Escape From Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey From North Korea To Freedom In The West

Paperback | March 26, 2013

byBlaine Harden

not yet rated|write a review
With a New Foreword

The heartwrenching New York Times bestseller about the only known person born inside a North Korean prison camp to have escaped

North Korea’s political prison camps have existed twice as long as Stalin’s Soviet gulags and twelve times as long as the Nazi concentration camps. No one born and raised in these camps is known to have escaped. No one, that is, except Shin Dong-hyuk.

In Escape From Camp 14, Blaine Harden unlocks the secrets of the world’s most repressive totalitarian state through the story of Shin’s shocking imprisonment and his astounding getaway. Shin knew nothing of civilized existence—he saw his mother as a competitor for food, guards raised him to be a snitch, and he witnessed the execution of his mother and brother.

The late “Dear Leader” Kim Jong Il was recognized throughout the world, but his country remains sealed as his third son and chosen heir, Kim Jong Eun, consolidates power. Few foreigners are allowed in, and few North Koreans are able to leave. North Korea is hungry, bankrupt, and armed with nuclear weapons. It is also a human rights catastrophe. Between 150,000 and 200,000 people work as slaves in its political prison camps. These camps are clearly visible in satellite photographs, yet North Korea’s government denies they exist.

Harden’s harrowing narrative exposes this hidden dystopia, focusing on an extraordinary young man who came of age inside the highest security prison in the highest security state. Escape from Camp 14 offers an unequalled inside account of one of the world’s darkest nations. It is a tale of endurance and courage, survival and hope.

Pricing and Purchase Info

$14.40 online
$22.00 list price (save 34%)
In stock online
Ships free on orders over $25
Prices may vary. why?
Please call ahead to confirm inventory.

From the Publisher

With a New ForewordThe heartwrenching New York Times bestseller about the only known person born inside a North Korean prison camp to have escapedNorth Korea’s political prison camps have existed twice as long as Stalin’s Soviet gulags and twelve times as long as the Nazi concentration camps. No one born and raised in these camps is kn...

Blaine Harden is a reporter for PBS's FRONTLINE and a contributor to the Economist, and has served as The Washington Post's bureau chief in East Asia, Eastern Europe, and Africa. He is the author of Africa: Dispatches from a Fragile Continent and A River Lost: The Life and Death of the Columbia. He lives in Seattle, Washington.

other books by Blaine Harden

The Great Leader And The Fighter Pilot: The True Story Of The Tyrant Who Created North Korea And…
The Great Leader And The Fighter Pilot: The True Story ...

Hardcover|Mar 17 2015

$29.32 online$32.95list price(save 11%)
A River Lost Revised And Updated: The Life And Death Of The Columbia
A River Lost Revised And Updated: The Life And Death Of...

Paperback|Mar 27 2012

$16.98 online$17.00list price
Flucht aus Lager 14: Die Geschichte des Shin Dong-hyuk, der im nordkoreanischen Gulag geboren wurde…
Flucht aus Lager 14: Die Geschichte des Shin Dong-hyuk,...

Kobo ebook|Sep 10 2012

$12.19 online$15.73list price(save 22%)
see all books by Blaine Harden
Format:PaperbackDimensions:256 pages, 7.8 × 5.1 × 0.7 inPublished:March 26, 2013Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0143122916

ISBN - 13:9780143122913

Look for similar items by category:

Customer Reviews of Escape From Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey From North Korea To Freedom In The West

Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting Such insight to things others may not necessarily be aware of. Well written.
Date published: 2016-12-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Understood First time to understand the poor human rights in North Korea.
Date published: 2016-12-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from It was great! To supply itself with food & clothing North Korea beats, starves and works to death tens of thousands of its citizens , this is the story of one of them. The true story of Shin Dong-Hyuk beautifully told by Blain Harden takes place in one of the worlds most secretive nations: North Korea. Between 1982-2003, but the issue of labor camps in North Korea today. Shin, a 20 year old man who freedom was more important to that anyone. His mother a selfish woman who risked her family's lives for her chance to escape. Park one of Shin's best friends who aided Shin in his struggle to stay sane in the camps. Escape From Camp 14 is a tale of a young boy born into a North Korean labor camp. Shin doesn't know what a healthy relationship is. Having an abusive mother. A distant father and friendships few and far between. Shin adapts to be self reliant and take from others to get what he wanted. I enjoyed this book because it genuinely addresses the problems in North Korea down to other last details. It gave information about the events and practices in them. The book was emotionally heavy and hard to read at times but I admire Blaine Harden for not making light of what Shin lived through.
Date published: 2015-05-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Hard to believe its true! Inside the most vile and detestable place in North Korea exists Camp 14, a prison camp. After just reading a few pages I knew the novel Escape From Camp 14 was going to be one of violence, cruelty, suffering and control. This book is the story of Shin Dong-hyuk life in Camp 14 from his earliest memory at the age of four until his escape. The book goes into the darkest part of Shin’s life and his constant battle for survival and the unthinkable things he did to just stay alive. It is unbelievably disturbing as he talks about his own life as well as the other prisoners and the torture, abuse, starvation, intimidation, imprisonment, absolutely no freedom and the killings of humans by other humans. This book is an eye opener about North Korea and their treatment of prisoners which is hidden from the rest of the world or just ignored. Since we live in Canada, a country of freedom I wasn’t fully prepared that there are such uncivilized areas of the world where things happen that I can’t even image. After reading Shin’s story you should have a better understanding, like I do of the uncertainty and the challenges he must have faced after his escape and trying to live in a civilized world for the first time. Some stories just need to be told because we live in a part of the world where freedom is expected and we can’t imagine what it would be like to live the way Shin did. While reading this book it made me appreciate the life I have, where I live and how precious our freedom is. I think the author, Blaine Harden, writes an exceptionally detailed story of what Shin’s life was like living in Camp 14 and his tale of survival and his fight for freedom. Definitely worth reading, but be prepared for some graphic details. This is a great book for anyone who likes to read non-fiction, although at times I had a hard time remembering it is a true story.
Date published: 2015-05-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Hard to believe it's true! Inside the most vile and detestable place in North Korea exists Camp 14, a prison camp. After just reading a few pages I knew the novel Escape From Camp 14 was going to be one of violence, cruelty, suffering and control. This book is the story of Shin Dong-hyuk life in Camp 14 from his earliest memory at the age of four until his escape. The book goes into the darkest part of Shin’s life and his constant battle for survival and the unthinkable things he did to just stay alive. It is unbelievably disturbing as he talks about his own life as well as the other prisoners and the torture, abuse, starvation, intimidation, imprisonment, absolutely no freedom and the killings of humans by other humans. This book is an eye opener about North Korea and their treatment of prisoners which is hidden from the rest of the world or just ignored. Since we live in Canada, a country of freedom I wasn’t fully prepared that there are such uncivilized areas of the world where things happen that I can’t even image. After reading Shin’s story you should have a better understanding, like I do of the uncertainty and the challenges he must have faced after his escape and trying to live in a civilized world for the first time. Some stories just need to be told because we live in a part of the world where freedom is expected and we can’t imagine what it would be like to live the way Shin did. While reading this book it made me appreciate the life I have, where I live and how precious our freedom is. I think the author, Blaine Harden, writes an exceptionally detailed story of what Shin’s life was like living in Camp 14 and his tale of survival and his fight for freedom. Definitely worth reading, but be prepared for some graphic details. This is a great book for anyone who likes to read non-fiction, although at times I had a hard time remembering it is a true story.
Date published: 2015-05-14
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Book Review Can just ONE person stop a whole country from doing the wrong thing? Blaine is an expert because he is a best selling author, and is a contributor for The Economist and other organizations. Blaine wanted to help Shin because he wanted to help him raise awareness about the political camps.Blaine met his goal earlier than he probably expected to. One thing that bothers me is that the book is not chronological, you would be in the middle of a chapter and it would just RKO you out of nowhere and it would just state info about North Korean history. The pace of the book was dragged on because of the history sections, and the structure of it was too descriptive for me and there was barely any dialogue. I would compare this book to Hatchet because it is both about survival and adventure, and they teach you that when you are deep in a hole you can still find a way out. Escape From Camp 14 is more valuable than Hatchet, but Hatchet was more enjoyable to read. I would recommend this book to people who like adventure and survival, and the ideal age should be 11+ because younger ones might not be able to handle some gruesome detail.
Date published: 2015-05-14
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Shin Dong-hyuk recanted most of this book. I earnestly haven't read this book, but in January of 2015 Shin Dong-Hyuk, the subject of this book, recanted most of what he said in this book to this journalist. He no longer states that he spent his life in Camp 14 while in NK. He now states that instead he spent a good deal of time in Camp 18. He was tortured in Camp 14 when he was 20, not 13, as punishment for his second escape attempt. I imagine it is a great story but it is sadly fiction inspired by a true story and no longer non-fiction/biography.
Date published: 2015-02-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Escape from Camp 14 Great book. True courAge for one brave man . The endurng hardship that Shin made and sacrificed to escape torture.
Date published: 2015-01-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Horrifying yet captivating. If you have any interest in the situation in Korea, this is a "must read"?.
Date published: 2014-09-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Escape from Camp 14 Although I found it very difficult to read about life in the North Korean camps, until chapter 16; I have gained a deeper understanding of life in North Korea. Without reading this book I would have not believe the beastial horrors that go on in these labor camp. Reading Harden,s book was well worth my time. Well done and thanks to Shin! Lyse ;-)
Date published: 2014-04-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Gotta read... Highly recommemd! POWERFUL, EYE-OPENING and HUMBLING!
Date published: 2014-03-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Incredible Story.... There are no words to adequately describe the life of Shin Dong-hyuk. Born & raised in one of North Korea's most brutal concentration camps, Shin's tragic life story is well beyond most people's understanding or experience. Shin may have physically escaped the camp but, psychologically, he & thousands of other North Korean Survivors will battle imprisonment in their minds for the rest of their lives - we have no idea how lucky we are. While we can feel empathy & pity, we truly have NO idea what it would be like to have to live Shin's life or struggle to exist in North Korea. Shin's story & continued struggle is complex and unexplainable - you need to read this book!
Date published: 2014-02-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Incredible Story.... What an eye opener! Great book if your wanting a detailed account of the Koreans camps.
Date published: 2014-01-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awesome book An awesome for a read that is a person to like human rights
Date published: 2014-01-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awesome book Can you imagine a world without kindness, compassion or trust? Can you imagine having been born there with no memory or understanding of anything else? A heart breaking look at what happens when governments are not by the people and for the people. This young man is the same age as me, but at an age when I was finishing my first degree, he was crawling over the corpse of his only friend to escape from a political death camp. North Korea's "total control zones" are modern day Dachaus that you can go see on google earth, yet many people are unaware of their very existence. This book offers a powerful look at the dangers of living in nations run by rhetoric and idealogy. It is also ultimately a hopeful book as we see Shin Dong-hyuk's commitment to building a life for himself after enduring the unimaginable and his quest to raise awareness to the plight of political prisoners in North Korea.
Date published: 2014-01-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Heart wrenching This book gives a very detailed and horrific look into the country we know so little about. Well written and very emotional.
Date published: 2014-01-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Escape from camp 14 Unbelievably raw and touching
Date published: 2013-12-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very engaging. Once I start reading, I can't put the book down. May Shin will be able to overcome his psychological issue.
Date published: 2013-12-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Just finished Escape from Camp 14 Sad touching book. Although a little chaotically written at times. Shin's story is worth reading about.
Date published: 2013-10-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Just finished Escape from Camp 14 Good book
Date published: 2013-10-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A glimpse into an unknown horror A stark and riveting depiction of ongoing human atrocities in North Korea. As a riveting story I can only hope it will be read by millions so as to expose the existence of such camps to the world.
Date published: 2013-09-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Escape from camp 14 Broke my heart.
Date published: 2013-08-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Read Very gritty read. Outlines the price paid for life in such a horrible situation.
Date published: 2013-08-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great book Its crazy how these horrible things still happen in today's day and age. It is truly heartbreaking to read about the tortures these poor innocent ppl had and still today go through. Even children. I hope someday soon someone will save these ppl and abolish these camps And get rid of the monster who governs this country.
Date published: 2013-07-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Utter Craziness What an incredible story! It is so hard to grasp the atrocities that Shin endured. Freedom is nothing to ever be taken for granted. A powerful eye opener of North Korea...god bless all the remaining souls still living entrapped in such a sadistic society of imprisonment.
Date published: 2013-07-26
