Escape from Camp 14 Major Character Analysis

Blaine Harden

Escape from Camp 14

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Escape from Camp 14 Major Character Analysis

Shin Dong-hyuk 

Shin is a young man who was born in the North Korean labor camp known as Camp 14 and remains the only known person to have lived in the camp all his life prior to escape.

For many years, Shin did not question his life in the camp, as it was the only existence he had ever known. This proved to be a “perverse benefit” (73), in that Shin possessed no sense of loss or longing with regard to the outside world. However, it also meant that he was accustomed to the brutality and hostility encouraged in the camp. Likewise, the incentive to act as a snitch was a constant motivating factor and came into play when he informed on his mother and brother.

Notably, Shin had no conception of love or empathy, and he felt disassociated from his family. The camp was an environment in which people were punished for the sins of their family; indeed, Shin was born in the camp rather than having been sent there for any crimes that he had committed. Shin therefore experienced no initial guilt or doubt when it came to informing on his mother and brother for plotting to escape. As a result of his upbringing, he was self-serving and had no conception of loyalty. In short, his emotions and behavior were molded by the ethos of the camp.

The first time that Shin started to question life in the camp, as well as his own worldview, was during his spell in prison. Here, Shin was cared for both physically and emotionally by his cellmate, ‘Uncle’, and this marked his first encounter with compassion. Another crucial period was his time in the camp’s textile factory, as this is where he met Park Yong Chul. Shin’s discussions with Park constituted a significant learning experience, and their exchanges served to highlight Shin’s ignorance of the outside world.

Shin’s relationship with Park also marks the first time that Shin actively decided not to snitch. However, this decision was not the result of conscience or a newfound sense of altruism, but because he thrived on Park’s stories about…

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