North Korean Gulag Survivor Tells His Tale

Book recounts his sending his own mother and brother to execution
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 31, 2012 8:52 AM CDT
North Korean Gulag Survivor Tells His Tale
In this book cover image released by Viking, "Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West," by Blaine Harden, is shown.   (AP Photo/Viking)

(Newser) – Born in North Korea's largest and most infamous internment camp, Shin In Geun was raised behind electrified, barbed-wire fences in some of the most horrid conditions imaginable—constantly malnourished, beaten regularly, and forced to endure backbreaking labor every day. When Shin was just 13, he ratted out his older brother's escape plans for some extra rations and a small promotion in his school—but in fact, the only "rewards" Shin got for the betrayal were days of torture, months of solitary confinement, and, six months later, a front-row seat to his brother's and mother's executions, writes Blaine Harden in the Atlantic.

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Nine years after watching those executions, Shin decided to escape Camp 14. In the dead of winter, he slid through the fence, walked to the border and into China. Two years later, he made it to South Korea and renamed himself Shin Dong-hyuk; two years after that he moved to California. In earlier stories, Shin presented himself as innocent in the camp, but now he admits that growing up in the camp made him just as brutal as the rest of the guards and prisoners. "I was more faithful to guards than to my family," says Shin. "There is no sense of community. I am one of those mean prisoners." Read the full article here. Author Harden also has a book about Shin's horrifying experiences and desperate escape, Escape From Camp 14. (Read more North Korea stories.)

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