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Must Read! I liked this book because it opened my eyes to a world we are not well educated about. To know that people are living through a current day Holocaust is unbearable. This story gives us more of an insight about what goes on within the North Korean boarders, and the struggles all people face daily. Please read to educate yourself!
Date published: 2013-07-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from There's No Escaping this Novel Wow. I don't even know where to start or how to express how I feel after reading this novel. We all know North Korea is a secluded and scary country that no one really gets into or out of. Well, this novel describes Chin, who made it out, of one of the prison camps, no less. It is hard to read what Chin went through in these camps, how was raised, how he lived and even how he thought. This novel is a quick read, very short and to the point with no lengthy political discourse. I think it is an important novel for people to read to understand how lucky we really are and how much of a threat North Korea really is.
Date published: 2013-06-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from OMG!!!!!! I was given this book as a Christmas present, and just got around to reading it. Came across this book totally by accident one day in Chapters. I was completely absorbed in this story by chapter one, and it took me about 6 hours to finish it. What an incredible story of human resilience in the face of such evil, that unbelievably exists today. I must say there were times I had to put this book down. I find it incredible that I had difficulty just reading this story, how Shin ever lived this horror is beyond comprehension. My heart goes out to Shin and the hundreds of thousands of people still prisoners in these camps. It is horrible to think that I and other good people like myself are part of the "human race" whose treatment of other human beings is nothing less than abhorrent. I really had no idea that this is still going on today. I learned so much from this book, but mostly about great courage and a will to live. I will never understand how anyone who suffered as Shin did, could ever recover. I will not forget this story for a very long time, if ever.
Date published: 2013-06-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Incredible Book I first borrowed this book from my local library and then found out that the author Blaine Harden was going to be interviewed at the Toronto Reference Library. I bought my own copy which he very kindly signed for me. I have now read the book twice and it is a harrowing story of survival against the odds. A must read. It is nice to know that Shin is doing well and now living and working in South Korea.
Date published: 2013-05-22
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Escape from camp 14 Good as a general read.
Date published: 2013-05-08
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Escape from camp 14 Good as a general read.
Date published: 2013-05-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing I'm not much on reviews, but I can definitely say that this is a great book. I've been wanting to read it for awhile and when I finally got around to doing so, I was very pleased. I wish the best for Shin and his future. This book outlines some of the worst aspects of humanity. It can boggle the mind that things like this can happen behind closed doors.
Date published: 2013-03-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Hauntingly Important Read! The story of Shin Dong-Hyuk takes you right into one of North Korea's most horrifying prison camps that make the Holocaust seem like a spring vacation. Human life is disposable. Human feeling unheard of. Trust even between a mother and her son does not exist. Love is impossible. What was most scary for me, was truly coming to terms with this place where I could understand how and why Shin made the decisions he did. And I question my own moral integrity were I to be in the same place... To read more of my review check-out my blog: charliebooks.blogspot.ca
Date published: 2013-02-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Eye opening! I purchased this because it was on sale....loved it. Such a sad true life story. To imagine that these kind of events are still happening in today's world....mind blowing. I read this in 2 days, then discussed it openly with my 8 1/2 year old son, because I think it's important to understand how good we really have it. Read, read read!!! Everyone should read this !
Date published: 2013-02-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good read! Very interesting to have insight into how life is in Camp 14 and North Korea. Worth reading.
Date published: 2013-02-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Most Extraordinary Book I could not put this book down from the moment I started to read the very first page it certainly is an eye opener what is going on in labour camps in North Korea. The hardships and abuse the women, men and children encountered each and everyday of their lives in order to survive. Shin is a remarkable man having the courage to escape and start a new life for himself. This book will truly drags your soul down to the unbelieveable evil and cruelty that man can force upon another human being.
Date published: 2013-01-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Incredible Indeed, an incredible history of survival. It is a shame that such an horror still exists in a world that call itself "civilized".
Date published: 2012-12-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Reality check From reading the description and reviews, I felt this book would shed a light on the brutal conditions of North Korea and to its people. After reading the first couple of chapters, I sensed that Shin was sort of holding back on revealing too much information for fear and lack of trust. I can understand this and Blaine does a good job in writing in words what can truly be unimaginable to see in real life. To go into detail about his upbringing in the camp to his escape shows just how much one man can go through in his early life. I recommend anyone to read this as it shows not only how one person escaped "hell", but how he struggles to exist in the real world as well.
Date published: 2012-09-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Remarkable and Sad Highly recommended to foreign-born Koreans and anyone interested in learning about North Korea. This is the side of North Korea that the world does not see... this book is the story of someone so courageous that his picture is on the front and his life may now be in danger. A page-turner, couldn't put it down and finished in a day.
Date published: 2012-09-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Incredible Head shaking, eye opening, incredible that this happened in our lifetime. Sad really.
Date published: 2012-09-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Escape From Camp 14 "Escape From Camp 14", a book written by Blaine Harden about the experiences of Shin Dong-hyuk, unexpectedly caught my eye while browsing the shelves in a bookstore. For years I had been quickly growing an interest in South Korean culture, and naturally, had become vaguely aware of the issues surrounding its neighbouring country, North Korea. I was curious, and this curiosity was what prompted me to buy the book. The place described in this story, a prison camp within a country often described as a prison itself, was beyond anything I could imagine. To think that, there exists today, places comparable to the Nazi concentration camps was an outrageous notion, but Harden's facts and Shin's powerful story never made me doubt it for a moment. You will learn many things from reading this book, many of them unknown to the general person. It will make you cringe, gasp, curl your lip in anger, hold your breath in suspense, and probably even cry. It will open your eyes to the fact that although globalization is prominent in the world and media can be counted on to report news stories found both locally and globally, there are still things happening in this world that the majority of us are unaware of. Things that breach countless human rights in the most horrible ways possible. Things that must be stopped. Although Shin is the only known person whom can claim to have been born and raised in a North Korean prison camp, and to have escaped, his story will hopefully be an awakening to the world, prompting them to do something about this horrible reality. All Shin has is his story, the life he was given to live and the memories that still haunt him today, but by sharing it with us, using the words of Blaine Harden, he has also given hope to those he left behind; those who still remain in the prison camp he had once called home. Read this book and increase that hope.
Date published: 2012-08-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very Eye-Opening to the Grim Realities I found this book to be an absolutely amazing read. Harden did an amazing job of supplementing Shin's narrative with hard-line facts derived from various sources. Included is information on various psychological studies and surveys by both governments and NGOs on the status of North Korea and it's inhabitants. What I really enjoyed was that Harden didn't spend his words trying to convince you to like Shin. The story was what the story was, and he didn't introduce his own feelings towards the subject into Shin's words. The reality is that Shin doesn't come across as a person deserving of rescue. Oftentimes Harden brings you into Shin's psyche and you will find something inherently selfish and undesirable about him. In the end, Shin is presented to you as a real person with both good and bad qualities. Harden doesn't attempt to explain Shin's mental state or attitudes himself, instead he brings in scientific and documented information and leaves the rest up to you. This in my opinion, is how non-fiction should be written. What really stood out to me was the uniqueness of this story. As you will learn from the synopsis, Shin is the only person ever known to have been born and raised fully in North Korea's labour camps. His story is inherently different from any others you may have read before. The world he presents illustrates something very different from what you may have assumed from North Korea, that everybody is brainwashed and foolishly loyal to a regime because they have forgotten all else. Be prepared as not everything in the book is easily digested, but it is definitely worth reading.
Date published: 2012-08-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from What a book! This book truly gives the leader an inside look at the treatment of prisoners within North Korea's concentration camps. Although the events described in the book are hard to follow, it sheds light on what has been going on inside the hermit kingdom for over 50 years. I definitely recommend this read to anyone who is an advocate for human rights.
Date published: 2012-08-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Wow! North Korea’s political prison camps have existed twice as long as Stalin’s Soviet gulags and twelve times as long as the Nazi concentration camps. No one born and raised in these camps is known to have escaped. No one, that is, except Shin Dong-hyuk. In Escape from Camp 14, Blaine Harden unlocks the secrets of the world’s most repressive totalitarian state through the story of Shin’s shocking imprisonment and his astounding getaway. Shin knew nothing of civilized existence – he saw his mother as a competitor for food, guards raised him to be a snitch, and he witnessed the execution of his mother and brother. The late “Dear Leader” Kim Jong II was recognized throughout the world, but his country remains sealed as his third son and chosen heir, Kim Jong Eun, consolidates power. Few foreigners are allowed in, and few North Koreans are able to leave. North Korea is hungry, bankrupt, and armed with nuclear weapons. It is also a human rights catastrophe. Between 150,000 and 200,000 people work as slaves in its political prison camps. These camps are clearly visible in satellite photographs, yet North Korea’s government denies they exist. Blaine Harden’s harrowing narrative exposes this hidden dystopia, focusing on an extraordinary young man who came of age inside the highest security prison in the highest security state. Escape from Camp 14 offers an unequaled inside account of one of the world’s darkest nations. It is a tale of endurance and courage, survival and hope. This is one piece of non-fiction that I won’t soon forget.
Date published: 2012-04-02

