Mitsuko left Japan in 1960 for a new life in North Korea. Once there, she realised she – and hundreds of others like her – could never go back
It has been six decades since Mitsuko Minakawa boarded a ferry on the Sea of Japan coast, bound for a new life in North Korea. But the anguish of that sunny day in the spring of 1960 has never left her.
Two months earlier, Minakawa had married a Korean man, Choe Hwa-jae, a contemporary at Hokkaido University, where she was the only woman in a class of 100 students. Minakawa, then 21, and Choe were part of the mass repatriation of ethnic Korean residents of Japan – many of them the offspring of people who had been brought from the Korean peninsula by their Japanese colonisers to work in mines and factories.