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. 

Stuck on Repeat: Top Artists from 2014

Music is my life! I think if my family had to pick a phrase that I’m always saying it would be either ‘awesome’ or ‘ah, this is the best song.’ I listen to music all day everyday, in the shower, before I go to sleep, pre-drinks, cleaning my room, eating dinner, and there’s always a song to get me pumped, relaxed or motivated. This year I’ve been dipping into a few different genres and discovering some awesome artists worth the click over to youtube!

Vital to the soul
Vital to the soul

1- Bastille – One of my all time favourite bands! I’ve been loving them for about two years and have seen them twice in concert (in Munich and Sydney and I cried both times). This year I’ve been loving their mixes and covers of songs, especially No Angels below.

2 – Asgeir – He’s Icelandic! And thus began my love for his smooth smooth voice. His album In the Silence is excellent! Perfect for when you need a good chill sesh! It’s my go to album when I need to relax to go to sleep, taking me to the sweetest dreams. I unfortunately missed out on seeing him due to date clashes, but he’s on my radar to see live! Below is his cover of Milky Chance’s Stolen Dance (which personally I think it on parr if not better than the original).

3- Violent Soho – Rad Aussie rock band who I was lucky enough to see in concert. Their whole album is filled with solid tunes and I love listening to it when cruising around in my car or when I feel like a grungy chill (i.e ‘cleaning’ my room).

4 – Banks – Very cool, fragile and unique voice, combined with a dirty rhythm… LOVE IT! Loving this London lady. I first discovered her EP and can genuinely say, this was the first album I was extremely excited to see be released!

5- George Ezra – Also great to listen to whilst cruising around, belting out tunes and experimenting with how low your voice goes. At first listen, I wasn’t sold, but it definitely grew on me. And hard! Now I absolutely crave hearing his smooth, sexy, deep and husky voice! Not to mention, he’s very cute! His entire album puts me in a great, positive and motivated mood!

6- Miguel – So sometimes, I love to get down and dirty and feel sexy dancing to some smooth rnb. And I was very excited when I learned he released some new music this year!

7- Taylor Swift – I’m admitting this with mixed feelings. I really do not like her song Shake it off, at all. But the rest of her album, pretty damn catchy! This is the one guilty pleasure I’ll allow myself! Her quirkiness is definitely growing on me and it leaves me thinking I too can look kinda cute whilst stumbling around trying to dance!

8- Sticky Fingers – Aussie reggae, rock, chilled band that leaves you wanting to be on a beach with a few beers and your mates! Fun, happy and chilled!

What are some of your picks from 2014? Let me know in the comments below because I’m always ready to discover new music!

xxx A

Happy Listening!

My Secrets to Confidence

Confidence comes in all shapes and sizes. Hopeful of joining a gym, courageous to apply for that job, brave to deliver a speech, bold in your outfit and fearless in life! Confidence is a key element that we’re all expected to have, yet why is it that we talk ourselves down and doubting our ability? We all have insecurities, we all have weaknesses, yet it’s how we accept them, deal with them and conquer them so that nothing, especially yourself stands in your way.

I would describe myself as a confident person, yet from time to time I give in to those dark uncertainties and it can all get a bit overwhelming really. However, I have found some ways to help me be more confident in my thoughts and actions.

Slow down every now and again to embrace beauty around you
Slow down every now and again to embrace beauty around you – Rome

Smile – It instantly makes you feel a little bit better I promise! Also laughing or singing helps break down those nerves and negative thoughts circling your mind. It will also make people around you feel more comfortable and relaxed. A smile really can go a long way!

Think about your strengths and skills – Take a moment to think about all the wonderful and exquisite things you can do. Maybe you can play all of Ed Sheeran’s album on guitar, a really fast reader/typer, good at remembering people’s names, keeping things tidy/clean, taking initiative or responsibility… the options are endless! If you’re ever in doubt, focus on your skills and strengths and how you can use them to your advantage to help you achieve what you want.

Embrace what you love – Personally, I love writing, listening to music, going to the beach, going on coffee dates with my friends, travelling… the list goes on. It’s important to take time out and focus on yourself, what you want and what you love. Engaging with these activities will also give you that motivation and self-confidence that will automatically make you happy and feel better about yourself and your capabilities.

Surround yourself with positivity
Surround yourself with positivity

Accept and grow from your weaknesses – We all have them, I’m not the most committed student when it comes to exams, I try and take on too many tasks at once and cannot for the life of me keep my room clean! (that, I can’t change). The first thing is to be aware of aspects of your life you can improve on and how you can do that. For example, trying to go to sleep before midnight, having a diary to write all of your due dates in and focusing on things your truly passionate about. Even if you take baby steps, at least you’re closer to growing and moving on.

