FULLY BOOKED Behind the wall of secrecy: Escape from Camp 14

Talk April 24, 2012 7:00 PM

Little is known about the prison camps of North Korea where it is estimated that 200,000 are imprisoned. Many are born in the camps and generations of families are imprisoned because one of their relatives has been detained.

Shin Dong-Hyuk is one such case. He was born 26 years ago in Camp 14 in Pyeongan province, known as a ‘complete control district’, where the only sentence is life.

For most of his life all he knew was the camp, working 12 to 15-hour days mining coal, building dams or sewing military uniforms. If inmates were not executed they were killed in work-related accidents or died of an illness usually triggered by hunger.

But after the execution of his mother and brother, Shin Dong-Hyuk decided to try and escape. No one born into a North Korean prison camp has ever escaped before.

Shin Dong-Hyuk will be joining us at the Frontline Club with Blaine Harden whose book Escape from Camp 14One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West recounts his extraordinary journey.

Blaine Harden is an author and journalist who reports for PBS Frontline and contributes to The Economist. He worked for The Washington Post as a correspondent in Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia, as well as in New York and Seattle. He was also a national correspondent for The New York Times and writer for the Times Magazine.

Chaired by Charles Scanlon, Asia Pacific editor at BBC World Service and formerly BBC correspondent in Japan and South Korea from 2000 to 2007.