Escaped North Korean prisoner motivates new organization

By Taylor Williams
Posted January 31, 2013

Silence overtook the room as students listened to a story about a North Korean man who was born and tortured in a prison camp called Camp 14.

Shin Dong-hyuk lived in Camp 14 for 23 years, for a crime his uncles committed, before escaping through an electrical fence. Jack Enright, senior international economics and political science double major, tells the story to interested students.

“Three generations of punishment” is the practice North Korea’s first dictator, Kim Il Sung, started in the 1950s, according to Anderson Cooper in his 60 Minutes story on Dong-hyuk.

This practice means that if a person commits a crime, he or she must live the rest of their life in the prison camp. North Korean government also sends their parents and children to the camp.

Enright started a campus organization called the Camp 14 Project. He said he hopes to bring awareness to the world about the Camp 14 and other human rights issues.

“At TCU, I want to get the activism going, have pretty good membership turnout, get it solid here and spread it around,” Enright said.

Blaine Harden wrote a book about Dong-hyuk’s life called “Escape From Camp 14”. Enright said reading this book sparked his interest in Camp 14.

“I heard about it by reading the book and got really interested in [the cause],” Enright said.

Camp 14 Project started off as a class project by a political science class at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. Enright wanted to be the first one to create the same human activist group in the United States, he said.

“I saw the Camp 14 group that was in Canada and it looked really neat,” Enright said. “It would be great if there were hundreds more around the world, so I thought I’d start one here. I’m a senior and only have one more semester at a university, so I thought I’d make the most of my time while I’m still here.”

Enright held his first interest meeting Wednesday night to share the story of Shin Dong-hyuk and to encourage students to get involved with the organization.

Linnea Larson, junior speech pathology and Spanish double major, came to the interest meeting because she said she believed in what the organization stood for.

“Raising awareness is really important,” Larson said. “Getting people invested in the issue is important so more people can come together to make a change.”

Hyojin Park, a first-year nursing major from South Korea, said she is interested in the organization because of her roots.

“I wish more people would care about stuff like this,” Park said. “Everyone here lives a good life, but I wish people would have a heart for other people who aren’t privileged.”

Park said she had no previous knowledge of Camp 14.

“The only thing we hear about is the dictator. I know people live in poor conditions but we don’t hear about the prison camps,” she said.

According to the 60 Minutes interview, the North Korean government denies that it has any political prisons and “refuses to allow outside observers to inspect Camp 14 and other sites.”

Organizations like Camp 14 Project are created to educate the world of human rights issues that many people are uninformed about, Enright said in a conversation.

Camp 14 Project has a Twitter, Facebook and YouTube page. Interested students can join Camp 14 Project on Orgsync. Meeting times have not been determined.

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