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Shin Dong-Huyk was born on November 19, 1983 as a political prisoner in a North Korean re-education camp. He was a child of two prisoners who had been married by order of the wardens. He spent his entire childhood and youth in Camp 14, in fact a death camp. He was forced to labor since he was six years old and suffered from hunger, beatings and torture, always at the mercy of the wardens. He knew nothing about the world outside the barbed-wire fences. At the age of 23, with the help of an older prisoner, he managed to escape. For months he traveled through North Korea and China and finally to South Korea, where he encountered a world completely strange to him. Written by
Reveals the darkest parts of the human condition and an amazing story of survival
Camp 14: Total Control Zone documents the harrowing details of 'life' in North Korea's forced labour camps from 3 perspectives, a former inmate born within one of the camps who managed to escape, a former guard, and a former member of the secret police.
I do not want to give the story away for those who have yet to see it, but what these stories reveal is a world where a level of cruelty and disregard for human life exists that struggles to be dreamt up in infamous works of fiction by Pasolini or de Sade (some details a chilling reminder of scenes from 1975's 'Salo').
The police and guards, who are the purveyors of this cruelty (and there must be a lot of them given the claimed 200,000 interned) can't all statistically be psychopaths. Operating under a ruthless system, they'd doubtlessly be users of the Nuremberg Defence.
We read about the actions of the psychopath serial killer, which are a conundrum in themselves, but when this sort of behaviour manifests itself across a whole society, it becomes ... well, I can't find the right word.
What sort of fear and desperation would lead to a society being created based on force feeding the populace lies and leader worship, ignorance replacing civic dialogue, with forced labour, torture and death being the only solution to needing a justice system (and for that matter, unemployment)?
Only through a miraculous if not morbid event does the protagonist (Shin Dong-Hyuk) manage to escape the camp, and we are thankful he does, in order to experience freedom and provide the rest of the world with a brief but revealing peek into the horror show.
Some of his revelations will prompt the viewer question the nature of human instincts. Seemingly we are born with no emotional attachment to our family or fellow human beings, only the will to survive appears to be firmly ingrained in us.
As Camp 14 draws to a close, we get a sense of ennui and confusion from Shin at his new surroundings. He appears far from joyful at having left the life he was born into, inexplicable to the rest of us, as inexplicable and impenetrable as the conditions in which he was born into.
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