Escape from Camp 14 Introduction-Chapters 3 Summary & Analysis

Blaine Harden

Escape from Camp 14

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Escape from Camp 14 Introduction-Chapters 3 Summary & Analysis


The author, Blair Harden, starts out by referring to a key event: the escape of a young man called Shin from a North Korean prison camp in 2005. Shin had been born in this camp and, to this day, he is the only such individual who is known to have escaped.

Within a month of his escape, Shin had managed to make his way to China. Within two years, he was living in South Korea, and, four years later, in California. He is now a free man and has tried to embark upon a new life, although the physical and psychological effects of the camp are still apparent. Despite this, the North Korean government insists that such camps do not exist. Harden notes that Shin is around the same age as Kim Jong Eun, who took over as leader following the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, in 2011. North Korea is an ostensibly classless society, yet, in reality, “breeding and bloodlines decide everything” (2). Whereas Kim Jung Eun was born a communist prince, Shin was born a slave and raised in a high-security prison.

There is a typical narrative trajectory associated with concentration camp survival, with security forces stealing a protagonist away from a happy home and loving family. Shin, however, was born in the camp. He had no concept of family, love, or mercy, and he had not heard of God. He had no experience of civilized existence, and he accepted the values of the camp because these were all he knew.

North Korean prison camps have existed around twelve times longer than Nazi concentration camps, and the biggest one is larger than the city of Los Angeles. Two of the camps feature re-education zones that allow some fortunate prisoners to be released (albeit under supervision), while other camps are populated by “irredeemables” who are worked to death. Shin’s camp was camp number 14, which is regarded as the toughest of them all and holds around 15,000 prisoners. Some prisoners are executed publicly each year while others are beaten to death or killed by guards in secret.

Most North Koreans…

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