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Escape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West | [Blaine Harden]

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

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.
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Publisher's Summary

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.

Blaine Harden is a contributor to the Economist and has formerly served as the Washington Post’s bureau chief in East Asia, Eastern Europe, and Africa. He is the author of Africa: Dispatches from a Fragile Continent and A River Lost: The Life and Death of the Columbia. He lives in Seattle, Washington.

©2012 Blaine Harden (P)2012 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

“If you have a soul, you will be changed forever by Blaine Harden’s Escape from Camp 14…Harden masterfully allows us to know Shin, not as a giant but as a man, struggling to understand what was done to him and what he was forced to do to survive. By doing so, Escape from Camp 14 stands as a searing indictment of a depraved regime and a tribute to all those who cling to their humanity in the face of evil.” (Mitchell Zuckoff, New York Times best-selling author of Lost in Shangri-La)

“This is a story unlike any other…More so than any other book on North Korea, including my own, Escape from Camp 14 exposes the cruelty that is the underpinning of Kim Jong Il’s regime. Blaine Harden, a veteran foreign correspondent from the Washington Post, tells this story masterfully…The integrity of this book shines through on every page.” (Barbara Demick, author of Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea)

“With a protagonist born into a life of backbreaking labor, cutthroat rivalries, and a nearly complete absence of human affection, Harden’s book reads like a dystopian thriller. But this isn’t fiction - it’s the biography of Shin Dong-hyuk.” (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.2 (546 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Christopher Dons Chicago, IL USA 07-14-12
    Christopher Dons Chicago, IL USA 07-14-12 Member Since 2013

    Chris

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    "One tough listen but a story everyone should hear"
    What did you love best about Escape from Camp 14?

    The no frills, matter-of-factness with which the details of life in a labor camp are laid out gave it a gut-wrenching punch thats difficult to describe. There were some chapters I had to stop in the middle of just to fathom how hellish and how 'other' reality is for this country. Some images and scenes will be forever burned into memory. The comparison this book made that has yet to leave me now months after reading this is that concentration camps in Nazi Germany, in many cases (Aushwitz for example) were open for only 3 years. These North Korean labor camps have been running for 50 years, starving entire generations and in some ways creating even more insidious torture for people who are born, raised and die there without ever knowing a different life. You cannot read this book and keep your world view intact, it will be changed.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Shin of course was a captivating character. A balanced portrayal of a life scarred in so many ways and yet resilient. You want to hug him, hate him, cry for him, sometimes all at the same time.


    Which character – as performed by Blaine Harden – was your favorite?

    The absence of dramatic effects, almost like a black and white film vs an over the top computer generated film give the facts this story roll out a piercing quality that pokes all the way to the reader's soul. Seriously, I did have to stop and digest some of the scenes and ask myself how far can humanity really go when turned on itself.


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    H. Bard TX USA 07-16-13
    H. Bard TX USA 07-16-13 Member Since 2011
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    "Riveting story but narrator a bit distracting"
    What did you love best about Escape from Camp 14?

    Out of this world story. I cannot believe it's true. Stories like this are why I prefer non-fiction over fiction.


    Would you be willing to try another one of Blaine Harden’s performances?

    I don't know. Mostly he was fine but once I realized it sounded like 2 people were reading it in the middle of sentences, it became difficult to listen without distraction. It seemed as if they went back in later & re stated portions of sentences. Therefore volume & inflection can vary in a single sentence. It's not terribly often but once I noticed it, it drove me a little nutty. If you haven't listened yet, try to forget I mentioned this. The story is incredible & this quirk is easily overlooked.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    SF San Francisco 02-21-13
    SF San Francisco 02-21-13
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    "Detracted by authors poor reading"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    yes but not audio


    How could the performance have been better?

    Overly pronounced 't''s, sound not consistently modulated. Could readily tell when author stopped and started and the sound level was inconsistent.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tim United States 12-15-12
    Tim United States 12-15-12 Member Since 2010

    I use my left foot to type my reviews.