Extra Content

Read from the Book

FOREWORDSEOUL, SOUTH KOREAEarly in 2015, Shin Dong-hyuk changed his story. He told me by telephone that his life in the North Korean gulag differed from what he had been telling government leaders, human rights activists, and journalists like me. As his biographer, it was a stomach-wrenching revelation.It was also news. In the nearly three years since Escape from Camp 14 was published, Shin had become the single most famous witness to North Korea’s cruelty to its own people. He posed for photographs with the American secretary of state, received human rights awards, and traveled the world to appear on television news programs like 60 Minutes. His story helped launch an unprecedented United Nations inquiry that accused North Korea’s leaders of crimes against humanity.When I got off the phone with Shin, I contacted the Washington Post (for which I had first written about him) and released all I then knew about his revised story. Then I flew to Seoul, where Shin lives, to find out more. This foreword explains what I learned. In two weeks of conversations, Shin was less secretive and more talkative than he had ever been during long rounds of interviews with me dating back to 2008. He seemed relieved to be correcting a story he felt had become a kind of prison.Shin told me that when he defected to South Korea in 2006, he made a panicky, shame-driven decision to conceal and reorder pivotal episodes of his life in the gulag. He hid his role in the execution of his mother and brother. He omitted a singularly painful session of torture that shattered his faith in himself. He did not mention that he lived most of his youth in a political prison that was not Camp 14. He told this version of his life to interrogators from South Korean intelligence and the U.S. Army. He then repeated the narrative for nearly nine years, rarely changing a single detail.Shin told me he is now determined to tell the truth. Regrettably, he has told me this before. It seems prudent to expect more revisions.Other survivors of the camps are angry at Shin, accusing him of undermining their truthfulness and weakening the international campaign to pressure North Korea to shut down the gulag.In assessing Shin’s credibility and the changes in his story, it is important to know that he has multiple scars consistent with extreme torture.1 Trauma victims like him tend to struggle with the truth, especially in the linear narrative form that journalists, judges, and policy makers are best able to understand. The memories of trauma victims are often fragmented and out of sequence,2 and the stories they tell can be shields behind which they try to hide.“The most genuine narratives of going through political violence are never completely coherent or finalized,” said Dr. Stevan M. Weine, a specialist on the impact of political violence and a professor of psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He has treated trauma and studied trauma victims from Bosnia, Kosovo, Central Asia, and Africa. Between conversations with Shin in Seoul, I telephoned Weine and told him about Shin’s evolving story.“When someone goes through profound trauma and I don’t hear a disjointed story, I am suspicious,” he told me. “Shin appears to have been exposed to prolonged and repeated torture. We can expect that this would have a major impact on every aspect of who he is, on his memory, his emotional regulation, his ability to relate to others, his willingness to trust, his sense of place in the world, and the way he gives his testimony.”In Escape from Camp 14, I wrote that there was no way to fact-check many parts of Shin’s story because North Korea is largely closed to the outside world and it denies that political labor camps exist. But other gulag survivors had told me Shin knew things only an insider could know. Human rights investigators who had talked with scores of camp survivors found his testimony credible and precise. When this book appeared, Shin had already become a key primary source for major reports on the North Korean gulag.Still, as I emphasized in the book, I worried about his capacity for truthfulness. I wrote that he had repeatedly lied to me. Two chapters in Escape from Camp 14 present him as an unreliable narrator of his own life.In retrospect, I should have done more to examine the psychological dimensions of his relation to truth. It would have prepared me for what Shin disclosed in 2015, more than six years after we met and started working on the manuscript.—The story Shin now tells is considerably more complex—and in some ways more disturbing—than the one he told upon his arrival in South Korea in 2006. In the new version, he escaped twice to China, not once. He lived in two bordering political prison camps, not just Camp 14.In his revised story, Shin said he was born in Camp 14, a “total control zone,” but when he was six or seven the border of that camp shifted. His home village, he said, was then incorporated into Camp 18, the slightly less brutal prison next door. North Korean government records seem to support his new version but do not conclusively prove it, as I will explain below. In any case, all the available evidence suggests that he was born and raised in a political prison.In Escape from Camp 14, Shin said that when he was a small boy in the camp, he lived among children and adults who were destined to be worked to death as slaves without any possibility of release. As such, they were not allowed to see photographs of Great Leader Kim Il Sung or Dear Leader Kim Jong Il. But when his village became part of Camp 18, Shin said his status improved marginally. The food was no better; indeed, he said there was less of it. Another Camp 18 survivor confirms this irony, saying that because Camp 14 had better farms, it always had slightly more food.In Camp 18, Shin did see photos of the Kims. He was also issued, for the first time, the uniform of a North Korean school pupil. While public executions for attempted escape were common in Camp 18, Shin said that as he grew up, prisoners were paid with food coupons for their work and, over time, some were released and allowed to become ordinary residents of North Korea.These revisions in his story, while significant, do not alter the evidence of torture on Shin’s body. Indeed, he now says he was tortured more extensively by prison guards than he had previously been willing to admit.In addition to being burned over a fire and hung by shackles from his ankles, which he had earlier described, he said guards used pliers to rip out his fingernails. Scars on his hands and the partial amputation of one finger support the claim.“Shin’s body shows more scars from torture than any camp survivor I know who has come to South Korea, and I have met almost all of them,” said Ahn Myeong Chul, a former North Korean prison guard who for seven years worked for the National Security Agency, known as the Bowibu, the feared political police force that runs the country’s most notorious prisons, including Camp 14. Ahn is now executive director of NK Watch, a human rights group in Seoul, and knows Shin well.“The scars prove to me that Shin was tortured at a Bowibu detention center,” said Ahn, who sees Shin’s scars as signature work of his previous employer.Shin buried his memory of fingernail torture—and kept it from the world for nearly a decade—because he said it had been unbearable, physically and psychologically.“I couldn’t handle it,” he said. “I tried to scrunch my fingers up so they couldn’t pull out more fingernails.”Shin said this infuriated the guards, who forcibly straightened out the middle finger on his right hand and smashed the end of it with some kind of club. The blow effectively amputated the finger up to the first knuckle. Previously, Shin had said that guards cut off that part of his finger with a knife, as punishment for dropping a sewing machine in a camp uniform factory. But he now says he made up that story because he was ashamed of how he had been “broken” by torture.In 2010, Shin admitted to me that when he first arrived in South Korea, he concealed how his mother and brother got caught—and were later executed—for planning an escape from prison camp. They were caught, he told me, because he betrayed their plans to a guard. An extended account of that betrayal appears in Escape from Camp 14.In our new round of interviews, Shin changed the story again, saying his role in the executions was more shameful than he could bear to admit.