Shin Dong-hyuk is the only known person to have escaped North Korea’s labor camps, and here he tells his horrifying story to Blaine Harden. In order to survive the camp, Shin (who was born inside the camp to parents who had done nothing wrong) had his mother and brother executed; the dream of grilled meat and an outside world he could barely imagine led him to risk his life. Harden relates his story in flat, undramatic language that seems to undermine the violence of Shin’s life but also serves to highlight such savagery as a fact of Shin’s daily existence.
Harden inserts snapshots of North Korean history into Shin’s personal odyssey; though awkward and repetitive at times, these asides provide important background for understanding how and why these labor camps persist.
Harden points out that anyone can see these labor camps on Google Earth.