A Descent Into Hell

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A Descent Into HellA Review of
Escape From Camp 14

Escape From Camp 14 is a modern-day horror story that spans 224 pages revealing the atrocities of the atheistic communist North Korean regime. Its facts are related by one of the few escapees who lived, Shin Dong-Hyuk. The testimony of a former inmate of the communist paradise only serves to highlight the fact that wherever communism has usurped power, it has never conquered souls. This is most evident in the case of Shin Dong-Hyuk who was born in this ghastly prison camp and knew no other life. However, he eventually sought anything but communism and succeeded.To fully grasp the hell on earth that communism desires for the world, we can compare the values of Christian civilization to the utter depravity imposed by communists. Take for instance the trilogy, tradition, family and property.

Everyone knows, if only by intuition, what these mean. Tradition is those good customs of the past that live today and are carried over for the benefit of future generations. They can be found everywhere in society especially in the family, community and Church.

The family is the most fundamental social institution. It is where individuals are formed based on the ambience and customs created by tradition and where the future is firmly rooted. The health of institutions and states can be measured by the health of this institution; therefore great families form great societies.

Private property is an institution that springs from the cardinal virtue of justice. It is necessary for the stable and healthy development of families and free markets in society. It helps families grow and mature as can be see through the accumulation of wealth. Private property also makes possible the virtue of charity by which people can practice generosity to individuals, families, the Church and other institutions. Possessing property aids in socio-political engagement as well as the development of education and culture.

As mentioned above, sometimes the negative can help us make explicit our understanding of the positive. The book, Escape From Camp 14 is one such tool. After reading this book and seeing the masses that have no traditions, families or private property, we can have a much greater understanding and appreciation of these values that we are still freely enjoy. Even the most pagan of societies valued tradition family and property. Only atheistic Communism scientifically targets the elimination of these values down to the last detail.

This book tells the tragic story of Shin Dong-Hyuk, who was born and grew up in North Korean Labor Camp #14. It is hard to imagine the deliberate cruelty to which Shin and many others were subject, and continue to be subjected even today, in communist North Korea. Shin lived with his mother in a room with no running water, beds, chairs or tables. Meager meals were served contingent upon work quotas being met. Every meal was the same each day and consisted only of corn porridge, pickled cabbage and cabbage soup. Shin was so hungry that he often consumed his mother’s portion as well.

Shin’s father and brother also lived in the camp but he was only very rarely able to see them. Instead of the affection for our parents that we accept as a given, children in these camps were taught to hate their parents and to turn them in for any infractions. Parents could not trust even their own children.

The main concern of everyone in the camp was food. The work hours were grueling and long so hunger was always present. Prisoners looked for food wherever they could. However if they were caught with unauthorized food they would be beaten or even killed. One day while in class Shin’s teacher decided to search all of the students who were only six years of age. In the pocket of one of the girls he found a few kernels of corn. In front of the entire class she was beaten to death with a wooden pointer.

One day, Shin was allowed to go home early because of good behavior. When he arrived, his brother was also home. He overheard his mother and brother talk about escaping from the camp. Shin then did what we would consider the unthinkable. With promises of rewards of extra rations, he turned his mother and brother in to the camp authorities. He was forced to watch his mother’s execution by hanging and the death of his brother by firing squad.

Shin, who thought he would be rewarded, instead was punished. He was suspect and thus suffered weeks of torture for his “good deed.” A high level political prisoner befriended him in prison and told him that there was a different outside world entirely unlike the camp. This prisoner had traveled all over the world until offending the wrong official.

Shin eventually decided to escape. His escape was successful and ultimately he made it to the United States. Sadly, we can see that even after he achieved freedom, he is a broken man. He grew up without the internal familial structures that form the integrity of a man through the practice of virtue. Everything in Shin’s soul was destroyed and broken from birth. It can be readily seen that the families who lived in the camp had almost none of the natural qualities of a family. Family affection is so natural that we cannot imagine a family without this mutual affection. In the camps affection may have existed to some small extent internally, but it was dangerous to exhibit any outward affection. After all, parents could not trust children and children could not trust parents.

Since thea family did not exist for all intents and purposes, and the healthy social interactions from school, work and culture also did not exist, traditions did not exist. The inmates of these camps oftentimes did not even know who they were or from where they came. Any previous traditions had been violently obliterated. Private property existed for no one except the privileged few communists that ran the camp; not even the clothes belonged to the inmate. There was absolutely nothing to accumulate since nothing could be owned.

This book does contain some disagreeable aspects. Since North Korea is an official atheistic regime, morality is virtually non-existent. However, reading this book will help readers acquire an even greater appreciation for our traditions, the institution of the family and right to private property that we still enjoy and from which we have benefited. Hopefully it will inspire us to fight to preserve these values that right now are under attack in our own country.

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