May 212013
 

camp14Shin Dong Hyuk was born into slavery in Prison Camp 14 in North Korea.  He is also the only person to have survived an escape attempt.  This is his story as told to Washington Post reporter Blaine Harden.  Tens of thousands of North Koreans are locked up, many for being the offspring of perceived enemies of the state, e.g., nieces or nephews of relatives that defected to South Korea.  Children are raised from birth like so many industrially produced piglets knowing deprivation, hunger, disease, and competition for survival.  Death threats are real and executions, often for petty crimes like food theft of fraternizing with members of the opposite sex are commonplace and witnessed by all.  Frankly, the dehumanization of inmates by prison guards does not seem all that unusual in light of what we know about torturous regimes throughout history.  Not to make light of Shin’s despicable treatment, but what stands apart in this account is the emotional scarring that Shin continues to bear even after years of counseling and PTSD treatments in the west.  Having had his developmental years so stunted psychologically he still finds it terribly difficult to trust, to plan for the future, to comprehend money, to think of anything beyond food.

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