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    "Spoken in the Third Person"

    I watched the interview on 60 Minutes and I was looking forward at reading Shin's memoir. It was interesting to listen to about his life in the labor camp in North Korea, but there is something missing. There is not enough of his story in "Escape from Camp 14." Blaine Harden tells Shin's life as a magazine article that you would find at a doctor's office.

    Shin's story is not well told. Shin wrote a book about his life in Korean. I would much rather listened to his version of his life because it would had been more compelling than a journalist telling his story in the third person.

    Plus, Harden narrating of his own book is just bad. He has no sense of pace. It is as if he is glancing over the newspaper and reading the headlines.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kathleen Minneapolis, MN, USA 08-28-12
    Kathleen Minneapolis, MN, USA 08-28-12 Member Since 2005
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    "A true story of a rare escape from North Korea."

    Over several months, Blaine Harden interviewed one of the only people who successfully escaped from one of the prison camps in North Korea and who got out of the country. He had known nothing but this prison for his entire life. His family was placed there because his uncle tried to escape North Korea, and he was born there. For 23 years he lived with basically no love for anyone, or anyone for him, and with his only goal to survive and to have enough to eat. We get to see some of the transformation that had to occur taking him from almost an animal predator, to a man who learns something about giving and receiving love, and we know he still has a long way to go. He gets out of camp and manages to escape first to China, then to South Korea, and finally to the United States. It’s a very unsettling book and compelling reading.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Diane OROVILLE, CA, United States 08-14-12
    Diane OROVILLE, CA, United States 08-14-12 Member Since 2012
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    "Every American should read this"
    What did you like best about this story?

    It gave me an insight to a culture I knew nothing about. And it exists as we go about our life in the USA very comfortable. Do we really understand how fortunate we are to have our freedom.


    What about Blaine Harden’s performance did you like?

    Fabulous


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Melissa Fairfax CA Usa 06-05-12
    Melissa Fairfax CA Usa 06-05-12 Member Since 2009
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    "We should be aware of this horror!"

    I had no idea as to the extent of horror being perpetrated in North Korea. It is happening NOW under our noses - just the way the Holocaust did (for a much shorter time) and we are often filled with disbelief when those generations say they were not aware of it happening.
    So now -the very least we can do is be aware of this situation and this book is a very fine way to do it. It easily holds your attention - it does not need to add anything to be 'sensational' or 'shocking' - it is that without trying - but written and read very very well.
    It is a terrible thing that this is happening. Thank you for bringing this to our hearts and minds.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    tracie United States 05-28-12
    tracie United States 05-28-12 Member Since 2012
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    "A must read for every American."
    Would you consider the audio edition of Escape from Camp 14 to be better than the print version?

    I don't know I haven't read the book.


    What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

    That the Korean Leader is pure EVIL!!!! How any nation can stand on the side knowing that this is happening to the citizens of any country and do nothing, is beyond my understanding. I heard this man expressing his frustration after giving speech after speech and no Governments are doing a thing to stop this EVIL. All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to stand by and do nothing:


    Have you listened to any of Blaine Harden’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    no this is the first


    If you could give Escape from Camp 14 a new subtitle, what would it be?

    How Evil Works Inside a country lead by a dictator.


    Any additional comments?

    God forgive us for electing leaders who are cowards.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jim Silver Spring, MD, United States 05-12-12
    Jim Silver Spring, MD, United States 05-12-12
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    "Mr. Harden should have got a pro to read it"

    You should not find it possible to read this book and then go on about your business of thinking of North Korea as only a country unfortunately ruled by mad monsters. One feels bound to do something to help. The single major -- but very critical -- problem is the amateurish reading performance by the author, marked by literally hundreds of obvious and thus ill-fitting and distracting edits and changes of intonation, reading speed and timbre. I imagine there had to be a good reason for this, but I can't imagine what that reason was. Mr. Harden, you're a pro in the writing, but get a pro to do the reading next time.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thomas Lodi, CA, United States 05-11-12
    Thomas Lodi, CA, United States 05-11-12 Member Since 2007
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    "A Great Story"
    Any additional comments?

    The author unfolds this incredible story in such a way as it becomes an adventure. Shin is really the North Korean Ishi.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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