Think Positively! – Whilst it might be hard to stay positive sometimes, I strongly believe that positive people attract positive energy.

‘Confidence comes not from always being right but from not fearing to be wrong.’ ~Peter T. McIntyre

Set Goals (and make them BIG) – I find it helpful to set goals to work towards. All throughout high school, I just wanted to go to Paris, and I made that happen by getting a job, planning, investigating and being absolutely determined to make it happen! Like the quote above says, be fearless! Go out and grab life! Like the classic cheesy quote ‘if you miss reaching for the moon, at least you’ll be among the stars.’ Opportunities are everywhere if you have the courage to seek them.

Take the plunge – Yes it might be scary, seem impossible, be overwhelming etc. etc. etc… but what if… it works? What if you accomplish your dreams? And what if you take the world by storm? You cannot truly gain without a little risk. Put yourself out there and just do it!

xxx A

Take the plunge!
Take the plunge! – Greek Islands

Controlling the Media or Mind?

“Whoever controls the media, controls the mind.” Jim Morrison

Sourced from http://inforrm.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/6460china-new-media.jpg
Sourced from http://inforrm.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/6460china-new-media.jpg

China is a beautiful country with rich culture, history and power. The 20th Century saw the end of dynasties and the rise of China as an international powerhouse, with mass production and technological innovation powering them as a leader in the world’s economy. The People’s Republic of China was established in 1949, where the Communist Party of China (CPC) reigned (china.org.cn). The CPC is extremely popular amougst the people of China, with faith and trust placed in the government. The Chinese Constitution states that, ‘citizens (are allowed) freedom of speech and press, but Chinese media regulations include vague language that allows authorities to crack down on news stories by claiming that they expose state secrets and thus endanger the country’ (Xu, 2014)’ The CPC has taken the dramatic step to censor, monitor and ultimately control the media in China. ‘The CPC exerts near complete control over the country’s 358 television stations and 2,119 newspapers—the primary media available to more than one billion Chinese citizens.’ (Esary, 2006)

Sourced from https://en.greatfire.org
Sourced from https://en.greatfire.org

The CPC has used ‘technical methods like bandwidth throttling, keyword filtering, as well as the wholesale blocking of access to websites’ (Esary, 2006), blocking over 2600 popular sites like Facebook, Youtube, Twitter and WordPress. There are also strict rules and regulations for journalists within and entering the country. Foreign correspondents must  ‘obtain permission before reporting in the country, to prevent journalists from reporting on potentially sensitive topics like corruption’ (Xu, 2014). 

This extreme control of the media by the CPC within China, reinforced by national military force, raises the complex question of is it right for one group/individual/company to control mass media? 

Sourced from http://ciccib.wordpress.com/2013/06/04/today-we-remember-the-massacre-in-tiananmen-square-photos/
Sourced from http://ciccib.wordpress.com/2013/06/04/today-we-remember-the-massacre-in-tiananmen-square-photos/

The CPC believe they are protecting citizens from capitalist/western ideas. In that regard, they are maintaining traditional values, beliefs and ideas exceptionally well. However, the interconnected, social media based society of the 21st century is an inevitable force and they are suppressing the free thinkers, the innovators and ultimately the truth. Censorship of certain events such as the Tiananmen Square massacre and September 11, doesn’t mean they didn’t happen. It only leaves people feeling confused and uninformed. This is a prime example of ‘whoever controls the media, controls the mind (Jim Morrison). People have the right to express their opinion and it is unacceptable to roll over these ideas in military tanks and ignore the thousands of voices behind the people.

As an inspired writer and citizen of this globe, I believe we need independence and diversity within the ownership of the media, in order to gain multiple perspectives, ideas, thoughts and understandings on certain events, people and decisions we make every day.

 

 

References

An Illustrated History of the Communist Party of China, http://www.china.org.cn/english/features/45981.htm, accessed 26/03/14

News of the Communist Party of China, http://english.cpc.people.com.cn, accessed 26/03/14

Beina Xu, Online Writer/Editor for Council on Foreign Relations, ‘Media Censorship in China,’ http://www.cfr.org/china/media-censorship-china/p11515#p2, written 12/02/14, accessed 26/02/14

Ashley Esary, expert on Chinese Media, ‘Freedom at Issue Report,’ http://www.freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/inline_images/Speak%20No%20Evil-%20Mass%20Media%20Control%20in%20Contemporary%20China.pdf, written February 2006, accessed 26/03/14

China Forbidden News (youtube), China’s New Media Supervision Regulation, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p37mtW1LYC0, 18/04/2013, accessed 26/03/14