September 3, 2013

Escape from Camp 14

"Perhaps the scale of the atrocity numbs moral outrage."  
                                                                 The Economist Magazine

The 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.

Laws like:

-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.

Shin said:

"...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."


" 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:

"I 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 becoming human."

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.

Please pray.

Buy it HERE on Amazon


  1. Hello, I recently saw this book at a bookstore. I have it on my list to read. Thank you for the review. And I am praying with you.

    1. Hi Carla, thanks for stopping by and for praying along.

  2. This is so heartbreaking. I had never heard of these camps in North Korea before. I can't imagine how terrifying it is to live like that daily and not seeing any way of escape. Wow.

    Thank you for bringing this book and Shin's story to our attention, Cathy. I'm here praying with you.

  3. Wow. This is so heartbreaking, yet God was always there. Never left him.

    Thank you for linking up with Woman to Woman's Word Filled Wednesday! God bless!

    1. Thanks for stopping by Jennifer and for the opportunity to link up at your site!

  4. Wow, this sounds like an uncomfortably thought-provoking book that forces one to consider the questions of suffering, sin, and the nature of man.

    1. Yes, it definitely gives you a lot to think about.

      Thanks for stopping by Anna!

  5. Wow! I barely made it through your review without crying! What a powerful book! I pray for North Korea often, but you have helped to fuel my prayers further! Thanks so much for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday!
    Tina from

    1. Glad your praying too Tina! Thanks for stopping by. : )


Feel free to leave your own thoughts in the comments. I try to respond to all of them by the end of the week. : )