Perhaps no story captures the cruelty of the North Korean regime better than that of Shin Dong-hyuk.

Born in one of the country’s harshest political prison camps, he was assigned to hard labour at an early age. During more than 20 years in confinement, Shin ate nothing but a corn-based gruel, slept on a concrete floor and lived in perpetual fear of corporal discipline or, worse, death. In his teens, he witnessed the execution of both his mother and brother after prison guards learned of their plan to escape.

In 2005, at age 23, Shin himself managed to flee, and his heartbreaking tale is told in Blaine Harden’s new book, Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West.

Shin spent time in China, South Korea and southern California before settling in South Korea, where he now works as a human-rights activist.

Shin and Harden spoke to Anna Maria Tremonti, host of CBC Radio’s The Current, about Shin’s horrific childhood, his dangerous escape and the one memory that continues to haunt him.