Escape from Camp 14

Escape from Camp 14 Epilogue Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In February 2011, Shin flies to Washington State and moves in with Harim and her family. Harden, who lives in Washington, is surprised by this sudden move—he fears that Shin in burning bridges with LiNK for no reason. He invites Shin over for tea.
Harden seems to have suspected that Shin wasn't investing enough time in forging stable, long-term relationships with other people (i.e., his colleagues at LiNK)—perhaps because, in prison camp, he’d had essentially no stable, long-term relationships.
Themes
Guilt Theme Icon
Activism and Indifference Theme Icon
Harden has conducted many interviews with Shin in preparation for their book. But Harden is still curious about Shin’s life—in particular, he wants to know what Shin wants out of life. He asks to meet Harim’s parents, but Harim and Shin make various excuses. Harden realizes that, more than anything else, Shin just wants Harden’s “long interrogation” to end.
In writing his book on Shin, Harden has confronted a series of ethical quandaries—not the least of which is the matter of whether or not he should even write it in the first place. By pressuring Shin to talk about his past, Harden could be said to be sacrificing Shin’s happiness for a greater good, forcing him to relive the darkest times of his life. Furthermore, by encouraging Shin to say so much in such a short time, he may have pressured Shin to continue lying about his past, discrediting the entire account and the activist movement associated with it in the process.
Themes
Survival, Self-interest, and Morality Theme Icon
Guilt Theme Icon
Activism and Indifference Theme Icon
Harim and Shin form an NGO called North Korea Freedom Plexus. They raise money with the goal of building asylum shelters for North Korean defectors. On behalf of his NGO, Shin travels back to China. When Harden asks Shin if he’s worried about being assassinated by North Korean soldiers, Shin claims that he is “always careful.” He’s become close with Lowell Dye and Linda Dye, the couple who paid for Shin’s air travel to the U.S. The Dyes tell Harden that Shin sincerely loves Harim; however, Shin and Harim’s relationship ends six months after they move in together.
Shin continued to crusade for North Korean prisoners; however, Harden suggests, he continued to feel a strong sense of self-loathing, as evidenced by his willingness to endanger himself in China (one could even argue that, on some level, Shin was trying to get caught and killed). Meanwhile, Shin ended his relationship with Harim. While the relationship may not have worked out for any number of reasons, Harden implies that Shin is still too fragile and self-hating to pursue a long-term romance with someone else.
Themes
Survival, Self-interest, and Morality Theme Icon
Guilt Theme Icon
Activism and Indifference Theme Icon
Shin invites Harden to watch him give a speech at a Korean church in Seattle. There, Shin speaks about having been an informer at Camp 14, betraying his family, and even crawling over Park’s dead body. Harden is struck by how emotionally Shin speaks—instead of allowing his self-hatred to silence him, he uses his feelings to speak out against the North Korean state. When Shin’s speech ends, the entire church explodes in applause. “In that speech, if not yet in his life,” Harden notes, “Shin had seized control of his past.”
While Harden is too realistic to end his book on a purely optimistic note, he suggests that, in the future, Shin might find a way to come to terms with his personal demons and become a brave crusader against the North Korean prison camp system. Shin clearly has both the capacity and the desire to speak out emotionally against the prison camp system—and if he can learn to love and forgive himself for what he did as a young, confused man, then he could become exactly the bold, courageous activist that North Koreans need.
Themes
Tyranny and the North Korean State Theme Icon
Survival, Self-interest, and Morality Theme Icon
Indoctrination and Brainwashing Theme Icon
Guilt Theme Icon
Activism and Indifference Theme Icon
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