Escape from Camp 14

Escape from Camp 14 Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In the Camp 14 prison, guards demand to know if Shin knew about his family’s escape plans in advance. Shin is confused—he tipped off the guards about the escape, so he can’t understand why he is being treated like a potential accomplice. (Shin later realized that the night guard had claimed all the credit for discovering Jang’s escape plan—he hadn’t mentioned Shin at all.)
The bitter irony of Shin’s situation is that, after going out of his way to protect his own interests and betraying his family to the night guard, the guard betrayed him and let him be sent to the prison.
Themes
Tyranny and the North Korean State Theme Icon
Survival, Self-interest, and Morality Theme Icon
Guilt Theme Icon
The guards show Shin a document listing his family members’ crimes against North Korea. Shin’s uncle, the document explains, participated in “disruptions of public peace” and “acts of brutality,” along with another of Shin’s uncles. As a result, Shin’s father has been imprisoned. (Shin’s father later told Shin about how, in 1965, he and his family were arrested by security forces.) In Camp 14, the guards pressure Shin to sign the document (listing his family’s crimes) with his thumbprint.
It’s never entirely explained why Shin is given a dossier on his family’s crimes against North Korea—what bearing these “crimes” could have on Shin’s mother and brother’s attempted escape is unclear. It’s also odd that the guards needed Shin to sign anything—surely, in a place where force is law, the prisoners’ assent would be irrelevant. However, since 2015, the truth has come out: Shin was signing a document stating that his mother and brother were involved in a murder—that’s why the guards needed his thumbprint.
Themes
Tyranny and the North Korean State Theme Icon
Survival, Self-interest, and Morality Theme Icon
Guilt Theme Icon
The guards then take Shin to a tiny prison cell. The next day, they bring him back for more interrogation. They demand to know why his mother wanted to escape, threatening to kill Shin if he doesn’t tell the truth. The next day, the guards hang Shin by the ankles. On the fourth day, he is taken into a room lined with pincers, hammers, and axes. A guard threatens to kill him unless he tells the truth. When Shin doesn’t reply, the guards strip him and hang him from the ceiling again. They burn his skin with charcoal and pierce his stomach with a hook. At this point, he passes out.
The overwhelming question during this scene is, why didn’t Shin tell the guards the truth: he had informed on his family members, and could back his story up with witnesses. (According to Shin, this is exactly what he told the guards later on.) Perhaps Shin was terrified and couldn’t articulate his thoughts clearly. Or perhaps during his interviews with Harden he wanted to make himself seem to be even more of a victim than he really was.
Themes
Tyranny and the North Korean State Theme Icon
Survival, Self-interest, and Morality Theme Icon
Shin awakes on the floor of his cell. In the coming days, he is fed corn and cabbage, but his burns quickly become infected. After ten days, Shin is brought for another interrogation. This time, he tells the guard that he reported the escape, but the guard doesn’t believe him. Shin begs him to talk to Hong Sung Jo, the only person who can confirm that Shin knew about the escape. A few days later, Shin is moved to another cell, in which there is already a prisoner. Shin has been granted a reprieve—Hong has confirmed his story. The chapter ends, “Shin would never see the school’s night guard again.”
Shin was eventually granted a reprieve for his acts, since he could prove that he informed on his family members. Had he not gone to Hong before telling the night guard (who, it’s strongly implied, was demoted or even executed for his deceptions), Shin could have been murdered as a collaborator, along with his mother and brother.
Themes
Tyranny and the North Korean State Theme Icon
Survival, Self-interest, and Morality Theme Icon
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