Saturday, May 11, 2013
Book 100: Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden (Audiobook)
North Korea is a mystery to many of us. What I have heard scares me. Very few people are allowed into the country, and those that are do not see the brutal reality of life in North Korea. In this book, we learn through Shin's experience that people who were considered subversives as far back as the 1960's have a very serious punishment: imprisonment for them and their families for the next two generations. The idea is to exterminate the entire family line or bleed the "subversive" out of them. Beatings, mental abuse, and physical degradation are the government's methods. People are literally worked to death.
Outside of the camps, in a country where an electric rice cooker is considered a status symbol, you can probably expect that poverty is rampant. Kim Jong Il, his father, and now his son represent the only three-generation dictatorship that has ever existed on earth. The family embezzles the country's resources and leaves the leftovers for the citizens. The country can never be totally self-sufficient but will not allow trade with outside countries. Black market trading is rampant. Shin's own escape was made possible through bribery of starving border guards. The situation is frighteningly dire. All I kept thinking was, "These people are supposed to be developing a nuclear program? With what?"
I was surprised at what Shin revealed to the author Blaine Harden in their interviews. His account is not only riveting, but it was very brave - and risky - for him to share it with us.
My reaction to this book was one of the greatest appreciation.