Shin Dong-hyuk is the only person to have been born and raised in a North Korean prison camp — and to have escaped to the West. For 23 years, Shin lived a life with no hope of anything better because he didn’t know anything better existed. All his energy was spent in trying to get enough food and stay out of the way of the prison guards who could inflict beatings or worse for no particular reason.

Blaine Harden is a journalist who reports for PBS Frontline and contributes to The Economist. He was The Washington Post correspondent in Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia, as well as in New York and Seattle. He has also written for the New York Times and Time Magazine.

Harden’s new book “Escape From Camp 14″ is the result of many interviews with Shin Dong-hyuk over several years. It took a long time for Shin to trust Harden, or anyone, including himself.

This book puts the spotlight on what many people are not aware of” there are 5 giant concentration or “labor” camps inside North Korea where political prisoners are held and sometimes released after months or years of labor, or sometimes they are simply worked to death.


Some people are born, live and die in the camps, like Shin. Marriage is considered a privilege and prison guards are the ones who pick out which man will marry which woman. Basically, they decide who will “breed” new people for their work force.  malnutrition and starvation cause many to die in the camps.

Blaine Harden and Shin Dong-hyuk hope this book pushes countries to focus on the human rights violations that have been going on for decades inside North Korea.


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