On April 5, 1996, Shin’s teacher tells him that as a reward for good behavior, he can go eat dinner with his mother, rather than spending time in the dormitory. At home, Shin finds Jang sitting with his older brother, He Geun, now twenty-one years old, who works at the camp’s cement factory. Shin is offended that his mother is cooking rice (considered a luxury in the camp) for He Geun, since she’s never prepared rice for Shin. She doesn’t show him any warmth or affection when he comes home.
Here Harden conveys an emotion that almost any reader can identify with: sibling rivalry. Shin wasn’t close with his mother or his brother, but he still expected his mother to treat him well, rather than favoring his older brother. This might suggest that, while it’s easy to condemn Shin for his actions, he’s no more “evil’ than the average person—Shin has merely lived in harsher conditions than most.
Shin listens to Jang and He Geun talk, and realizes that they’re planning to escape. Shin becomes alarmed—he is furious that his mother would endanger his own life and jealous that his brother is eating rice. Shin leaves the house, claiming that he’s going to the toilet, and goes to find a guard. It’s late at night, and Shin can’t find any guards, so he goes to tell Hong Sung Jo, the person he trusts most. Jong advises Shin to talk to the school’s night guard, so Shin finds the guard. Before he gives up his information, Shin demands that he be given more food and beaten less—the guard agrees. Shin tells the guard about his mother’s planned escape, and the guard assures Shin that he’ll “take care of everything.”
In this scene, we come to understand the principle source of Shin’s guilt and self-loathing: he sold out his mother and brother for some extra food. It’s reasonable to assume, in light of the constant violence in Shin’s life, that he must have understood on some level that he was sentencing his family to death, but perhaps readers can at least understand Shin’s behavior, even if they can’t sympathize with it. Shin was raised to think of the authorities as the ultimate good and his family as merely competitors for food, and he was concerned with his own survival more than anyone else’s.
The next day, guards arrive at school looking for Shin, blindfold and arrest him, and drive him away. But Shin already knew that guards would be coming for him, since he’d tipped them off.
Even after he informed on his family, Shin was arrested and taken to a secret prison—clearly something went wrong in his plan to be rewarded.