Book Review ~ “Escape From Camp 14”

Title: Escape From Camp 14
Author: Blaine Harden
Genre: Political Science/History
Rating Out of Five: 5

I really enjoyed it, I think that I will end up purchasing this book at some point because I would like to look at more of the information in the authors end notes. I ended up reading it over about 4 or 5 shifts are work on my breaks and I got through it quite fast. My interest stayed piqued for the whole book!!

This book is the story of a young man named Shin Donghyuk who is born inside a labour camp in North Korea. It goes into how his life was inside the camp, how he was raised, the living conditions, the human interactions with “friends” and family, and the continual fear of being beaten or killed. From there it goes on to tell of his journey to China and eventually to South Korea after his escape from Camp 14, which is denied to exist.

Throughout the book the author mentions on several different occasions how lucky Shin was in his trek across North Korea to China and through China until he got to South Korea. And that is definitely the word I would use for this man’s story as well. While reading it that’s exactly what I thought too. He met and talked to the right people and was in so many situations at just the right time. Very, very lucky indeed.

One thing that I really liked about this book was that it not only chronicled Shin’s story but it had tidbits from some other North Korean Defectors as well. So you got more context for certain situations and got to see what kind of role South Korea plays in helping North Koreans when they get to the South. All North Korean Defectors are given South Korean citizenship upon arrival in South Korea once they are determined to be spies or assassins. (Apparently that stuff doesn’t only happen in movies! :P) They also help educate them, both children and adults, as most of them have only minimal writing and reading skills. As well as helping them adjust to modern-day life, like cellphones, tv, city transit, internet, and general social interaction.

Also, you learn about ‘Brokers’ and it’s essentially North Koreans paying a fee for safe passage for themselves or their family out of North Korea and to the South. There’s obviously more to it than that, but that is the general gist of it. I found that incredibly interesting and I think I want to find out a little more about it now.

Back to Shin, he now lives in the United States and South Korea and the last hear about him from the author he was beginning to speak in churches about his experience. He wants to do something, anything, to try to help his country, those that are still in labour camps (not just Camp 14, there are more) and to those that are thinking/planning on fleeing North Korea.

I absolutely recommend this book ! 😀

For more up to date information and news on both North and South Korea you can go to the link below:


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