A River in Darkness by Masaji Ishikawa

Published August 12, 2021

A River in Darkness by Masaji Ishikawa

Book info

  • Title A River in Darkness
  • Author Masaji Ishikawa
  • Year 2000
  • Genre Memoir

Half-Korean, half-Japanese, Masaji Ishikawa has spent his whole life feeling like a man without a country. This feeling only deepened when his family moved from Japan to North Korea when Ishikawa was just thirteen years old, and unwittingly became members of the lowest social caste. His father, himself a Korean national, was lured to the new Communist country by promises of abundant work, education for his children, and a higher station in society. But the reality of their new life was far from utopian.


There are a few books that detail the author’s escape from the brutal regime in North Korea, and although it’s a similar story, the details of each story are so different. I hadn’t realised that people ended up going to North Korea voluntarily, on the false promise of a better life that ended up being so much worse than they could have imagined.

This was a terrifying and tragic story of a man who followed his family’s wishes and ended up having to escape North Korea, but let’s be clear, there was no happy ending here. The writing is simple, with short, sharp sentences, that really give you the atmosphere of this stark and upsetting situation. An important read.

Rating: 5 / 5

← Previous Octopussy and the Living Daylights by Ian Fleming
Next → Don't Stop Me Now by Vassos Alexander