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MelindaB

Reading Maketh a Full Man...

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Currently reading

The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature (Canto)
C.S. Lewis
Boys and Girls Learn Differently!: A Guide for Teachers and Parents
Michael Gurian, Terry Trueman, Patricia Henley
Ambition and Survival: Becoming a Poet
Christian Wiman
Deep River: The Life and Music of Robert Shaw
Keith C. Burris
Daring, Trusting Spirit
John De Gruchy
The Vatican Diaries: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Power, Personalities, and Politics at the Heart of the Catholic Church
John Thavis
The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia
Orlando Figes

Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West

Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West - Blaine Harden A worthwhile book, a quick read, and a sobering revelation. The real situation in North Korea is rarely exposed to western eyes. The communist totalitarian regime has created one of the worlds most malnourished, uneducated, suppressed and backward populaces in the world. What the "upper classes" see as luxury would hardly be considered status quo in other developed nations. Those in political favor receive blankets, fruit and electronic equipment (DVD players and radios). If these are luxuries, then it shows you how barren the life is for those who are not in political favor. Political prison camps are known to exist because of satellite pictures and the reports of some few escapees. The North Korean government denies the existence of these camps. They have existed since the 1950's. In all that time, no one who born into one of the "no exit" camps has ever escaped and lived to tell about it until Shin Dong-hyuk. Born in Camp 14 in 1982, he escaped to China in 2005.Shin's parents were rewarded for hard work in Camp 14 by being allowed to "marry". Shin's father spent 5 days per year with his wife. They had two sons, the youngest was Shin. Shin was taught the rules of the prison and lived by spying on others (including his own family), and stealing food when possible. The word of the guards was considered law and all allegiance and loyalty was to them. Family relations, friends, schoolmates are all viewed with suspicion and distrust. Kept hungry, few of those born into these camps ever escape because they literally do not know about the world outside the camp. Shin was kept in school with other children who were born in the camp, to keep them from finding out about life outside of North Korea. All of Shin's energy iwas spent in trying to get enough to eat. It is hard to think high and lofty thoughts when you are constantly weak and dizzy from hunger.Shin overhears his mother and his older brother talking about escaping. As he was taught, he informs on both of them. He is given some privileges as a result because he is a "good snitch". He and his father are brought to the front to witness the execution of his mother and his brother. At the time he feels no emotion except anger because now he is branded as the son of a traitor and is beaten and abused by his teachers and schoolmates. Shin meets two prisoners who expose him to thoughts and ideas outside of life in the camp. Initially motivated by food and the desire to have a full stomach, he eventually plots with his fellow prisoner, Park, to escape. Park dies in the escape attempt because he is electrocuted by the fence. Shin literally climbs over the dead body of his friend to escape to China. Shin's adjustment to live outside of North Korea and outside of the prisoner camp is difficult. Raised like an animal with only enough food and education to help him work, Shin distrusts everyone and distrusts any attempts to help him. Questioning causes great distress in any North Korean refugee, because it brings memories of interrogations and torture sessions. The adjustment problems Shin had (has) reminded me of the Romanian babies in orphanages who had their basic bodily needs taken care of, but were never nurtured. Never held or loved, they seem to be missing an emotional portion of their brain that never developed.Shin eventually expresses remorse and sorrow for the part he played in the death of his mother and brother. He also expresses regret and sorrow for the torture he knows that his father endured because of Shin's escape. He now lives in Washington DC and Seoul and tries to bring awareness of the plight of North Koreans to the world. Shin continues to struggle with basic human relationships, forgiveness, and trust. It is indeed a miracle that he escaped. May his story open up more and more eyes to the truth of totalitarian communist governments, and help with the overthrow of these wicked systems.