Shin Dong-hyuk: Born into a North Korean prison camp

Cover.EscapefromCamp14-1

Despite official denials of their existence, North Korea’s political prison camps have been in operation for six decades, long enough for generations to have been born and raised within their electrified fences. In all that time, no one born inside the camps had ever escaped — until Shin Dong-hyuk crawled over the body of a dead companion and though a hole in the fence in 2005.

Veteran foreign correspondent Blaine Harden told Shin’s story on the front page of the Washington Post in 2008, hoping his harrowing tale would alert American readers largely ignorant of the camps’ existence. “Shin’s story is so powerful and has so many cinematic elements to it that it’s very effective in catching people’s interest,” Harden says. “It became clear that his story was a way of reaching people who don’t normally pay attention to foreign affairs or to North Korea.”

That initial article grew into the bestselling book “Escape From Camp 14,” which recounts Shin’s life of forced labor and abuse at the hands of camp guards and his own family. It wasn’t until they’d met more than a dozen times that Shin was able to reveal his deepest secret, however: his complicity in the execution of his mother and brother.

Following that confession, Harden was forced to examine Shin’s story in a new light. “As I thought it through,” he says, “it increased his credibility from my point of view. There was no reason for him to tell this story that made him look so bad. And there’s the evidence of the scars on his body, which are not faint etchings that you need a microscope to see; they’re overwhelming, ghastly disfigurements of his body.”

Ideally, Harden says, accounts like those in his book will increase international pressure on North Korea to close the camps, which recent satellite imagery suggests are expanding. “I’m not optimistic that the camps are going to disappear anytime soon,” he admits. “But knowledge is better than ignorance, and Shin feels like all the misery that he went through and all the guilt that he carried has not been for nothing.”

If you go:

Blaine Harden

Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.
Philadelphia Central Library
1901 Vine St.
Free, 215-567-4341
www.freelibrary.org

Wednesday, 6 p.m.
United Nations Association of New York
Institute of International Education
809 United Nations Plaza, Kaufman Center
$15, 212-907-1353
www.unanyc.org



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Newest java joint in bastion of hipness is…

Little may represent the change the neighborhood is undergoing right now like the arrival of the first Starbucks. The chain which is ubiquitous in Manhattan, opened a Williamsburg store at…

National

Black and white are the new orange at…

By Brendan O'Brien(Reuters) - Black and white are the new orange in a Michigan county where the sheriff has made a wardrobe change for jail…

National

Traps set after reports of giant snake on…

New Jersey animal control workers have set traps to snare a reported 20-foot-long serpent slithering through the waters of Lake Hopatcong.

Local

NYPD: Stroller carrying 2-year-old rolls onto Queens subway…

A 2-year-old girl in a stroller rolled onto subway tracks in Queens on Monday morning, police said.

Entertainment

‘The Leftovers’ recap: Season 1, Episode 4, ‘B.J.…

Last week’s episode of “The Leftovers” was apparently a fluke, because this week’s episode returns to focusing on the Garveys and it is so boring.…

Movies

Interview: Luc Besson says 'Lucy' is very different…

Filmmaker Luc Besson talks about his new film "Lucy," how it's different than "Limitless" and his crazy first conversation with Egyptian actor Amr Waked.

Music

Weezer releases first new song since 2010

Weezer releases "Back to the Shack," their first new song in almost six years.

Movies

Benedict Cumberbatch plays a different kind of genius…

The man known worldwide for his portrayal of London's eccentric private detective Sherlock Holmes is trading his Belstaff coat for tweed this fall. Benedict Cumberbatch…

NFL

'Vicktory dogs' travel road to rehabilitation seven years…

Of the dozens of dogs groomed by Bad Newz Kennels, 48 were rescued and 22 of the pit bull terriers have emerged at Best Friends Animal Society.

MLB

Yankees looking at trade for Cliff Lee, according…

Yankees looking at trade for Cliff Lee, according to report

NFL

Giants lineman Chris Snee to retire: Reports

The Giants report to training camp on Tuesday, but Chris Snee may not be there when they do.

NBA

Carmelo Anthony talks about his charity work in…

As he is used to doing every year, NBA All-Star Carmelo Anthony is going to visit Puerto Rico to do work for his foundation.

Tech

RocketSkates let users roll with a motor

Los Angeles company Acton has raised funds on Kickstarter to roll out a nifty alternative – motor-powered "RocketSkates."

Tech

Knicks star Carmelo Anthony becomes a tech entrepreneur

He's been an All-Star, an Olympian, and a celebrity spokesperson. Now NBA player Carmelo Anthony is adding the position "tech entrepreneur" to his resume. Along…

Tech

Ulises 1 is the world's first singing satellite

A group of artists and engineers in Mexico have unveiled Ulises 1, the world's first opera-singing satellite.

Home

Wallscape on a budget

Skip the wallpaper and ombre an accent wall instead.