Thursday, June 27, 2013

Escape from Camp 14, by Blaine Harden

Barnes & Noble

A New York Times bestseller, 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 Donghyuk did.

Escape from Camp 14, acclaimed journalist Blaine Harden tells the story of Shin 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.

Well, that was sobering.  I had absolutely no idea -- NONE -- that things were so bad in North Korea; I felt sick to my stomach on more than one occasion.  It was really hard to listen to the account of Shin's life in Camp 14: starvation; torture; lack of parental affection; and worse.

I can't even...

It really puts things into perspective, you know?  I have a good job, a wonderful husband, two great children, fantastic friends, and a loving extended family.  I don't live under a constant threat of execution.  I'm not in a constant state of hunger.  When I'm cold, I can put on warm clothes, sturdy shoes, and a comfy coat.  If I disagree with a government policy, I won't be arrested for sending a letter or expressing my opinions.

I listened to the audiobook version, as narrated by the author.  He did a great job with the voice-over work, but the editing was shoddy.  Maybe it's because I work in multimedia production that I noticed the timing and voice quality issues, or maybe it's because I listen to a lot of audiobooks.  In either case, I'm surprised that Blackstone Audio released this recording as their final product.

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