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Saturday, 15 June 2013

Blaine Harden - Escape from camp 14

reviewed live on book show Thurs 13th June by  Maggie Perkovic
The story of the only man to escape from prison in North Korea.
This is an incredible book. He was born in a vast gulag to a mother and father who came
together for about five days, to create another slave. When he was old enough he joined
the child workers who have to work under conditions that even Dickens would find
deplorable. Their clothing is minimum, they know nothing about life outside, the only music
is military, the only radio blares out political cant. Shin Dong Hyuk doesn't know about
love, he betrayed his own mother and her oldest son when he found out they were
trying to escape. That's what you learn to do in a Gulag, to save your own skin, tell tales
on your fellow prisoners. Unfortunately he was only thirteen, and the man he told, pretended
that he was the one who found out the secret plans, and Shin was punished with torture,
burnt, starved and thrown into a cell with no hope of an end to his torment.
He was taken to see his mother hung, his brother shot, but all he felt was
anger that he had been punished for their planned escape.
As he grew up he worked in different departments, one attending to sewing machines.
Accidentally dropping on by accident, he was punished with amputationof a finger.
So far so desperate, but in the first cell he meets an older man who tells him of
life outside. The man was there for ever for some offence, and wanted to pass
hope to the lad in case he ever escaped.
The next time he met a new internee was to change his life as they planned their
Blaine Hardern tells this story with compassion and integrity. He investigated his story
thoroughly, and explains that Shin with all that has happened to him is not
a particularly likeable person, but as a document of a country that has often been
in the news lately, this book taught me a lot about North Korea.
I recommend wholeheartedly.  Maggie Perkovic.

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