“I was jealous of my brother because my mother liked him more than me,” he said. “My mother never liked me much. She beat me much more than my brother. She never paid attention to my birthday.”Shin said that in 1996, after he snitched to a guard about the escape plans of his mother and brother, he put his thumbprint on a police statement he knew to be false. It stated that he had seen his mother and brother commit a murder. Shin said the document, which a guard asked him to sign, was important evidence for the execution. Shin was fifteen at the time, according to a North Korean government listing of his birthdate, which says he was born on November 19, 1980. (Shin now says he is not sure what year he was born but that his father told him it was 1982.)Shin has also acknowledged that there were some fictive elements in his former narrative. He did not live in a student dormitory in Camp 14 when he was a teenager; he lived with his father in Camp 18. During his second journey to the Chinese border, he was not “shocked” to see North Koreans shopping in street markets. He had seen them shop before, during his first flight to China.He said he altered dates and locations for major events, such as the age at which he was tortured; he was twenty-one, not fourteen. He changed the whereabouts of the execution of his mother and brother. It occurred at an execution site beside the Taedong River in Camp 18, not on the other side of that river at an execution site in Camp 14.When Shin began telling his story to South Korean intelligence, to human rights investigators, and to the world’s press, he said he had no idea that these details would later be considered important. He did not know what fiction or nonfiction was. He had never read a book. He said he only learned the concept of nonfiction when I told him that’s what I had to write.Shin said he had much to be ashamed of and even more to hide when powerful people in South Korea started asking him questions. So he shaped his answers to serve his needs, not those of government interrogators, or human rights organizations, or journalists like me.As I have explained, trauma experts see nothing unusual in this. What is unusual is that his story made him an international celebrity.—Some key elements of Shin’s revised story have been unintentionally corroborated by North Korea itself, in press releases, statements at the United Nations, and two propaganda videos released in the fall of 2014.That is when the government in Pyongyang, in a furious push to derail criticism of its human rights record, zeroed in on Shin, attacking him repeatedly by name and describing him as “scum” and a “parasite.”In the process, North Korea confirmed that Shin’s mother and brother were executed in 1996 for “premeditated murder with grave consequences” and said Shin played a role in their punishment. A press release from North Korea’s U.N. mission in New York said Shin did indeed escape twice to China.3 Between escapes, the release said, Shin failed to show “true regret” and made no effort to “redeem his crime.”North Korea and witnesses it showcased in its videos also accused Shin of being a “criminal,” a thief who fled the country after raping a thirteen-year-old girl. He categorically denies any rape but acknowledges he did steal clothes and food while traveling across North Korea during his escapes to China. North Korea has not presented evidence that Shin was arrested or tried for rape but says he fled to China after committing his crime. North Korea’s videos have explained Shin’s scars as the result of various mining accidents and a childhood mishap that spilled “hot dog food” on his lower back when he was two.In one government-released video,4 Shin was stunned to see his father, Shin Gyung Sub, whom he had thought was dead. The father insists in the video that neither he nor his son had ever lived in a “so-called political prison camp.” But the father himself also undermines that claim. He says that Shin was a young boy in the town of Pongchang, which at the time was inside the borders of a political prison.5North Korean records seem to support Shin’s contention that he was born in a part of Camp 14 that was incorporated into Camp 18 when he was six or seven. The shift in administrative borders occurred in 1984, according to records located by Curtis Melvin, a researcher for the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.Based on the limited information in these records, Melvin said Shin’s story about being born and living as a small child in Camp 14 is “plausible.” Researchers at two respected human rights groups in Seoul share this assessment.6 But records do not explicitly delineate camp borders. Instead, they show that Shin’s home area was part of Kaechon County, where Camp 14 is located, until 1984. Then it came under the jurisdiction of Pukchang County, which administered Camp 18.Ahn, the former prison guard, said it would have taken two or three years after the official change of county borders in 1984 before the political police in Camp 14 handed over control of Shin’s home area to the less restrictive regular police who ran Camp 18. Ahn believes that during that time Shin would likely have been living in conditions very much like those described in Escape from Camp 14.“Shin probably did grow up until he was six or seven as a very restricted prisoner,” Ahn said. He and other human rights groups say more research is necessary to determine with certainty whether Shin was indeed born in Camp 14. Yet, by his father’s videotaped admission, Shin was a child inside Camp 18 and lived just 1.3 miles from the borders of Camp 14.After North Korea attacked Shin by name in the late fall of 2014, the security authorities in South Korea began providing him with twenty-four-hour police protection. In the past, North Korea has sent assassins to Seoul to try to kill high-visibility defectors.—Before Shin arrived for the first time in South Korea in 2006, he said he spent several months in Shanghai, waiting inside the South Korean consulate for clearance to travel to Seoul. He learned from consulate staff that he would have to give an account of his life to South Korea’s National Intelligence Service.When he heard about the coming interrogation, he was frightened and said he began to formulate a sanitized version of his life story. It omitted fingernail torture and his role in the execution of his mother and brother.“It was a way of streamlining my story; it just happened,” he told me. “In China I never wrote down anything, just worked it out in my head.”Having composed this script, Shin stuck to it during weeks of questioning by South Korean intelligence. Matthew E. McMahon, then an interrogator with U.S. Army Intelligence, also questioned Shin and remembers that he seemed severely traumatized. But McMahon also said that the story he heard from Shin was remarkably consistent with what he would say over and over again in future press interviews.While the stories of many trauma victims tend to change over time, Shin’s did not. He kept it straight by writing it down as soon as he could. He did so in the Seoul offices of the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights, which gave him office space, a place to live, and two years of psychotherapy.“It was Shin’s idea to write his book, and he did it by himself. We only corrected the spelling and grammar,” said Alice Sunyoung Choi, director of international communications for the Database Center, which published the Korean-language memoir in 2007, just a year after he arrived in South Korea.After that, Shin often instructed curious reporters to “read my book.”His one significant change in the script was with me in 2010, when we were winding up interviews for this book. He told me that he had not been truthful about the reasons for the executions of his mother and brother.When Shin made this admission, I asked him what else he had been lying about. He claimed then that there was nothing else. But now he says he was on the brink of spilling his long-repressed secrets.