Escape from Camp 14


Blaine Harden

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Escape from Camp 14: Chapter 14 Summary & Analysis

Shin and Park develop a plan to escape from Camp 14. Shin will get them over the fence, and Park will lead them to China, where his uncle will sneak them into South Korea. For the first time in his life, Shin has something to look forward to, and he no longer feels as tired at the end of the day. He and Park agree that, if guards find them trying to get over the fence, Park will be able to take them out with his martial arts training. In almost every way, Shin and Park’s plan is ridiculous—nobody has ever escaped from Camp 14 and lived to tell about it. However, Park is inspired by the radio broadcasts he heard during his time in China—broadcasts which stress the incompetence of the North Korean state.
Park and Shin chose to escape not because they recognized an easy way to do so, but seemingly because they were inspired by the bold, foolish dream of living in the outside world. Park’s descriptions of radio broadcasts reiterate why the camp guards—and the North Korean government in general—tried hard to limit citizens’ understanding of the outside world. If they’d been able to listen to the radio or watch TV, they would have realized how weak and corrupt their country really was.
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Shin plans for the escape by stealing warm clothes and shoes. There is another prisoner in the factory who has assembled an extra set of winter clothes and shoes, but Shin convinces himself that the prisoner deserves to be robbed, since the prisoner informed on many other people. He steals the prisoner’s clothes and shoes and hides them with his own possessions. However, Shin doesn’t have gloves or a hat to protect himself from the cold.
In order to maximize his chances of survival, Shin had to steal from another prisoner. Shin makes it clear that this prisoner already had a set of winter clothes, though, suggesting that Shin tried to commit the most “victimless” crime possible.
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Before making his escape, Shin decides to visit his father, Shin Gyung Sub, one more time. He’s never had a good relationship with his father, although he can never entirely explain why. On New Year’s, they eat supper together. Shin’s father has made an effort to be a better parent after the death of his wife and son; however, Shin remains cold. Neither father nor son entirely trusts the other—indeed, when Shin’s father gave him the gift of rice flour, Shin had discarded the gift. When Shin leaves his father that evening, he doesn’t mention his escape plans, and doesn’t even give a special goodbye.
Shin claims he was unable to trust or love his father, for reasons that the book never makes entirely clear. Psychologists might say that Shin resented his father as a “defense mechanism” to distract himself from his own sense of complicity in his mother and brother’s executions. In any event, Shin didn’t trust his father with the information of his escape—probably because he feared that his father would betray him as he’d once betrayed his own mother.
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