Yoko Kawashima wrote this book for her sister. It commemorates all the dangerous risks they had to take as a family to overcome the Korean War. While reading this story we learn about the historic facts but we first of all learn about this poor Korean family who was forced to leave their hometown to go to Japan. They sought refuge on the other side of the sea but found out that their family had also been killed.
The major part of the book is about the way this young girl, her sister and her mother escaped death while running away from the Korean communist army. Their hometown located in Northern Korea, when the invasion began, they had to leave and try to go to a safer place. They took few of their belongings, a little money, and some provisions. Throughout their journey, we see how they struggled to escape diseases, death, and rape. Korean Communists are shown as pitiless, violent, and immoral men. They kill everybody on their path and treat people as things.
So we witness North Koreans trying to flee to Southern Korea. Considering the poverty of Northern Koreans, we learn that it was very hard and dangerous to go pretty much anywhere. Some made it to the next city but died afterwards or were found and killed by soldiers. The goal of almost all non-communists Koreans was to get in the army or leave their home. The plan of the Kawashima’s was to go south and then find a way to go to Japan.
Across the sea lived some of their grandparents with whom they would live. During the trip to the South, the family had almost nothing to eat, nothing to drink and nowhere to sleep. We see how poor the country is throughout the young girl s point of view. She didn t realize it when she was there, but now, as a writer, she is ashamed of what her country became during that was.
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The two girls learn quickly to act like adults and to develop autonomy, which is very important in these situations. We can also appreciate th unity and the solidarity of the family. They never give up hope, always stay together and help each other out naturally. When they finally arrive in Japan, the first thing the mother thinks of is the education of the girls. She did all she could to get tem into a school. She is very concerned about the girl s futures.
Both girls are treated very badly at school. They are made fun f and laughed at, but they prove their worth by excelling in school subjects and getting perfect grades. This is a great sign of maturity. They never lose confidence and always try to do their best. The finally find a shelter and both work after school to make and money to live. They never waste anything and live a poor life.
Their mother dies after looking for the grandparents in vain. The girls are on their own and learn rapidly how to react in this kind of situations. We learn even more about the solidarity of the two sisters. They live like that during almost a year until the time when they meet their brother.
They had been looking for him ever since they arrived in Japan The book ends with the children s reunion and we suppose the older brother is going to take charge of the family just as a father would. The touching story allowed me to learn much more about the Korean War. It is not the same message as a history book where one only reads the facts, but here, I am a witness of a real story where I put myself in the victim s position and realize that I should be very happy with the life I have.