Escape from Camp 14 Themes

Blaine Harden

Escape from Camp 14

  • 59-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 23 chapter summaries and 4 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by a literary scholar with a PhD in English and a Master's degree in Philosophy
Access Full Summary

Escape from Camp 14 Themes

Political Corruption

In addition to Shin, the author interviewed a number of people about political corruption in North Korea. One notable example is the trader who took part in a state-run global insurance fraud, making successful claims for losses caused by natural disasters and industrial accidents. Reinsurance companies eventually realized that they were being conned, but, in the meantime, large quantities of money were being funneled directly to the North Korean government.

Ironically, North Korea was hit by a severe famine in the 1990s and suffered widespread poverty as a result. The country’s recovery relied significantly on foreign aid, despite the government’s proclamations of self-sufficiency. However, the North Korean government demanded that they have complete control over the distribution of this aid. The foreign doors were not happy about this arrangement but had little choice but to capitulate given the severity of the situation. However, their concerns were apparently well-founded, as a significant percentage of aid did not reach the general population. According to scholars and aid agencies, approximately 30 percent was stolen by “bureaucrats, party officials, army officers and other well-placed government elites” (86).

Famine also prompted the government to (reluctantly) provide incentives to encourage farming. To this end, private farming on small plots of land became legal in 2002. However, the government was uneasy about this move towards capitalism, which gave individual farmers and business owners greater power and independence, while weakening the government’s own position. As a countermeasure, the military confiscated a substantial amount of the food produced and stationed soldiers on farms to ensure that food was not being stolen by visiting city dwellers who were brought to assist with the harvest.

In spite of these official aims, the deployment of soldiers fostered its own form of corruption, in that farm managers sometimes paid soldiers to feign ignorance of the large-scale theft of food that is subsequently sold on the black market. Disputes among the soldiers themselves can turn violent, leading to fistfights and shootings. Likewise, individual soldiers, such as those working patrolling the North Korean-Chinese border, can be open to bribes.  Harden’s account of the political situation in…

This is just a preview. The entire section has 1582 words. Click below to download the full study guide for Escape from Camp 14.