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The Olympic spirit: It's not just in sports



Joined: 2/17/2014
Posts: 1
NH
The Olympics celebrate the tremendous grit and determination of athletes around the world. But that same determination to overcome adversity and succeed also can be found in the most unlikely, even threatening, places,
Shin Dong-hyuk’s account of his life and escape from a North Korean forced labor camp is Olympian by any standards. He was born in a place known only as Camp 14, which is reserved for political dissenters and their offspring who are bred as slave labor. The only thing Shin knew was hunger and fear, and the only value he had was to be a good “snitch” for the prison guards who decide who gets food, and who survives. As a young boy Shin even snitches on his mother and brother, when they plot to escape without iincluding him and or giving him enough food. The guards reward Shin and when they are executed he feels no remorse.
Yet, Shin’s essential humanity, which exists in all people no matter where they are born and how they are raised, has not been entirely extinguished. After being punished for weeks in an underground solitary cell, Shin emerges determined to escape. Initially he is motivated by the thought of meat, which he has heard exists on the outside, but he also knows the life he has is terrible. He escape is terrifying, a tales of hunger, eluding guards, surviviing frigid temperatures. When he finally makes it to China and then to Seoul, he realizes what a warped life he has had and the hard work of discovering his “humanness” kicks in.
Shin for the first time starts to feel remorse, especially for snitching on his mother. He attempts to build a normal life. He tries to have a relationship with a woman. Even though that relationship proved unfruitful, he conitinues to work hard fit in to society. Eventually he tells his story so others will know about North Korea's slave camps. He says he still sometimes becomes enraged and even depressed about his life. But the point is that he is still fighting, still trying to overcome and never giving up. To me, that is the Olympic spirit: facing an adversity that we can not even imagine and pushing ourselves to be the best we can be, against often difficult odds, even when there is no promise of a happy ending, or a gold medal. Shin is an example of the inextinguishable human spirit, which cannot be denied even in the worst circumstances.
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