Unit 1012 Cover Photo

Unit 1012 Cover Photo

Friday, January 2, 2015


            To celebrate the Tenth anniversary of Shin Dong Hyuk’s escape from Camp 14, we, the comrades of Unit 1012, will present Shin’s open letter to Dennis Rodman and also to endorse Shin’s story, ‘Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West’.

How Dennis Rodman can help the North Korean people

By Shin Dong-hyuk December 17, 2013

Shin Dong-hyuk is a human rights activist and the only person born in a North Korean labor camp known to have escaped to the West.

Dear Mr. Rodman:

I have never met you, and until you visited North Korea in February I had never heard of you. Now I know very well that you are a famous, retired American basketball player with many tattoos. I also understand that you are returning this week to North Korea to coach basketball and perhaps visit for the third time with the country’s dictator, Kim Jong Un, who has become your friend.

I want to tell you about myself. I was born in 1982 in Camp 14, a political prison in the mountains of North Korea. For more than 50 years, Kim Jong Un, his father and his grandfather have used prisons such as Camp 14 to punish, starve and work to death people who the regime decides are a threat. Prisoners are sent to places like Camp 14 without trial and in secret. A prisoner’s “crime” can be his relation by blood to someone the regime believes is a wrongdoer or wrong-thinker. My crime was to be born as the son of a man whose brother fled to South Korea in the 1950s.

You can see satellite pictures of Camp 14 and four other labor camps on your smartphone. At this very moment, people are starving in these camps. Others are being beaten, and someone soon will be publicly executed as a lesson to other prisoners to work hard and obey the rules. I grew up watching these executions, including the hanging of my mother.

On orders of the guards in Camp 14, inmates are forced to marry and create children to be raised by guards to be disposable slaves. Until I escaped in 2005, I was one of those slaves. My body is covered with scars from torture I endured in the camp.

Mr. Rodman, if you want to know more about me, I will send you a book about my life, “Escape From Camp 14.” Along with the stories of many other camp survivors, my story helped persuade the United Nations to create a commission of inquiry that is now investigating human rights atrocities in my country. I was “witness number one.” In the coming year, the commission’s findings may force the U.N. Security Council to decide whether to approve a trial in the International Criminal Court of the Kim family and other North Korean officials for crimes against humanity.

I happen to be about the same age as your friend Kim Jong Un. But if you ask him about me, he is likely to refer to me as “human scum.” That is how his state-controlled press refers to me and all other North Koreans who have risked death by fleeing the country. Your friend probably also will deny that Camp 14 exists, which is the official position of his government. If he does, you can show him pictures of it on your phone.

Mr. Rodman, I cannot presume to tell you to cancel your trip to North Korea. It is your right as an American to travel wherever you wish and to say whatever you want. It is your right to drink fancy wines and enjoy yourself in luxurious parties, as you reportedly did in your previous trips to Pyongyang. But as you have a fun time with the dictator, please try to think about what he and his family have done and continue to do. Just last week, Kim Jong Un ordered the execution of his uncle. Recent satellite pictures show that some of the North’s labor camps, including Camp 14, may be expanding. The U.N. World Food Programme says four out of five North Koreans are hungry. Severe malnutrition has stunted and cognitively impaired hundreds of thousands of children. Young North Korean women fleeing the country in search of food are often sold into human-trafficking rings in China and beyond.

I am writing to you, Mr. Rodman, because, more than anything else, I want Kim Jong Un to hear the cries of his people. Maybe you could use your friendship and your time together to help him understand that he has the power to close the camps and rebuild the country’s economy so everyone can afford to eat.

No dictatorship lasts forever. Freedom will come to North Korea someday. When it does, my wish is that you will have, in some way, helped bring about change. I end this letter in the hope that you can use your friendship with the dictator to be a friend to the North Korean people.

Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West Paperback – March 26, 2013
by Blaine Harden (Author)
In 2012, journalist Blaine Harden published Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey From North Korea to Freedom in the West, based on his interviews with Shin. The book reveals, among other things, that Shin was the one who had reported his mother and brother, a fact he had not included in earlier accounts. Harden gave a one-hour interview about the book on the C-SPAN television program Q&A. Executive Director of the US Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, Greg Scarlatoiu, said the book played "an important role" in raising wider public awareness of the North Korean camps. Dalhousie University issued a statement averring that Shin's story, as told through the book, "has shifted the global discourse about North Korea, shining a light on the human rights abuses so prevalent within the regime."

The heartwrenching New York Times bestseller about the only known person born inside a North Korean prison camp to have escaped

North Korea’s political prison camps have existed twice as long as Stalin’s Soviet gulags and twelve times as long as the Nazi concentration camps. No one born and raised in these camps is known to have escaped. No one, that is, except Shin Dong-hyuk.

In Escape From Camp 14, Blaine Harden unlocks the secrets of the world’s most repressive totalitarian state through the story of Shin’s shocking imprisonment and his astounding getaway. Shin knew nothing of civilized existence—he saw his mother as a competitor for food, guards raised him to be a snitch, and he witnessed the execution of his mother and brother.

The late “Dear Leader” Kim Jong Il was recognized throughout the world, but his country remains sealed as his third son and chosen heir, Kim Jong Eun, consolidates power. Few foreigners are allowed in, and few North Koreans are able to leave. North Korea is hungry, bankrupt, and armed with nuclear weapons. It is also a human rights catastrophe. Between 150,000 and 200,000 people work as slaves in its political prison camps. These camps are clearly visible in satellite photographs, yet North Korea’s government denies they exist.

