Escape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West Audiobook | Blaine Harden | Audible.com
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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

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  •  
    Amanda Phoenix, AZ, United States 05-17-12
    Amanda Phoenix, AZ, United States 05-17-12 Member Since 2010

    I rate as follows: 5 Stars = Loved it. 4 Stars = Really liked it. 3 Stars = Liked it. 2 Stars = Didn't like it. 1 Star = Hated it.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Worthwhile, but difficult on many levels."

    As the beginning of this book points out, there seems to be little attention given to the stunning suffering and abuse currently being experienced by the North Korean people. Because so few escape to tell their stories, little is known of these political prison camps that hold so many – some since their birth, with this being the only “life” they will ever know.

    Be warned that the book is much like an extended news article; this makes sense since it was written by a news reporter. The sound quality of the production is terrible, and the editing in places is painfully poor. It appears there was not much budget available for this important book, which is a shame.

    That being said, I encourage everyone to devote the trivial 5 hours and 31 minutes it takes to listen to this story. I think it’s the least we can do to begin to understand the criminal atrocities these people as a nation are currently attempting to survive.

    23 of 23 people found this review helpful
  •  
    D. Jacobsen Ohio 04-16-12
    D. Jacobsen Ohio 04-16-12 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Geat Memoir"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I love personal memoirs, and this one is particularly well done and engaging. There is a good balance of Shen's personal story and the overall politics of North Korea and how it fits into the world.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The pace of the story and its editing are very good. The story kept my attention and the reader/author is better than most. I was leery, because I find that authors who read their own works are usually not the best narrators.


    What???s the most interesting tidbit you???ve picked up from this book?

    Although many memoirs are touching and emotionally provoking, I found this book to really hit a chord about understanding the impossibility of growing up to be a normal functioning human when one is raised under inhumane conditions. PTSD to the nth degree. Shen and similarly neglected and abused persons, I think, require much support to live in the world at large, with all of its sensory overload and social complexity. Although I knew about North Korea and many of its deplorable conditions, the people of North Korea now have a daily place in my heart, and I pray for them, each and every one.


    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Teresa Lukey VANCOUVER, WA, United States 05-06-12
    Teresa Lukey VANCOUVER, WA, United States 05-06-12 Member Since 2012

    I love reading and going on vacation with my family.

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    Story
    "A STORY THAT WILL DISTURB AND MOTIVATE YOU!"

    Once upon a time there was crazy SOB, who ran a country. He decided that anyone who opposes him must be eliminated, in fact it appears to remain a family tradition. This SOB decided that 3 generations of bad blood must be eliminated, therefore it became acceptable to work these people to death or simply kill them at will. Upon finishing this book, I thought I'd give it a 4-star rating, but as I cannot get this one out of my head, I am upping my rating to 5-stars. The author did a great job of capturing not only the life of someone born and raised in a North Korean work camp, but he opened my eyes to the life the average North Korean lives-impoverished and afraid.

    This book is the story of Shin Dong-hyuk. Born to parents who were given an opportunity to have children for their adeptness at snitching. As you can imagine, this was not a nurturing environment for a child and Shin grew to be a snitch and thought of his mother of little more than a competitor for food. Shin had siblings, but did not have a relationship with the and only knew of their activities in a vague sense. Love was not something found in these camps, where people work to harvest rice and mine coal, even amongst the families.

    Children attend elementary schooling until 10 years of age, at which time they start working. Shin and a group of his classmates were assigned to bring coal up from the mines at 10 year of age. Needless to say, one child was injured when a cart rolled back and crushed her big toe. The child was taken to receive medical treatment, where she had her toe amputated and treated with salt water. Work was not allowed to stop as a result of the accident. This was also the case when part of a dam collapsed during construction and crushed several people working in the area.

    Not only does North Korea not have the means available to take care of its captives, the people who live outside the camps have long been suffering due to low food availability. After Shin escapes from the camp, he finds life on the outside not much better, other than these people are not beaten and force in to degrading tasks. Shin eventually makes it out of North Korea by bribing starving border guards with food and cigarettes, enabling him to get to China. Over the next year, Shin attempts works as a ranch hand and a dishwasher to earn the cash needed to survive and find his way to South Korea before he is found out by the Chinese government and sent back to North Korea. Yes, that's right, they send these people back to their country, so they do not have a rush of people crossing that need support and as to not "offend" its neighbor.

    There are as many as 200,000 people imprisoned in North Korean work/concentration camps, the largest camp being 25 miles wide by 31 miles long. Yes this is a huge area, something like the size of Los Angeles and it is all enclosed by fencing and guard towers. I hoped on google earth to check out the areas these camps are in and there is no doubt about it-they are there, but North Korea continues to deny there existence.

    Eventually Shin finds his way to South Korea. As it happens, South Korea will help anyone who escapes from North Korea. They re-educate these people, provide psychological assistance, medical treatment, a place to live and even a monthly stipend of $800 for two years, while these people attempt to create a normal existence for themselves.

