What’s in it for me? A captivating chronicle of life in totalitarian North Korea.

North Korea is in the headlines a lot these days. In its dealings with other nations, it puts on a show of force. Militaristic and menacing, it rattles its expensive nuclear saber at anyone and everyone that crosses its path.

But what’s it really like inside the notorious hermit kingdom?

Outsiders rarely scratch the surface of everyday life in the self-proclaimed workers’ state. Visitors are closely monitored and only shown what the regime wants them to see. And “tour guides” are always on hand to make sure embarrassing pictures never make it out of the country.  

That leaves the courageous North Koreans who’ve managed to escape the clutches of the totalitarian state.

Masaji Ishikawa is one of the few men and women who have attempted the perilous border crossing into China and lived to tell the tale. A River in Darkness is his harrowing memoir of growing up in North Korea. Peeling back the propaganda, he gives us a glimpse of the horrors and hardships that define life in one of the world’s most brutal dictatorships.

In the following blinks, you’ll learn

  • why thousands of Koreans left Japan to build a new life in North Korea;
  • what it’s like to go to school in a totalitarian state; and
  • about Ishikawa’s perilous journey to freedom.