A River In Darkness. By Masaji Ishikawa
One Man's Escape from North Korea.
On the (literal) eve of repatriation for three American hostages released from North Korea, I finished the short autobiography, A River In Darkness. One Man's Escape from North Korea. Written in 2000 but recently translated to English, author Masaji Ishikawa, born to a Japanese mother and Korean father, grows up poor but happy in Japan in the 1950s. When he is thirteen, his father (along with thousands of other expats) relocates the family to North Korea, lured by promises of education, work opportunities and most importantly, respect--promises made by Kim Jong-Un's grandfather, Great Leader Comrade Kim Il-Sung. This mass return migration is abetted by the Red Cross, something Ishikawa can never understand. The ensuing thirty-six years are depicted in unembellished text and recall the absolute horror and helplessness of life in “The Hermit Kingdom.” Life is even more brutal for returnees and “half-breeds.” Although Ishikawa ultimately escapes and is finally able to return to Japan, he himself never finds peace, tormented by his inability to help those he was forced to leave behind. I kept thinking of the old chestnuts: “A leopard can’t change its spots.” and “Those who do not read history are doomed to repeat it.” after I completed this book. Food for thought and recommended.