Shin, now 24, was a political prisoner by birth. From the day he was born in 1982 in Camp No. 14 in Kaechon until he escaped in 2005, Shin had known no other life. Guards beat children, tortured grandparents and, in cases like Shin's, executed family members. But Shin said it did not occur to him to hate the authorities. He assumed everyone lived this way.
He had never heard of Pyongyang, the capital city 90 kilometers, or 55 miles, to the south, or even of Kim Jong Il, the North Korean leader.
'I didn't know about America, or China or the fact that the Korean Peninsula was divided and there was a place called South Korea,' he said. 'I thought it was natural that I was in the camp because of my ancestors' crime, though I never even wondered what that crime was. I never thought it was unfair.'