Shin’s new cellmate is in his fifties, and his name is Kim Jin Myung—however, he asks that Shin call him “Uncle.” Uncle treats Shin’s burns, scraping away the pus and treating the wounds with salty cabbage. For about two months, Uncle and Shin live in the cell together. From their cell, they can hear the screams of other prisoners. Uncle appears to have some special standing in the prison—guards cut his hair and give him water and food. Uncle is the first consistently kind person Shin has ever met. He tells Shin about life outside Camp 14, wowing Shin with descriptions of food. Shin’s health begins to improve.
Uncle was, in many ways, the most important father figure in Shin’s early life. It was here that Shin first began to learn about life outside Camp 14, so it seems that Uncle planted the seeds of Shin’s desire to escape (however, it’s unclear how this fits in with Shin’s later account, in which he also lived in Camp 18 and escaped three times). It’s no coincidence that the kindest person Shin encountered in Camp 14 was living in jail: Uncle tended to Shin perhaps because he had nothing else to lose.
One day, the guards take Shin out of his cell and demand that he inform on Uncle. Back in the cell later, Shin tells Uncle what he’s been asked to do—Uncle doesn’t seem surprised. Uncle talks a lot, but he never brings up his background or his politics. Harden guesses that he’d probably been a well-educated, important man before going to prison.
Uncle was intelligent enough to realize that the guards would try to convince Shin to spy on him. Because he was realistic about life in prison, Uncle was able to continue being friends with Shin. He seems to have accepted that he couldn’t entirely trust Shin, and therefore told him nothing incriminating.
After a few more weeks, the guards bring Shin his school uniform and order him to change. Before the leaving the cell, Shin grasps Uncle’s hands. He’s never loved or trusted anyone the way he’s come to love and trust Uncle. For years to come, Shin thinks of Uncle more fondly than he thinks of his own family, but after that day, Shin never sees Uncle again.
It’s reasonable to assume that Uncle was killed shortly after Shin met him. Shin’s brief friendship with Uncle sustains him throughout his time in the prison camp, however, and, it’s strongly implied, eventually inspires him to escape.