Part horror story, part historical document, part memoir, part political tract, this record of one man's suffering gives eyewitness proof to an ongoing sorrowful chapter of modern history....
In this rare insider's view into contemporary North Korea, a high-ranking counterintelligence agent describes his life as a former poet laureate to Kim Jong-il....
North Korea is like no other tyranny on Earth. Its citizens are told their home is the greatest nation in the world, and Big Brother is always watching....
Nothing to Envy follows the lives of six North Koreans over fifteen years - a chaotic period that saw the unchallenged rise to power of Kim Jong-il....
Eunsun Kim was born in North Korea, one of the most secretive and oppressive countries in the modern world. As a child, Eunsun loved her country....
Born in 1970s North Korea, Lucia Jang grew up in a typical household - her parents worked in the factories, and the family scraped by on rations....
An extraordinary insight into life under one of the world's most ruthless and secretive dictatorships....
Andrei Lankov has gone where few outsiders have ever been....
Until I Say Good-Bye: My Year of Living with Joy is a moving and inspirational memoir by a woman who makes the most of her final days after discovering she has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)....
Most people want out of North Korea. Wendy Simmons wanted in....
A haunting memoir of teaching English to the sons of North Korea's ruling class during the last six months of Kim Jong-il's reign....
For the first time, Kenneth Bae tells the full story surrounding his arrest and imprisonment in North Korea....
In Order to Live is the story of Yeonmi Park's struggle to survive in the darkest, most repressive country on earth....
The Accusation is a deeply moving and eye-opening work of fiction that paints a powerful portrait of life under the North Korean regime....
When two of his American employees were held hostage in a heavily guarded prison fortress in Iran, one man took matters into his own hands....
Blaine Harden tells the riveting story of how Kim Il Sung grabbed power and plunged his country into war against the United States....
No country is as misunderstood as North Korea, and no modern tyrant has remained more mysterious than the Dear Leader, Kim Jong Il....
Every Falling Star is the intense memoir of a North Korean boy named Sungju who is forced at age 12 to live on the streets and fend for himself. To survive, Sungju creates a gang....
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.
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.
37 of 38 people found this review helpful
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.
25 of 28 people found this review helpful
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.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
I've always felt that it is important to include books that reflect the reality of our imperfect world along with my regular indulgences into the Sci Fi and Mystery genres. My recent purchase, Escape from Camp 14 was a powerful true story that had me outraged about the labor camps in North Korea. So why did I only give it two stars in that category?
In January of 2015 the prisoner, Shin Dong-hyuk, recanted parts of his story. It was published in 2012 and fortunately I waited until 2015 to listen to it. Otherwise I would have been indignantly blathering on about a false story for three years. I still think it is horrible over in North Korea labor camps. There is too much other evidence to deny this fact. But, Shin Dong-hyuk has recently recanted parts of this story that had moved me so intensely. The remaining stuff still reflects badly on the North Korean regime, but it is tough to know if this is not more of the same and made up.
This is the first time I've given out a spoiler that may have ruined the story. Google certainly is a great leveler when researching the truth. It even returned a North Korean propaganda film of Shin's dad responding to the book. That sounded phoney and untrustworthy as well. So now I will probably never know the real true story about a defector who probably experienced torture and injustice at the hands of a brutal dictatorship and felt the need to overstate and lie about it.
I started out intending to write a review demanding that you read this book. After a bit of research it has ended up as a piece that will probably discourage potential listeners - and I still need to find a non fiction book to balance out my appetite for fiction.
16 of 18 people found this review helpful
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.
10 of 11 people found this review helpful
Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?
Interesting information but needs a different narrator.
What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?
Truthful information, including that the escapee is a flawed individual and unable to adapt to life outside the prison.
How could the performance have been better?
Narrator is the author, flat and boring tone to his voice.
Any additional comments?
Narration leaves a lot to be desired. Flat monotone and edits of the read are very obvious.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
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?
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
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.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
I appreciated "Nothing to Envy" by Barbara Demick... the understanding it brought of the North Korean people and lifestyle meant a great deal to me... despite the poor narration and rough writing style. This book is much shorter and less convoluted as it follows just the story of Shin Dong-hyuk, who was born in detention Camp 14 in North Korea and knew no other life. It also has issues with writing style and narration... written in an irritating 3rd person and narrated by the author... however, I couldn't stop listening. The horrific mental and physical abuse he and his family suffered, his unbelievable escape and struggles adapting to freedom are heartbreaking. Mr. Harden's 3rd person style does allow him to explain the politics of the region and recent events. Very much worth my time to listen and learn.
6 of 7 people found this review helpful
Finally, a book without fluff where no word is superfluous. Excellent story, writing and narration. It far exceeded my expectations and I ended up listening to it, virtually straight through. Highly recommended.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful