Reviewed by Marshall Hughes
North Korea Kidnapped My Daughter
by Sakie Yokota
If you have interest in gripping, non-fiction stories regarding the power of both human depravity and human grace, this would be an excellent choice to put on your must-read list
In November of 1977,
13-year-old Megumi Yokota seemingly vanished into thin air while walking
home from badminton practice at her middle school in Niigata, Japan,
located on the Sea of Japan facing the Korean Peninsula.
There were seemingly no clues left, although dogs later tracked her scent
to within 50 meters or so from her house.
For more than 19 years her family searched for her, hoping and praying that somehow she would return. For many years they left their porch light on, just in case Megumi somehow reappeared. The family had at least one person at home during that 19-year wait, not wanting to miss a call from Megumi should a miracle occur.
Then, in early 1997, the Japanese government finally admitted what it had known for a long time - that the little girl had been kidnapped by the North Korean government and forced to teach North Korean spies Japanese language and culture so they could more effectively infiltrate Japan.
“North Korea Kidnapped My Daughter” is written by Megumi’s mother, Sakie Yokota, and tells of the trials and tribulations of having your middle schooler whisked away by government agents from a hellish, communist country.
Megumi was the youngest of perhaps as many as 450 people from 14 countries taken by North Korean dictator Kim Il Sung. Kim’s son, Kim Jong Il, who is the current madman in charge, has continued the practice, branching out into taking South Korean actresses that he thinks are particularly beautiful.
Although possibly not written to be a “Christian” book per se, Sakie Yokota does tell of the source of her amazing strength - her faith in God. She touches on the circumstances of her becoming a Christian. The seeds of her faith were planted and watered by a Reverand McDaniel and his wife, missionaries who lived in the Yokota’s neighborhood and who helped put up posters after Megumi’s disappearance.
Later, the mother of one of
Megumi’s classmates came to the Yokota
house and, after giving Sakie a Bible and asking her to read the book of
Job, invited her to a Bible study. Sakie eventually became a Christian,
although her husband did not.
Along with her favorite Bible verses, the author includes some tonka (like haiku, but with 31 Japanese syllables instead of 17) which she composed after the disappearance of Megumi.
Early every morning
The birds sing in sadness
The pale porch light beams
Waiting for three years.
It’s probably not award-winning
tanka, but it certainly fits the story.
The book is clearly written by a non-professional, which is actually one of its strengths. It seems to lend a certain air of reality to the whole tragedy. A mother’s pure love for her daughter is felt with each heartrending detail of the passing of time. A lot of tears are shed during the course of the book, first by Sakie and her family and later, probably, by the readers.
The author uses irony well. In one passage she writes of a brief solo that Megumi sang at a school play not long before her disappearance. It went like this: “Black-eyed maidens begin to dance. Those torn from a home where they were happy, see the beloved land in their dreams.”
One short-coming of the book is the time gap between the story that is told in the book and the updated pictures included in the book. The book ends in 1999, but the pictures include information which is not mentioned in the book. The book was written in Japanese in 1999, but not translated into English until this year.
The post-1999 information is of great interest to the readers, including (without giving away the whole story), the confirmed existence of Megumi eventually marrying a South Korean man (himself abducted at age 16) with whom she had a daughter named Kim Hye-Gyong. Megumi’s parents have now met Kim Hyu-Gyong.
If you have interest in gripping, non-fiction stories regarding the power of both human depravity and human grace this would be an excellent choice to put on your must-read list.
Marshall Hughes is a former sports writer for the Honolulu Advertiser. For most of the past 22 years he has taught English in Japan. He has taught at the university level in America, Japan and China. Among his hobbies are sports, traveling and photography. He has been to 41 countries and is always hoping to go somewhere new. He is an award-winning photographer in both Japan and America. His bi-lines include The Washington Post, The Pacific Daily News (Guam), The Contra Costa Times and several sports publications.