“I was beginning to tell you the truth, but I just stopped,” he said. “It was too painful. There were parts I could not stand recalling. At that point, I made up my mind not to tell anyone the truth. I would have covered it up forever if my father hadn’t appeared in the video.”—When the video was posted on YouTube in October 2014, Shin struggled to suppress his alarm. For a while, he succeeded.From my home in Seattle, I reached him and asked him to explain what was going on. Why was his father saying that he and Shin had never been in a political prison? Shin said his father was under pressure to lie (which does seems likely) and that he was worried about what North Korea would do to him next. To explain himself, Shin wrote (with my editing help) an op-ed for the Washington Post.7 In it, he asked North Korea to let him see his father, while insisting that he would not be silenced. Shin said the same thing in a meeting with the editorial board of the New York Times.8The video, meanwhile, angered Camp 18 survivors in Seoul. They began to grumble and privately accused Shin of being a liar.Among the survivors was Kim Hye Sook, who spent twenty-eight years in Camp 18 before being released and finding her way to South Korea in 2009. Like Shin, she has testified around the world and written a book about her life.Kim, who is sixty-two, recognized Shin’s father in the video, as well as his uncle, who also appeared in it. She said she knew Shin’s mother, having attended years of political “reeducation” meetings with her in the camp. Kim also remembered watching the 1996 execution of Shin’s mother and brother. (She says both were shot; Shin says only his brother was shot and his mother was hanged.)The North Korean video confirmed Kim’s long-held suspicion that Shin had grown up in Camp 18. When she and Shin had made joint appearances for human rights events, she felt Shin avoided talking to her about prison life. She found his behavior suspicious. After seeing the video, she was furious. She now says she cannot believe anything he says.“He gave North Koreans an excuse to say we are all liars and to deny its human rights abuses,” she told me. “Now, when I come forward with my story, somebody might be suspicious of me. I have to watch my back.”A few days after the video of his father appeared, Shin went to see Ahn, the former prison guard and human rights activist whom he had come to regard as his “big brother.” Shin admitted he had lived in Camp 18 and conceded that other parts of his story were not accurate.According to both men, Ahn advised Shin to wait awhile before going public. He said they should remain silent until after the UN Security Council considered a General Assembly resolution that referred North Korea to the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity. The Security Council debate took place in December 2014, with no action taken.—As Shin now tells it, he escaped Camp 18 twice, once in the spring of 1999 and again in the late winter of 2000, crawling under the same section of electric fence both times. He barely felt any voltage in the fence the first time and none the second. By the late 1990s, parts of Camp 18 were much less restrictive than in previous decades, and some areas were poorly guarded, according to Kim Hye Sook and the testimony of others who lived in the camp.The first escape, Shin said, was suggested by his father, who gave his eighteen-year-old son a letter and told him to go to the home of Shin’s aunt in Mundok County, a journey of about thirty miles. According to Shin, it took him two weeks to find the place, and when he arrived, camp guards were waiting for him. They brought him back to Camp 18 and sent him to a detention center near the Taedong River, where he did forced labor, including work at a nearby hydroelectric dam (as described in Escape from Camp 14). After about a year and a half, he said, he escaped again.This time he made it to China (as North Korea acknowledges) and worked there cutting trees for four months before local police caught him. North Korea says Shin was repatriated from China and “transferred back to our law enforcement agencies” in 2002. Shin said the date was 2001.Guards again took him back to Camp 18 and allowed him to see his father one last time. A description of this final and sullen leave-taking occurs in Escape from Camp 14, although the location and timeframe differs from the one Shin now describes. After seeing his father, Shin said, he was driven across the Taedong River to a detention and torture facility inside Camp 14.Shin located the building for me on Google Earth. He had located the same building for a 2012 interview with 60 Minutes. It appears to be surrounded by a high wall and looks like a National Security Agency facility, according to Ahn, the former guard who said he has seen similar buildings at four political prison camps.“The place in Camp 14 that Shin has pinned as the location of his torture is clearly a detention center,” Ahn said. “This is the most horrible place in the camp. There is usually a basement room used for torture. When a camp is closed, these are the first places guards blow up to remove evidence.”After about a month of torture (Shin lost track of time), he spent six months in a detention center cell, where he said an elderly prisoner helped him recover. Shin said he was then released into the general camp population. For the next three years, he worked in a mine, on a farm, and then in a uniform factory. Much of this, he said, is as described in Escape from Camp 14.Shin’s knowledge of the camp’s geography and the function of its many buildings has impressed several human rights investigators. “We can only tell you that we are certain that he had been in Camp 14 because of the things he knew about the operation of the camp and his knowledge of construction projects inside it,” said Alice Sunyoung Choi of the Database Center in Seoul. (His knowledge of Camp 18’s geography and its buildings also squares with that of longtime resident Kim Hye Sook.)Shin maintains that his January 2005 escape from Camp 14 occurred as described in this book, noting that the extraordinary scars on his legs were caused by that camp’s high-voltage electric fence.But some details of his escape differ from what he has said before: He was motivated to escape, he now says, because he had been informed that he was scheduled to be executed in February of that year. He also said he was not nearly as naive as he had earlier claimed to be about the world outside the camp’s fence.There are no witnesses to confirm any of this, and some Camp 18 survivors, including Kim Hye Sook, have said Shin could not have escaped Camp 14 and made it all the way to China since no one else is known to have done it. One Camp 18 survivor (who has declined to grant interviews) has told human rights activists that the inmate Shin claims was his accomplice in escaping Camp 14 actually died elsewhere in a mine accident.Ahn, too, has questions.“I can understand that he might be able to get out of the camp because guards are not always alert,” he said. “But his escape would have created an alert. How could he pass the security points in North Korea? How come no one caught him in the train station?”Shin said security forces did look for him in 2005, but he knew how to travel anonymously across North Korea because he had done it before, having used the same escape route in 2001. Until more evidence emerges, that is where his story stands, with Shin turning up in China in 2005.