I can't post my usual light musings because I just read Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West, reporter Blaine Harden's story of a young man's torture in, and escape from, a North Korean prison labor camp.
There’s no lyrical levity to lighten up this insider account. It’s a graphic and straightforward reporting of Shin Dong-Hyuk’s starvation, torture by sadistic guards, watching family members executed, a classmate beaten to death, and Shin’s mental anguish after his escape.
There’s some competition, I realize, for what nation’s citizens live the most harrowing lives of deprivation and degradation. But, it seems little media light has been shed on the horrifying inhumanity occurring within North Korea’s grey fields visible on satellite imagery.
The US intelligence community is aware of North Korea’s estimated 200,000 prison camp slavery victims. I appeal to US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta (if he’s reading this) to hold the Kim regime accountable for its atrocities.
Though I know this sentiment will contradict our official snarky vantage in this progressive urban vacuum, but reading Shin’s experience made me grateful to be American (despite our country’s own inequities, including with criminal justice and incarceration).
I urge Panetta and anyone not conversant in the reality above the DMZ, outside the Stalinist sound stage of Pyongyang, to read Escape from Camp 14.