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Literature / Escape from Camp 14

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Escape from Camp 14 is a biographical work about Shin Dong-hyuk, the only prisoner to escape from Camp 14, an infamous prison camp in North Korea. He was also the only known escaper who was born there. He spent the first twenty two years of his life behind bars before meeting a prisoner named Park whose stories about the outside world convinced him to escape.

Shin has admitted to falsifying parts of his story.


Escape From Camp 14 contains examples of:"

  • City in a Bottle: The prisoners who are born in Camp 14 have no knowledge of the outside world, and often believe that the camp is the whole world. The Cult of Personality around the Kim family isn't even present there. Shin only started to really think about getting out when he met Park, an older prisoner who actually knew about the rest of the world and told Shin about it.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: The guards love to do this.
  • Crapsack World: North Korea. In fact, upper-class citizens in good standing with the government don't really have much more in the way of possessions and amenities than an upper-middle class American family.
  • Dirty Coward: How Shin and other North Korean defectors view not only South Korea's indifference to human rights violations in North Korea, but shrugging off random acts of military violence on North Korea's part that caused hundreds of South Korean deaths since the so-called ceasefire. South Koreans even protested ex-North Koreans sending balloons filled with anti-Kim propaganda northwards.
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  • Disproportionate Retribution: The policy of guilt by association means that anyone accused of treason can be sent to a place like Camp 14 with their whole families and expect to spend their whole lives there. Any children born in the camp are also doomed to spend their whole lives there without ever knowing why they are there.
  • Defector from Commie Land: Shin Dong-Hyuk
  • Great Escape: Shin and Park's plan to escape from camp 14.
  • The Gulag: Camp 14 is this, altough compared to the ones in Russia or China, this one is the mother of all the Hell hole Prisons.
  • Harmful to Minors: Even teachers are cruel to children and will not hesitate to kill them without a second thought.
  • Hellhole Prison: Camp 14 is not a pleasant place to be locked-up, period.
  • It's All About Me: Sadly, this is the one and only way to survive for everyone. Shin live for so long because he hid scraps of food and look out for himself above everyone else.
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  • Karma Houdini: Kim Jong Ill, Kim Jong Un, and the prison guards at camp 14.
  • The Promised Land: First China is this to Shin, then South Korea where he truly is free. He struggle to lead a normal life however, as he still carry both physical and emotional scars. The cultural shock is also overwhelming.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: The Guards at the camp regularly rape female prisoners, often without punishment.
  • Sadistic Teacher: Shin remembers one of the teachers beating a fellow student to death for stealing three kernels of corn.
  • Scars Are Forever: Shin still has scars on his body from the torture he was subject to.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The guards will subject the most inhuman horrors to children as they would to the adults.


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