—Experts have known with certainty about the scale of suffering in the North Korean gulag since at least 2003, when eyewitness testimony was correlated with satellite pictures. Since then, as satellite imagery has been refined, there has been a flood of reports, white papers, and commission findings. Scores of camp survivors have given accounts of murder, rape, beatings, torture, slave labor, and starvation.But for much of the past decade the general public, especially in the United States, barely noticed.This is not an anomaly. The suffering a totalitarian state secretly inflicts on its own people has historically been difficult for nonexpert outsiders to comprehend or care about.What can change public perception is a powerful story about one individual.Consider Stalin’s gulag. The Western world focused its attention on labor camps in the former Soviet Union only after the publication of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, a short novel based on Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s eight years in the gulag.Spare, quick to read, and emotionally explosive, the book became the single most searing indictment of the gulag, even though it appeared in 1962, nine years after Stalin died and the camps began to close.Shin, of course, is no Solzhenitsyn. He is not a poet, a journalist, or a historian. Raised in a dysfunctional family in a secret prison, badly educated, and tortured, he is a flawed eyewitness to the savagery of the world’s last totalitarian state. As he has often said of himself, he is an “animal” slowly learning how to be a human being.It is not his fault he became globally famous during that learning process. I am accountable for that, along with plenty of other journalists and human rights groups. It is our business to grab the attention of a mass audience and to focus it on horror in distant places. We know how to do it: tell a human story, shattering and short.Shin’s life is such a story. It is not fiction. It is journalism and history built around one young man’s memory, as refracted through a collapsed scheme to hide from trauma, torture, and shame. It should now be read in the light of all that Shin is willing to acknowledge and correct. As such, it reveals the depravity that North Korea continues to deny.PREFACEA TEACHABLE MOMENTHis first memory is an execution.He walked with his mother to a wheat field near the Taedong River, where guards had rounded up several thousand prisoners. Excited by the crowd, the boy crawled between adult legs to the front row, where he saw guards tying a man to a wooden pole.Shin In Geun was four years old, too young to understand the speech that came before that killing. At dozens of executions in years to come, he would listen to a supervising guard telling the crowd that the prisoner about to die had been offered “redemption” through hard labor, but had rejected the generosity of the North Korean government. To prevent the prisoner from cursing the state that was about to take his life, guards stuffed pebbles into his mouth, then covered his head with a hood.At that first execution, Shin watched three guards take aim. Each fired three times. The reports of their rifles terrified the boy and he fell over backward. But he scrambled to his feet in time to see guards untie a slack, blood-spattered body, wrap it in a blanket, and heave it into a cart.In Camp 14, a prison for the political enemies of North Korea, assemblies of more than two inmates were forbidden, except for executions. Everyone had to attend them. The labor camp used a public killing—and the fear it generated—as a teachable moment.Shin’s guards in the camp were his teachers—and his breeders. They had selected his mother and father. They taught him that prisoners who break camp rules deserve death. On a hillside near his school, a slogan was posted: ALL ACCORDING TO THE RULES AND REGULATIONS. The boy memorized the camp’s ten rules, “The Ten Commandments,” as he later called them, and can still recite them by heart. The first one stated: “Anyone caught escaping will be shot immediately.”—Ten years after that first execution, Shin returned to the same field. Again, guards had rounded up a big crowd. Again, a wooden pole had been pounded in the ground. A makeshift gallows had also been built.Shin arrived this time in the backseat of a car driven by a guard. He wore handcuffs and a blindfold fashioned from a rag. His father, also handcuffed and blindfolded, sat beside him in the car.They had been released from eight months in an underground prison inside Camp 14. As a condition of their release, they had signed documents promising never to discuss what had happened to them underground.In that prison within a prison, guards tried to torture a confession out of Shin and his father. They wanted to know about the failed escape of Shin’s mother and only brother. Guards stripped Shin, tied ropes to his ankles and wrists, and suspended him from a hook in the ceiling. They lowered him over a fire. He passed out when his flesh began to burn.But he confessed nothing. He had nothing to confess. He had not conspired with his mother and brother to escape. He believed what guards had taught him since his birth inside the camp: He could never escape and he must inform on anyone who talks about trying. Not even in his dreams had Shin fantasized about life on the outside.Guards never taught him what every North Korean schoolboy learns: Americans are “bastards” scheming to invade and humiliate the homeland. South Korea is the “bitch” of its American master. North Korea is a great country whose brave and brilliant leaders are the envy of the world. Indeed, he knew nothing of the existence of South Korea, China, or the United States.Unlike his countrymen, he did not grow up with the ubiquitous photograph of his Dear Leader, as Kim Jong Il was called. Nor had he seen photographs or statues of Kim’s father, Kim Il Sung, the Great Leader who founded North Korea and who remains the country’s Eternal President, despite his death in 1994.Although he had not been important enough for brainwashing, Shin had been schooled to inform on his family and on his classmates. He won food as a reward and joined guards in beating up children he betrayed. His classmates, in turn, tattled on him and beat him up.—When a guard removed his blindfold, when he saw the crowd, the wooden pole, and the gallows, Shin believed he was about to be executed.No pebbles, though, were forced into his mouth. His handcuffs were removed. A guard led him to the front of the crowd. He and his father would be spectators.Guards dragged a middle-aged woman to the gallows and tied a young man to the wooden pole. They were Shin’s mother and his older brother.A guard tightened a noose around his mother’s neck. She tried to catch his eye. He looked away. After she stopped twitching at the end of the rope, Shin’s brother was shot by three guards. Each fired three times.As he watched them die, Shin was relieved it was not him. He was angry with his mother and brother for planning an escape. Although he would not admit it to anyone for fifteen years, he knew he was responsible for their executions.INTRODUCTIONNEVER HEARD THE WORD “LOVE”Nine years after his mother’s hanging, Shin squirmed through an electric fence and ran off through the snow. It was January 2, 2005. Before then, no one born in a North Korean political prison camp had ever escaped. As far as can be determined, Shin is still the only one to do it.He was twenty-three years old and knew no one outside the fence.Within a month, he had walked into China. Within two years, he was living in South Korea. Four years later, he was living in Southern California and was a senior ambassador at Liberty in North Korea (LiNK), an American human rights group.In California, he rode his bike to work, followed the Cleveland Indians (because of their South Korean slugger, Shin-Soo Choo), and ate two or three times a week at In-N-Out Burger, which he viewed as the world’s finest burger.His name is now Shin Dong-hyuk.* He changed it after arriving in South Korea, an attempt to reinvent himself as a free man. He is handsome, with quick, wary eyes. A Los Angeles dentist has done work on his teeth, which he could not brush in the camp. His overall physical health is excellent. His body, though, is a road map of the hardships of growing up in a labor camp that the North Korean government insists does not exist.

Editorial Reviews

"Harden’s book, besides being a gripping story, unsparingly told, carries a freight of intelligence about this black hole of a country." —Bill Keller, The New York Times “The central character in Blaine Harden's extraordinary new book Escape from Camp 14 reveals more in 200 pages about human darkness in the ghastliest corner of the world's cruelest dictatorship than a thousand textbooks ever could . . . Escape from Camp 14, the story of Shin's awakening, escape and new beginning, is a riveting, remarkable book that should be required reading in every high-school or college-civics class. Like "The Diary of Anne Frank" or Dith Pran's account of his flight from Pol Pot's genocide in Cambodia, it's impossible to read this excruciatingly personal account of systemic monstrosities without fearing you might just swallow your own heart . . . Harden's wisdom as a writer shines on every page.” —The Seattle Times "U.S. policymakers wonder what changes may arise after the recent death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, this gripping book should raise awareness of the brutality that underscores this strange land. Without interrupting the narrative, Harden skillfully weaves in details of North Korea's history, politics and society, providing context for Shin's plight.” —The Associated Press“A book without parallel, Escape from Camp 14 is a riveting nightmare that bears witness to the worst inhumanity, an unbearable tragedy magnified by the fact that the horror continues at this very moment without an end in sight.” —Terry Hong, Christian Science Monitor“A remarkable story, [Escape from Camp 14 ] is a searing account of one man’s incarceration and personal awakening in North Korea’s highest-security prison.” —The Wall Street Journal“As an action story, the tale of Shin’s breakout and flight is pure The Great Escape, full of feats of desperate bravery and miraculous good luck. As a human story it is gut wrenching; if what he was made to endure, especially that he was forced to view his own family merely as competitors for food, was written in a movie script, you would think the writer was overreaching. But perhaps most important is the light the book shines on an under-discussed issue, an issue on which the West may one day be called into account for its inactivity.” —The Daily Beast“A riveting new biography . . . If you want a singular perspective on what goes on inside the rogue regime, then you must read [this] story.  It’s a harrowing tale of endurance and courage, at times grim but ultimately life-affirming.” —CNN“[Shin’s] tale becomes even more gripping after his unprecedented journey . . . after he realizes that he has been raised as something less than human. He gradually, haltingly—and, so far, with mixed success—sets out to remake himself as a moral, feeling human being.” —Fred Hiatt, The Washington Post“If you have a soul, you will be changed forever by Blaine Harden’s Escape from Camp 14 . . . Harden masterfully allows us to know Shin, not as a giant but as a man, struggling to understand what was done to him and what he was forced to do to survive. By doing so, Escape from Camp 14 stands as a searing indictment of a depraved regime and a tribute to all those who cling to their humanity in the face of evil.”—Mitchell Zuckoff, New York Times bestselling author of Lost in Shangri-La"This is a story unlike any other . . . More so than any other book on North Korea, including my own, Escape from Camp 14 exposes the cruelty that is the underpinning of Kim Jong Il’s regime. Blaine Harden, a veteran foreign correspondent from The Washington Post, tells this story masterfully . . . The integrity of this book, shines through on every page.” —Barbara Demick, author of Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea“In Escape from Camp 14, Harden chronicles Shin’s amazing journey, from his very first memory—a public execution he witnessed as a 4-year-old—to his work with human rights advocacy groups in South Korea and the United States . . . By retelling Shin’s against-all-odds exodus, Harden casts a harsh light on a moral embarrassment that has existed 12 times longer than the Nazi concentration camps.  Readers won’t be able to forget Shin’s boyish, emancipated smile—the new face of freedom trumping repression.” —Will Lizlo, Minneapolis Star-Tribune“Blaine Harden of the Washington Post is an experienced reporter of other hellholes, such as the Congo, Serbia, and Ethiopia. These, he makes clear, are success stories compared to North Korea . . . Harden deserves a lot more than; ‘wow’ for this terrifying, grim and, at the very end, slightly hopeful story of a damaged man still alive only by chance, whose life, even in freedom, has been dreadful.” —Literary Review“Harden tells a gripping story. Readers learn of Shin’s gradual discovery of the world at large, nonadversarial human relationships, literature, and hope—and the struggles ahead. A book that all adults should read.” —Library Journal (starred review)“[A] chilling [and] remarkable story of deliverance from a hidden land.” —Kirkus Reviews“With a protagonist born into a life of backbreaking labor, cutthroat rivalries, and a nearly complete absence of human affection, Harden’s book reads like a dystopian thriller. But this isn’t fiction—it’s the biography of Shin Dong-hyuk.” —Publishers Weekly