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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
Camp 14: Total Control Zone is a genuinely disturbing documentary about a young man who escaped from a North Korean prison camp where he had lived since birth. It paints a genuinely horrifying portrait of a totalitarian regime and its capacity to dehumanize its subjects.
The film's main narrative focuses on the experiences of a man who was born to North Korean prisoners and spent his entire childhood in the prison camp. He relates experiences such as his first memory-an execution-daily life within the camp, informing on people, and being tortured by the camp guards. His story is supplemented with footage smuggled out of North Korea and former camp guards who defected to the South.
Camp 14 is at its best when it relates the psychological effects on the inmates, particularly those born there. However, the interviews with the guards could have benefited from more background, particularly their reasons for defecting. Furthermore, no source or explanation is given for the footage from North Korea, leading to questions regarding its veracity.
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