"Escape from Camp 14": Blaine Harden at the World Affairs Council
This Wednesday, July 11, the Asia Society Northern California and World Affairs Council will host a discussion with Blaine Harden, former Washington Post journalist and author of the bestselling book Escape from Camp 14, moderated by Ploughshares Fund Executive Director Philip Yun.
In a blog post on City Brights, Philip challenges his readers:
Name this country: six Soviet-style labor camps are scattered across the nation. Two hundred thousand prisoners labor in these political prisons, with little hope of ever returning home and the likelihood of death from hard labor or worse a part of everyday life.
The country is North Korea, and these labor camps are the subject of Harden’s Escape from Camp 14. In the book, Harden follows the journey of Shin Dong-hyuk, the only person who was born in a camp known to have escaped.
In an interview with the Asia Society, Harden explained why he chose to focus on Shin’s story rather than the labor camps more broadly:
I focused on Shin’s story because it is irresistible, even for readers who know nothing about North Korea. It is an escape adventure, a story of a profoundly dysfunctional family, a story of the awakening of a young man to his own humanity. And of course it is a fascinating and horrifying window into the operation of North Korea’s gulag.
The book is indeed an adventure, chronicling Shin’s childhood in Camp 14 and his subsequent escape to China, South Korea, and ultimately the United States. Through Shin’s story the reader is awakened to the horrendous human rights abuses – the routine torture, public executions, and starvation rations – that are a part of the North Korean gulag system, and that have received surprisingly little attention in the West.
As Philip writes, “Right now, we are limited in what we can do, but we all can work harder to stay informed, share the word, and strive to overcome indifference.”
To learn more or buy tickets, visit the World Affairs Council website.
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