Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden

17471104Release date: April 1st 2013

Publisher: Pan Books

Number of pages: 252

Genre: Non-Fiction / World Issues

“Twenty-seven years ago, Shin Dong-hyuk was born inside Camp 14, one of  five sprawling political prisons in the mountains of North Korea. Located about 55 miles north of Pyongyang, the labour camp is a ‘complete control district’, a no-exit prison where the only sentence is life.

No one born in Camp 14 or in any North Korean political prison camp has escaped.

No one except Shin.

This is his story.”


 More people need to know about the issues presented in this book. Blaine Harden has weaved Shin Dong-hyuk’s incredible story with facts and information about North Korea that aren’t commonly known. I think Escape from Camp 14 is the only non-fiction book that I started and actually finished. I usually just skim through non-fiction books and/or read excerpts. But that was not the case with this book.

I was surprised that Shin Dong-hyuk was so truthful about his past – all the inhumane feelings and scenes that he experienced and witnessed. That is one thing I really like about this book: even though it was probably tough for Shin to share his past with millions of people, he did and as far as we know, he was very truthful. Betrayal, murder and selfishness are very closely tied with Shin’s past and they are aspects that are not shown lightly. I believe that Shin trusted in the readers to share in his experiences without judging him, but instead understanding his situation and in turn learning about the atrocious crimes committed around the world and what we can do to stop them. I agree with Barbara Demick’s (author of Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea) comments about Escape from Camp 14: “The integrity of this book shines through on every page…A story unlike any other.”

This book follows Shin Dong-hyuk from when he was a young child growing up in the prison camp in North Korea to his escape from Camp 14 and North Korea, and the aftermath to it all. Shin bears mental and physical scars from his ordeal in the Camp – but he doesn’t view it as an ordeal, but as what used to be his life. His story enlightens us to all the awful things happening inside the  North Korean political prison camps, including rules and punishments and the general attitude of prisoners and guards.

I strongly urge you to read Escape from Camp 14. It’s one of those books that should be on everyone’s to-read list, even if you have no interest whatsoever in North Korean prison camps, the hundred of thousands of prisoners and/or the one person born in a camp to escape and live. Shin Dong-hyuk’s is a historic story, one that everyone should know about.


Considering this is a non-fiction book, I am going to change my rating system just to suit.

Information: 2/2

Structure: 2/2

Writing style: 1/1

This book definitely had that extra factor, but in a slightly different way to the other books, so +1 (out of a possible 2).


Happy reading,



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