Escape from Camp 14 Chapters 17-20 Summary & Analysis

Blaine Harden

Escape from Camp 14

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Escape from Camp 14 Chapters 17-20 Summary & Analysis

Chapter 17 Summary

Fearing that he would be caught and returned to the prison camp, Shin made his way to a small mountain town where traders had told him of a truck that, for a small fee, would take passengers to the train station in Hamhung, North Korea’s second largest city. Shin’s timing was fortunate, as checks on travel permits had become lax and security officials were susceptible to bribes. The government had become concerned about the people’s move towards capitalism and made periodic attempts to enforce discipline; however, such attempts were met with widespread resistance.

Hamhung had been affected by the famine of the 1990s to a greater degree than any other population center in North Korea. This was because the state distribution system completely collapsed in this city and workers had no alternative sources of food. Most of the factories were still closed upon Shin’s arrival, but the bulk of the North-South rail traffic continued to pass through it. Shin was able to climb into a boxcar headed to the city of Chongjin, which serves as a gateway for rail lines leading to the Chinese border.

The journey was slow, as is typical of rail travel in North Korea, but Shin befriended a young man who was making his way home to Gilju, a large city on the main rail line to Chongjin. He offered to let Shin stay in his family’s apartment, and Shin accepted gratefully. When they finally reached their destination, the young man said that he was embarrassed for his parents to see him wearing such threadbare clothes. When he asked to borrow Shin’s coat for ten minutes, Shin agreed. However, as the hours passed and his new acquaintance did not return, Shin realized that he had been betrayed.

Shin spent the next 20 days roaming the streets of Gilju, taking advice from the city’s homeless. However, he made no friends and avoided talking about himself. Photographs of Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung were plastered across the city—and North Korea as a whole—but no one dared to criticize or mock these leaders. The general state of…

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