John Delury reviews Escape from Camp 14, the story of one man’s escape from a North Korean prison camp, in the LA Review of Books:
Most of Escape takes place just north of Pyongyang in a prison camp 30 miles wide and 15 miles long, where in 1982 the book’s protagonist, Shin Dong-hyuk, was born to an inmate couple whose “reward” for good behavior was an arranged marriage. Camp 14 is a kind of hell on earth told from the perspective of a child growing up there, not unlike Roberto Benigni’s La vita è bella without the comic relief. The 15,000 inmates live in a constant state of near-starvation and perpetual terror of not only the guards, but also of one another. Violent beatings, sudden executions, and sexual abuse are daily events. Fifty-year-old men are considered elderly, and children beat one another without remorse. There is no love, nor family, nor sociability, nor trust. There are only hunger and fear, re-education through labor during the day, self-criticism sessions at night, and in between, a few hours sleep on a concrete floor.