Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden (review by Soham K. ’17)

Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the WestEscape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West by Blaine Harden
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A heart-wrenching and terrifying book, Escape from Camp 14 traces the life of Shin, a prisoner trapped in a “complete control center” hidden in the shadowy mountains of North Korea. His sole crime? Being the grandson of a man who fled south during the disastrous Korean War. The only documented escape and defection from a control center, Shin’s story is harrowing. Certain incidents are forever etched in my mind, such as when a starving five-year old girl, found with five kernels of corn, is brutally beaten to death by her “teacher.” Or when Shin—at age 13—is tortured when his mother and brother try to escape. Or his dramatic escape and triumphant repatriation to South Korea. Powerfully rendered through his spare prose, Harden vivifies Shin’s monumental struggles and his subsequent integration into the free world. The author’s ability to open musty doors and expose the carnage committed daily in North Korea makes Escape from Camp 14 an exposé extraordinaire. Those upset by horrific, albeit true, detail may wish to stay away. For those willing to bear witness, this is a must-read. – Soham K. ‘17

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