23 Years in a North Korean Prison Camp

Escapee, born in prison, tells of routine, stunning torture
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 11, 2008 7:27 AM CST
14,431 people have defected from Kim Jong-Il's North Korea to the South.   (©Borut Peterlin)
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(Newser) – There are 14,431 North Korean defectors living in South Korea, but only one, Shin Dong-hyuk, who escaped from a Northern prison camp. In an interview with the Washington Post, Shin describes the daily horrors of life inside Kim Jong-Il's gulags, from fire torture to mutilation. He committed no crime—he was born in the camp—and is struggling to adjust to life in the South 3 years after his escape.

Guards cut off the tip of Shin's middle finger for accidentally dropping a sewing machine at the factory where he performed slave labor. Later, he was dangled over a fire and pierced with a steel hook to force him to confess to an escape plot he knew nothing of. He spent 7 months in an underground cell, to be released only to watch his mother hanged and brother shot to death. Shin escaped over an electric fence and made his way to China and then South Korea—where he worries that "rapid growth and prosperity has made them forget."