Escape from Camp 14

Escape from Camp 14 Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
On April 6, 1996, Shin’s teacher comes looking for him. Shin is blindfolded and handcuffed, and then driven out of the camp. When his blindfold is removed, Shin is sitting in the underground camp prison. Two officers ask him, “Do you know why you’re here?” When Shin says that he has no idea, they inform him that his mother and brother have been caught trying to escape. Shin insists that he knows nothing about the escape.
As he did in the introduction, Harden depicts Shin’s experiences without any context or clarification, so that readers are forced to experience the scene through the eyes of a frantic child. (In retrospect, this partly explains why, later on, Shin doesn’t immediately tell the guards that he ratted out his mother and brother.)
Themes
Tyranny and the North Korean State Theme Icon
Survival, Self-interest, and Morality Theme Icon
Shin told Harden about his time in the underground prison camp many times. He also told the story to South Korean intelligence officers, counselors, and psychiatrists, and he wrote about it in his memoir. There is no way to prove Shin’s claims about the prison, since his brother and mother are dead. Personally, Harden believed Shin’s story, and included it in his initial Post article. During the planning period for Escape From Camp 14, however, Shin changed his story. His translator, Hannah Song (the director of LiNK), told Harden that Shin had admitted that he’d lied out of shame. He insisted that he would never forgive himself for his role in his mother’s death, but that he wanted to talk about how the camp had warped his character.
Shin is, it must be said, an unreliable narrator of these events. He discusses the cruelty of the prison guards but mostly refuses to talk about his own cruelty and his role in his family’s murder. While it’s perfectly understandable that Shin would feel guilty about his own behavior, it can be challenging to read Escape From Camp 14 because of this—Shin often seems like a big, blank space in the center of the story.
Themes
Tyranny and the North Korean State Theme Icon
Survival, Self-interest, and Morality Theme Icon
Indoctrination and Brainwashing Theme Icon
Guilt Theme Icon