"Perhaps the scale of the atrocity numbs moral outrage."
The Economist Magazine
scale of horrific abuse, brainwashing, rape, and torture going on in
North Korean camps right now is so hard for us in the western world to comprehend.
After reading this book I felt
so helpless. Is there anything I can do to make any kind of difference?
I can pray
and I can tell you about it, so you can pray too. So here goes...
I've heard and read stories of people who lived in concentration camps, brought there by war, but never a story by someone who was born and raised in one.
Shin In Geun was born in Camp 14. A labor (prison) camp in North Korea.
He shares his unbelievable story with author Blaine Harden, a story which was difficult to read.
The first sentence is horrifying on its own:
"His first memory is an execution."...Shin was 4 years old.
In these camps, from a young age, children are taught they must work hard to wash away the sins of their parents. The 10 laws of camp 14 are drilled into them.
-Do not try to escape. Anyone caught escaping will be shot immediately.
-Guards must be obeyed unconditionally. Anyone who harbors ill will toward or physically assaults a guard will be shot immediately.
-Anyone who sees a fugitive or suspicious figure must promptly report him. Anyone who provides cover for or protects a fugitive will be shot immediately.
Prisoners are taught to snitch, at all times. If they know something and don't report it and are found out, they will be shoot immediately. This fear is instilled in the children of camp 14.
This fear causes prisoners, especially children, to do unthinkable things to survive. Shin is still dealing with things he did and the guilt that floods him.
"...if outsiders could understand what political prison camps have done - and are doing - to children born inside the fence, it would redeem his lie and his life."
"...how the camp had warped his character."
The prisoners also have to deal with starvation on a daily basis. Many punishments involve the withdrawal of food, sometimes for weeks. A few kernels of corn were found on one little girl and the teacher beat her to death in front of Shin's class.
Even sadder is that these children feel nothing. They live in constant fear and are brainwashed that anyone punished deserves it.
Shin says of his state now:
"I am evolving from being an
animal. But it is going very, very slowly. Sometimes I try to cry and
laugh like other people, just to see if it feels like anything. Yet
tears don't come. Laughter doesn't come."
And later he says:
did not know about sympathy or sadness. They educated us from birth so
that we were not capable of normal human emotions. Now that I am out, I
am learning to be emotional. I have learned to cry. I feel like I am
He continues with making it clear he has a long way to go:
"I escaped physically, I haven't escaped psychologically."
I don't know where Shin is in his relationship with God. There is only one paragraph near the end of the book that refers to his beliefs:
"In California, Shin began giving God all the credit for his escape from Camp 14 and for his good fortune in finding a way out of North Korea and China. His emerging Christian faith, though did not square with the time line of his life. He did not hear about God until it was too late for his mother, his brother, and Park. He doubts too that God had protected his father from the vengeance of guards."
This quote would have me think he is struggling with his faith, a faith and a God he had never heard of growing up. A faith that struggles with the whys. But after reading his story I could see how God was working throughout Shin's life. There were times I had to put the book down and just say, wow, God, You really were there.
-I could see God in the old mans hands who nursed Shin's back after he was held over a fire.
-I could see God when not one guard saw him escape.
-I could see God in providing a warm coat.
-I could see God in the people Shin meets after his escape.
-and I could see God loving Shin through people, who loved Him.
Shin says of his life now, that:
"He cannot enjoy his life when there are people suffering in the camps. He sees happiness as selfishness."
And the book ends with this:
"He said he would never stop talking about what happened to him inside Camp 14 until North Korean gulag was shut down and all its prisoners were set free."
Shin continues to speak to groups about his experiences and sheds light on whats going on in North Korean camps.
Buy it HERE on Amazon