The road to the South Korean launch of Shin Dong-Hyuk’s memoir of his life inside a North Korean concentration camp has been a long one. His account is the harrowing story of a boy born in the notorious “Camp 14” to parents who showed little affection towards him, such was their own daily struggle for survival. He endured 22 years of hard physical labour, imprisonment, torture and meager rations before learning of the possibility of a life outside. His escape took place by crawling over the dead body of his accomplice who was electrocuted on the fence through which they sought to flee, before he passed through China and eventually made it to South Korea.
Since his arrival in South Korea, Shin has campaigned internationally to raise awareness of the human rights abuses taking place in North Korea. In 2007 he published an initial version of his story in South Korea which gained little attention. But his new account, written by journalist Blaine Harden, has become a bestseller and has finally been made available to a South Korean audience. Though Shin’s story is particularly shocking, given that he was born and raised inside a concentration camp, it follows a series of books written in collaboration with various foreign journalists and authors by North Koreans telling their stories of life and escape from North Korea.