 2000–2008, which also helped ensure a degree of peaceful coexistence. Despite this stark reality, the North Korean government issues frequent propaganda championing the country’s self-reliance.

In 2010, food shortages prompted the government to launch a back-to-the-farm campaign, which urged city dwellers to move to the countryside. This campaign met with limited success, as taking on a new life of arduous manual labor was not an enticing prospect for many people. In Camp 14, of course, motivation was not an issue.

Though Shin had seen people die before, this was the first time that death had been a routine part of work. In one instance, a flash flood led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of workers, and Shin competed with his classmates to find bodies: for each corpse, the reward was one or two servings of rice. Despite the danger, however, Shin found work at the dam exhilarating, as he was supplied with ample food and enjoyed a small degree of independence. He was also granted…

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