5 | Review | ‘A River in Darkness: One Man’s Escape from North Korea’ by Masaji Ishikawa

While looking for books to read on Kindle Unlimited, I saw this book and decided to give it a try. I’ve always wanted to get a glimpse into life in North Korea considering it’s a closed country. This is the true story of Masaji Ishikawa and his escape from North Korea. Masaji was born in Japan and moved with his family to North Korea at the age of thirteen. He lived there till his escape in 1996. This is a short review on this novel.

STORY: The story begins with Masaji’s childhood in Japan. His father was of South Korean descent and his mother was Japanese. His childhood in Japan was unhappy – they lived in poverty and his mother endured a lot of domestic violence at the hands of his father. Though poor, they still had access to all amenities like a house, running water, electricity, education and food. In the 50s, North Korea launched a scheme calling all Koreans back to the motherland and promising them a great life with good jobs and monetary security. Masaji’s father brainwashed by North Korean representatives in Japan, decided to move the family to North Korea in hopes of a better future. On arriving in North Korea, the reality on ground was starkly different. There was no money, no electricity, no food and the only jobs available were of hard labour in farms and factories with little to no pay. The book revolves around the hardships faced by Masaji and his family in North Korea.

VERDICT: It was disturbing to read about the life of a commoner in North Korea. Though, I feel that Masaji’s writing couldn’t evoke emotions/empathy in me maybe because he isn’t a natural writer or english isn’t his primary language. But the story did give an insight into life in villages in North Korea. If that is something that you might be interested in, then definitely read this book. Else I’d recommend doing some research and picking up a different book on North Korea, there are many. Some that have good reviews are:

1. The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s StoryBook by David John and Lee Hyeon-seo

2. In Order to LiveBook by Maryanne Vollers and Park Yeon-mi

3. The Real North Korea: Life and Politics in the Failed Stalinist Utopia

4. Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine HardenFollow

What are you currently reading? I’m really into books on Indian Mythology right now.

Stay safe!

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Lani says:

    Love mythologies from around the world, that sounds like a divine place to be in! xo

    The book does sound intense. One of these days I’ll have to dive into those dark waters. North Korea is utterly insane. I actually felt hopeful when Kim Jung Un went “missing” this year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Happy Panda says:

      I’m definitely going to give Greek mythology a try next!

      I want to read more about North Korea and how they’ve managed to survive with little to no support from the rest of the world.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lani says:

        Good point about North Korea. I wonder if they trade with Communist countries?

        Love all the myths, yes, have FUN! 😀


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