Harden’s harrowing narrative exposes this hidden dystopia, focusing on an extraordinary young man who came of age inside the highest security prison in the highest security state. Escape from Camp 14 offers an unequalled inside account of one of the world’s darkest nations. It is a tale of endurance and courage, survival and hope.

One man's escape from Camp 14 and North Korea
Only one prisoner born in North Korea's gulag is known to have escaped to tell his story. A Q&A with Blaine Harden, the journalist who wrote about Shin Dong-hyuk.


Shin Dong-hyuk (seated, l.) was born in a notorious North Korean prison camp, from which he escaped. He’s shown being interviewed on French TV last year.
There is only one prisoner actually born in one of North Korea's infamous prison camps known to have escaped alive. His name is Shin Dong-hyuk.

Mr. Shin was raised in Camp 14, reported to be one of the cruelest in a system of hard labor prisons.
His parents didn't know each other before their brief conjugal marriage arranged by guards. Shin grew up with no idea of a world other than the beatings, torture, and snitching that were part of everyday life at the camp. He betrayed his mother and brother over a meal of rice, sending them to their execution, saw his father as an acquaintance, and roasted rats to stay alive. Yet he also was able to catch his first glimpse of life outside the camp's fence through the unexpected, simple kindness of a fellow inmate.

Shin made his improbable escape at age 23 in search of food; if caught he faced execution. But after a harrowing trip to China, he made it to Seoul, South Korea.

Washington Post correspondent Blaine Harden's book "Escape from Camp 14" has made Shin the best-known advocate for exposing the North's hidden prisons. Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton mentioned Shin at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.
Mr. Harden spoke with the Monitor in late April.

Are these like the camps in Nazi Germany?

No, these are not death camps; the authorities do not execute people as a matter of course. They work people to death, but that happens over a number of years.

Probably a better analogy is Stalin's Gulag. The camps were set up under Kim Il-sung, an acolyte of Stalin, as a mirror of the Soviet Gulag. What is different in the North Korean case is that they seem to be crueler and have lasted twice as long.

Camp 14 has a reputation for housing high-level Pyongyang people that run afoul of the regime. It is a completely no-exit camp, with no rehabilitation; guards treat it as a military front line. There is less sleep, more work, more brutality.

Shin is born in a dark place, a product of the camp. But this doesn't last forever?

Yes, he speaks of an awakening. He had the first inklings of it after his mother's execution. He was 14 and in an underground prison with a man who was kind to him, treated his wounds after he was tortured. The kindness of that man, "Uncle," was something to him utterly new. The guy shared his food. He basically lavished attention and love on Shin in a way he had never experienced. So when he got out, went back to normal camp life, got pushed and bullied, it hit him hard. He went into a funk. He said he started to see the camp for what it was, just a really miserable, filthy, stinking place.

Tell us about Shin's turning point after meeting an educated prisoner named Park.

Shin is assigned to snitch on Park but in the end didn't do it. Park starts telling him stories. At one point Park asks where Shin is from. Shin says, "I am from here." Park tells him, "I am from Pyongyang, the capital." Shin had never heard of the place.

But instead of laughing at this ignorant young kid, Park gave him a primer on what it means to be a citizen of the planet, he talked and talked. Before that it never occurred to Shin that people lived outside the fence.

But talk of grilled meat finally got Shin's attention. He started to dream about food, got a spring in his step, and surprised himself by asking Park to escape with him. Shin was interested in finding his next meal, above all. His focus as a feral creature of the camp was self-preservation and maximizing calories. That was everything, the essence of his escape. He wasn't after the bill of rights.

What is Shin like?

He's really smart. It has also been a bumpy ride. But he has friends he trusts now.

He's kind of a jokester, not adolescent, but gets real joy being with friends, especially when they are all eating dinner together.

He pulled out a huge Galaxy phone the last time I saw him. Smart phones are no more recent to him than the concept of friendship or of love. They are both part of this new existence, and I think he has an easier time with technology than with human emotions.

But he seems to know his role is to tell the world through his life what is going on in these camps right now, and the kind of kids they are raising there.

We have had public satellite images of the camps for more than a decade. Where is the outcry?

Three main things have occluded our vision of the human rights catastrophe:

No. 1, by far, is the comic element of the regime. Particularly Kim Jong-il, his appearance, his puffy hair, big glasses, and funny suit. Jon Stewart and "The Daily Show" highlight the risible nature of the images coming out of the North's propaganda machine. It is fun and funny, silly and ridiculous, over the top. It is so funny that it takes up all the oxygen in our perceiving of North Korea. No. 2 and 3 are the nukes and missiles.

Shin Dong-hyuk speech upon winning UN Watch's 2013 Moral Courage Award
Published on Jun 15, 2013
"UN Watch has decided to grant the Moral Courage Award to Dong-hyuk Shin for bearing witness to atrocities and stirring the conscience of mankind to protect the fundamental human rights of the voiceless victims of North Korea," said executive director Hillel Neuer.

"No one would have blamed him for seeking a life of quiet and recuperation. Instead, Shin dedicates his life to speaking out for those left behind," said Neuer.

UN Watch has brought numerous North Korean victims and activists to speak at the UN, and leads NGO campaigns to confront the murderous dictatorship within the world body. (Left: UN Watch rally against North Korea, August 2011.)

UN Watch is best known for organizing the annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, a key gathering for dissidents, and for bringing victims to testify before the United Nations Human Rights Council, including from China, Cuba, Egypt, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Sudan and Venezuela.

No comments:

Post a Comment