93,000 People Voluntarily Left Japan for North Korea After World War II. Or Did They?

Julie Makinen
August 24, 2016
Los Angeles Times

“In April 1960, not yet finished with high school, 17-year-old Eiko Kawasaki boarded a Soviet ship called the Kryl’ion in the Japanese port of Niigata and set sail on the journey of a lifetime, to a place she was told was paradise: North Korea.

She and hundreds of her fellow passengers had heard about free housing and guaranteed jobs in Kim Il Sung’s socialist state. And they felt a sense of kinship: All were either ethnic Koreans born in Japan or Koreans brought to Japan to work during the 1910–1945 colonial era, when Japan harshly occupied and ruled the Korean peninsula.”

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Eiko Kawasaki, 74, was born to Korean parents in Japan. At 17, lured by propaganda about how good life was in North Korea, she boarded a ship for the socialist state. She wouldn’t get out for 43 years. Photo credit: Julie Makinen / Los Angeles Times

Julie Makinen is a 2016 US-Japan Journalism Fellow.