Book Review: Escape From Camp 14

So as part of my New Years Resolutions, I committed to reading more. I thought an achievable goal was 1 book a month – seems easy right? Well let’s just say it’s the end of February and I’ve only just finished my first book of the year Escape From Camp 14. My best friend lent it to me with the advice “if you read this before bed, you’re going to struggle to sleep.” And as I write this review and pass on a recommendation, I will also leave you with the same advice. Plus maybe have something joyous to do after you’ve finished reading for the day because this book is indeed intense, dark, confronting, confusing and troubling.

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Source. 

Based on a true story, this gripping book tells the complex, dark, courageous and crazy journey of Shin, who was born and raised in Camp 14, a labour camp in North Korea. Before reading this book, I honestly didn’t know much about the atrocities that happened in North Korean gulags. You just assume it would be horrible, but hearing not only what occurred there, but how he thought and felt was truly horrific. North Korea is obviously a place that we don’t hear about in the news. If we do, it’s because Kim Jong-un has conquered a mountain, or had an elaborate birthday party. We rarely hear stories and voices of those from outside Pyongyang (the capital of North Korea).

What I really took from this book is the power of the mind and media. Born and raised in a labour camp, Shin had never heard anything about an outside world let alone seen what was over the fence. He believed what he was told by camp officers, because – well… what else is he to believe? Like the famous, quote ‘if you control the media, you control the mind,’ and I think that whoever wrote that quote had been to North Korea. It was fascinating to read just how far the government go to control and suppress its people.

A Chinese-made portable media player, which North Koreans call "Notel", is seen in Hunchun city
A Chinese-made portable media player, which North Koreans call “Notel”, is seen in Hunchun city, China. Source

Blaine explains how bad quality American DVDs such Charlie’s Angels  or South Korean and Chinese TV shows, were smuggled into North Korea from China and that for many North Koreans, this was the first time being exposed to the outside world. He states that DVD’s and DVD players are actually owned by a lot of working class people as it was a way to make sure that the party can control what the people are viewing. This is something that has stuck with me and something I don’t think I could ever forget.

There are a lot of things in this book that I don’t think I will ever forget. The brutality endured by Shin and the thousands in labour camps, plus the oppression of an entire nation is absolutely horrific and I hope that freedom can come to the people of North Korea in the future.

Thank you to my friend Zina for recommending this book and thank you to the author and to Shin for bravely sharing his story.

For more information, I’d definitely recommend reading the following article by Reuters. 

These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things: JANUARY

A new year, a new adventure and a whole heap of new things that I’m absolutely in love with. So if you’ve been as busy as I have, then you’d agree that January has been an absolute blur! But it’s been pretty damn incredible! So here are a few of my favourite things for January!

Fun For Louis

I don’t know what rock I’ve been hiding under but O M G! This guy is awesome and absolutely living the dream! I’ve nearly made it my daily ritual of watching his videos every morning for inspiration. I can’t imagine the time and effort that goes into making a travel vlog each and every day and I have sooooo much respect for him! And I love watching his vlogs about Youtube and business. It’s so interesting to learn so much about someone living the ultimate adventure!

Home Sweet Home

It was so good to get home for a weekend! And even better to enjoy some sunshine with my family!

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Soaking up some sun in beautiful Port Stephens.

Australia Day Shenanigans

What more could you ask for? A pool, beers, friends and Triple J? I had such a fantastic day getting a bit too much sun, and drinking a bit too much beer. I must admit that this year, the awareness of what Australia Day means to our First Australian people has been incredibly disturbing. It’s something that I believe needs to be addressed seriously and not just a ‘trend’ on social media. We can do so much more as a nation to improve equality between people in our nation and it’s time that it happens.

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Adventuring around the countryside

I did get a fair bit of road tripping done. I was lucky enough to borrow my family’s land cruiser for a month so I just had to take advantage of this! I made it down to Canberra, Broulee/Bateman’s Bay, out to Bowral and back up to Port Stephens.

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My awesome car for the Summer at Minamurra Rainforest
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Beautiful Broulee
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Reunited with my bestie in Canberra.
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Soaking up the sun at Bald Hill.
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Getting lost in the clouds at Tomaree Mountain, Port Stephens

21st Party

It seems to be the year for it all! And what a banger to start it all off with! One of my best friends 21st birthday parties. And with plenty more to come, the parties won’t stop there.

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Tunes

I am absolutely obsessed with this song! I’ve been listening to it on repeat and this has definitely been the sound of my January.

Flicks

So over Summer I’ve actually been studying an Australian film class at uni. And what better excuse do you have than to watch films as study?! And I decided to watch as many Australian films as possible and I came across Tracks. It’s based on a real story and it’s one of the best films I’ve seen in a long time. And if you’re interested in films about travel, adventure and self discovery – you will LOVE this film.

Blogs

Journal By Assia. A travel and lifestyle blog written by Assia. Her photos are absolutely beautiful and she frequently posts about her new favourite book or her latest weekend adventures, which makes her blog fresh and exciting. I love following her journey and always look forward to reading what she’s up to next. If you’re after some inspiration and motivation – then look no further!

Simplicity Relished.  I’ve only recently come across this blog and I’m absolutely in love. It’s all about living simply and minimalistic lifestyle. Her photos are gorgeous and with a touch of travel in there – it provides for hours of light reading.

Books

Escape From Camp 14. So I actually haven’t finished this book – I’m really close I promise! But it’s so dark, depressing and insightful that I find it difficult to pick up but impossible to put down. I don’t know much about North Korea and the camps there, so reading this personal book about what happens there is pretty confronting but extremely important to learn about.

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Quote

“If you’re dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough.”

This quote has really pushed me this month. To think and act bigger, take a risk and be daring with the decisions I make and the dreams and goals that I set. I wouldn’t say I’m scared by them, but I’m definitely taking a deep breath before attempting to tackle them! Let’s do it!

 

Well that just about sums up my January. Sorry this post is late again. As you can see I’ve had a pretty crazy month! But I’m keen for even bigger and better adventures to come my way and share them with you guys much more frequently!