This sordid tale ends with an escape, the only successful one ever from a North Korean labor camp:
[His mother Jang] never talked to him about her past, her family, or why she was in the camp, and he never asked. His existence as her son had been arranged by the guards. They chose her and the man who became Shin's father as prizes for each other in a "reward" marriage.
Single men and women slept in dormitories segregated by sex. The eighth rule of Camp 14 said, "Should sexual physical contact occur without prior approval, the perpetrators will be shot immediately." A reward marriage was the only safe way around the no-sex rule. Guards announced marriages four times a year. … Shin's father, Shin Gyung Sub, told Shin that the guards gave him Jang as payment for his skill in operating a metal lathe.
After their marriage, the couple were allowed to sleep together for five consecutive nights. From then on, Shin's father was permitted to visit Jang a few times a year. …
The guards taught the children they were prisoners because of the "sins" of their parents but that they could "wash away" their inherent sinfulness by working hard, obeying the guards and informing on their parents.
It gets better:
One day in June 1989, Shin's teacher, a guard who wore a uniform and a pistol on his hip, sprang a surprise search of the six-year-olds. When it was over, he held five kernels of corn. They all belonged to a slight girl Shin remembers as exceptionally pretty. The teacher ordered the girl to the front of the class and told her to kneel. Swinging his wooden pointer, he struck her on the head again and again. As Shin and his classmates watched in silence, lumps puffed up on her skull, blood leaked from her nose and she toppled over on to the concrete floor. Shin and his classmates carried her home. Later that night, she died.
On a hillside near Shin's school, a slogan was posted: "All according to the rules and regulations." The boy memorised the camp's 10 rules, and can still recite them by heart. Subsection three of Camp 14's third rule said, "Anyone who steals or conceals any foodstuffs will be shot immediately." Shin thought the girl's punishment was just. The same man continued to teach Shin. In breaks, he allowed students to play rock, paper, scissors. On Saturdays, he would sometimes grant children an hour to pick lice out of each other's hair.
At age 13, it got worse, after he ratted out his mother and brother for trying to escape (they were both executed):
… The papers explained why his father's family had been locked up in Camp 14. The unforgivable crime Shin's father had committed was being the brother of two young men who had fled south during the Korean war. Shin's crime was being his father's son.
Shin's cell was barely large enough for him to lie down. Without windows, he could not distinguish night from day. He was given nothing to eat and could not sleep.
On what seemed to be the morning of the third day, guards wordlessly entered Shin's cell, shackled his ankles, tied a rope to a hook in the ceiling and hung him upside down. …
Kids labor with their mothers (unless, of course, they get executed, and you get tortured):
… At 16, it was time for a permanent job. Shin's teacher handed down assignments without explanation, curtly telling students where they would spend the rest of their lives. More than half of Shin's class were sent to the coalmines …
Shin was assigned the pig farm …