Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Escaping North Korea

While listening to The Current on CBC Radio1 this week, I learned about the incredible story of the life of Shin Dong-hyuk.

Shin Dong-hyuk is a 30 year old North Korean man who was born and raised in a North Korean prison camp. He is believed to be the only person born in the infamous Camp 14 to ever successfully escape. His story is harrowing and offers a unique perspective into the twisted workings of the camp and of those unfortunate souls who are forced to remain there. The story of Shin Dong-hyuk's brutal life has been told by journalist Blaine Harden in his new book Escape From Camp 14.

Escape From Camp 14: one man's remarkable odyssey from North Korea to freedom in the West
(M) 2012
by Blaine Harden

"The shocking story of one of the few people born in a North Korean political prison to have escaped and survived.

North Korea is isolated and hungry, bankrupt and belligerent. It is also armed with nuclear weapons. Between 150,000 and 200,000 people are being held in its political prison camps, which have existed twice as long as Stalin's Soviet gulags and twelve times as long as the Nazi concentration camps. Very few born and raised in these camps have escaped. But Shin Dong-hyuk did.

In Escape from Camp 14, acclaimed journalist Blaine Harden tells the story of Shin Dong-hyuk and through the lens of Shin's life unlocks the secrets of the world's most repressive totalitarian state. Shin knew nothing of civilized existence-he saw his mother as a competitor for food, guards raised him to be a snitch, and he witnessed the execution of his own family. Through Harden's harrowing narrative of Shin's life and remarkable escape, he offers an unequaled inside account of one of the world's darkest nations and a riveting tale of endurance, courage, and survival." - publisher

Also consider:

Somewhere Inside : one sister's captivity in North Korea and the other's fight to bring her home (M) 2009
by Laura Ling and Lisa Ling

"*Starred Review* In 2009, Laura Ling, a reporter with Current TV, traveled with a film crew to the region of China that bordered on North Korea to report on defections, particularly of women who were later forced into arranged marriages or sex slavery. The crew momentarily crossed into North Korea, and Ling and Euna Lee, her editor and translator, were captured. Given the hostilities between North Korea and China and a recent critical documentary on North Korea by Laura's sister, journalist Lisa Ling, the women knew they were in for an ordeal....

This memoir alternates between the sisters, with Laura recalling the escalating peril of her capture and imprisonment and Lisa recalling heightened worries as weeks dragged into months. A riveting story of captivity and the enduring faith, determination, and love of two sisters.” - Booklist

Long Road Home : testimony of a North Korean camp survivor
(M) 2009
by Kim Yong with Kim Suk-Young

"Kim Yong shares his harrowing account of life in a labor camp-a singularly despairing form of torture carried out by the secret state. Although it is known that gulags exist in North Korea, little information is available about their organization and conduct, for prisoners rarely escape both incarceration and the country alive. Long Road Home shares the remarkable story of one such survivor, a former military official who spent six years in a gulag and experienced firsthand the brutality of an unconscionable regime.

Like the work of Solzhenitsyn, this rare portrait tells a story of resilience as it reveals the dark forms of oppression, torture, and ideological terror at work in our world today." -publisher

The World is Bigger Now : an American journalist's release from captivity in North Korea-- a remarkable story of faith, family, and forgiveness (M) 2010
by Euna Lee with Lisa Dickey

“In this stunning first book, film editor Lee recounts the months she spent in a North Korean prison during the spring and summer of 2009. Lee and her coworker, Laura Ling, were arrested for entering North Korea from China while working on a documentary chronicling the dreadful privations faced by North Korean defectors once they reached China, conditions especially harsh for women, as many were sold into the sex trade or forced into marriage. Lee discusses in detail the time she and Ling spent in captivity, divulging the scare tactics employed by the guards, like all-day interrogations in an attempt to gain "suitable" confessions. Maintaining her sanity by thinking constantly of her family and praying in secret, Lee rises above illness and a looming 14-year prison sentence to paint a lucid self-portrait.” Publisher’s Weekly

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