    I cannot stop thinking about this book and how it has opened my eyes. The atrocities documented in this book are disturbing to say the least, but people need to know what is going on in North Korea. I have been telling everyone I know about North Korea's treatment of its people and what is being done about it. One thought that keeps plaguing me regarding North Korea is, why isn't someone doing everything in their power to eliminate the people in charge of this country with WMD? We have entered in to a war before for similar reasons, but I feel like we turn a blind eye to this country. Why? Do they have to fire on us first? Or, do they just not have anything that will directly benefit us? I'm not one to understand the politics behind something, but I am angered by the treatment these peole are enduring. Read this book, spread the word, let's get these people some help. Visit the One Free Korea website for more information.

    13 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Diana Xenia, OH, United States 04-16-12
    Diana Xenia, OH, United States 04-16-12 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Geat Memoir"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I love personal memoirs, and this one is particularly well done and engaging. There is a good balance of Shen's personal story and the overall politics of North Korea and how it fits into the world.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The pace of the story and its editing are very good. The story kept my attention and the reader/author is better than most. I was leery, because I find that authors who read their own works are usually not the best narrators.


    What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

    Although many memoirs are touching and emotionally provoking, I found this book to really hit a chord about understanding the impossibility of growing up to be a normal functioning human when one is raised under inhumane conditions. PTSD to the nth degree. Shen and similarly neglected and abused persons, I think, require much support to live in the world at large, with all of its sensory overload and social complexity. Although I knew about North Korea and many of its deplorable conditions, the people of North Korea now have a daily place in my heart, and I pray for them, each and every one.


    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard Anniston, AL, United States 06-03-12
    Richard Anniston, AL, United States 06-03-12 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A Story that needs to be told"
    Would you listen to Escape from Camp 14 again? Why?

    I highly recommend this book to anyone.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No it not. This book has too much raw emotion and I could not handle it all in one sitting


    Any additional comments?

    Something needs to be done about the repressive government in North Korea. How can we just sit on their hands and do nothing about it. We have been hearing stories for some time now about conditions in North Korea. If we continue to do nothing it will be like ignoring the stories that were coming out of Nazi occupied Europe during WWII of the extermination camps. History will judge us on how we responded to this tyranny How will that story be told, will it be one that we are proud of, or will we be so ashamed of our inaction?

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    pam Vero Beach, FL, United States 04-09-12
    pam Vero Beach, FL, United States 04-09-12 Member Since 2011
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    "A true, tragic story. Could not put it down."
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I would recommend this to anyone who wants to know how lucky free nations are.


    What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

    The survival of a human being.


    What about Blaine Harden’s performance did you like?

    I love to hear the author read his own book. Blaine was no exception.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I will never forget this story. It reminds me how lucky I am to be an American.


    7 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gary Elkridge, MD, United States 04-23-12
    Gary Elkridge, MD, United States 04-23-12
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    "Interesting and heartbreaking"

    Can this be true? Its ridiculous that a human condition and psyche can be created like this.
    Its a fascinating story and worth listening to.

    The reader was a bit monotonous and there were clear audio edits all the time with different quality and mics.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Julie W. Capell Milwaukee, WI USA 11-25-13
    Julie W. Capell Milwaukee, WI USA 11-25-13 Member Since 2007

    notthe1

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    "Disturbing but important book"

    For a long time, I have thought of myself as someone who is interested in international human rights, but I have really never given much thought to the situation in North Korea. This book really changed my ideas on the topic. Now that I have finished this slim volume, I find it difficult to understand how the world has allowed the suffering of the North Korean people to continue for so long. From the story of this one escapee, it has become clear to me that the entire country is basically one huge concentration camp. I guess the threat of nuclear weapons explains why the western democracies have allowed this situation to fester for so long, but even so it seems something ought to be done.

    This audio book was read by the author. The performance was fairly well done and I would recommend this version of the book.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    C. A. Dees CA United States 09-19-13
    C. A. Dees CA United States 09-19-13 Member Since 2000

    C. A. Dees

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Compelling and important - marred by bad narration"
    What made the experience of listening to Escape from Camp 14 the most enjoyable?

    This is an important story for anyone concerned about the struggle for human rights in the world. It is almost inconceivable that the man at the center of this story, Shin Dong Hyuk, was able to survive the brutality of perhaps the most notorious prison in North Korea, but even more so, to escape and find his own sense of humanity and a modicum of peace.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Shin's fellow inmate who tells him stories about life outside the prison, and in so doing, introduces Shin to the idea of kindness for kindness's sake -- a book about that alone would be fascinating.


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

    Not likely, though I would read one of his books.


    What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

    That the most brutal prisons in North Korea don't bother to indoctrinate prisoners about "the Great Leader," etc., because there's no point. Those prisoners aren't leaving and there is no pretense of re-education along the party line. They are, simply, slaves.


    Any additional comments?

    While the text itself was good (if a little lacking in passion) the narration was truly awful. The author's reading itself was tolerable, though monotone and without any real inflection. However, that, combined with choppy editing, varying sound levels and equalization, made for a difficult listening experience over the span of several hours. This seemed to be edited by someone who had no experience editing voice recordings. Breaths are cut off, there are no pauses between sentences or even paragraphs, and there was little awareness of flow. A book this important deserves a thoughtful, professional narration.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Christopher Dons Chicago, IL USA 07-14-12
    Christopher Dons Chicago, IL USA 07-14-12 Listener Since 2004

    Chris

    HELPFUL VOTES
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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
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