A River in Darkness: One Man's Escape from North Korea by Masaji Ishikawa

A River in Darkness: One Man's Escape from North Korea by Masaji Ishikawa

Author:Masaji Ishikawa [Ishikawa, Masaji]
Language: eng
Format: epub, azw3
Tags: Autobiography, Memoir, Nonfiction
ISBN: 9781503936904
Publisher: Amazon Crossing
Published: 2018-01-01T05:00:00+00:00


During that time, the world seemed completely unforgiving. I was a single father at age twenty-six, divorced after a meaningless marriage that had lasted a year. My mother had died young after a lifetime of misery. My father and I struggled to keep my son from the jaws of death. And all around me, I saw nothing but a kind of farcical futility. I could no longer really see the point of being alive.

So what did I do when I reached this new low? Human beings are nothing if not irrational, so I did what countless people had done before me and countless others will do long after I’m dead: I prayed. It didn’t even matter that I didn’t really believe in God. I prayed that no more tragedies would befall me. I prayed for my son’s health. I prayed for a change of fortune. I prayed every single day. And God watched over me. For five years. For five years, nothing happened to me at all. And then I turned thirty-one.

And God got bored again.

It was autumn, just after the harvest. Food-distribution day was coming up, the one time of year you could relax a little. I came home from work one day and found my sister Masako cuddling my son. She was crying inconsolably. I took him in my arms and asked her what was wrong with him, but he was fine. He too was wondering why Masako was upset. “Why are you crying, Auntie?” he asked. No answer. She just continued to sob. Then she suddenly stopped crying and looked at me very seriously. “Masaji, please don’t get angry with me,” she said. “I’m pregnant.” I was stunned, having had no inkling she was even seeing anyone.

“Who is he? Are you planning to get married?” I asked.

And then it all came tumbling out. His name was Han Om-choru, and he was a farm laborer from the village. He had been all doting and sweet when my sister was willing to do what he asked, but as soon as she told him she was pregnant, he changed his tune. When she had asked him if he intended to marry her, his family had gotten involved. Then it was the usual story. Of course he couldn’t marry her—she was a Japanese bastard. And with that, they’d pushed her out of the house.

I could feel the rage building inside me as she told me the story. My mother had always admonished me to watch my temper and be patient; to her mind, violence was never the solution. But I just couldn’t bear it. Masako was my sister, and they were disrespecting her.

Holding an ax in my hand, I went to Han’s house, about a ten-minute walk from ours. I found him outside.

“You’ve taken advantage of my sister, you brute! Well, you know what, asshole? You can’t get away with that.”

His family tried to restrain me, but I grabbed him by the back of the neck and pulled him down to the ground.


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