The River of Ryejeong Kim


The River of Ryejeong Kim” takes a deep dive into the most trying times of Korea such as Japan’s 35-year annexation of Korea and the Korean War (the conflict between South and North Korea, in which more than 2.5 million lives were lost). We have read about them but what was it really like to live through those times? The book follows the life of Ryejeong Kim, the daughter of an independence activist, Mr. Han Kim but also a wife who stepped up during Korea’s patriarchal times to defeat the status-quo by rising as a female entrepreneur to support her family, and a mother of an independence activist and to two lost daughters in North Korea. Korea still remains as the only divided country in the world today, with separated family members in North and the South who live not knowing what each other looks like. The book starts by highlighting the reunion between Ryejeong and her daughter from North Korea she hasn’t seen for 60 years since being separated from them during the Korean War.

Ryejeong’s father, Mr. Han Kim was a lawyer who studied in Tokyo, Japan but gave up his life as a lawyer to fight for the independence of his country during Japan’s annexation of Korea. After being an accomplice to a bombing attack against the Japanese, he was on a constant run from the Japanese men in black suits trying to chase him down. He was arrested and released to eventually die alone in an unfamiliar country of Russia. 

As a wife, Ryejeong endured hardships to support her family by starting a restaurant as well as setting up a stall to sell American goods and dollars, and operating a snacks bar in movie theatres for her family of 11 to live on when her husband fell ill. As a mother, she suffered heartbreaks from losing her own child and being separated from her two children in another country, North Korea where the same language is spoken.

Hardships for Ryejeong continue on when her youngest son, Wonshik is arrested for his student movement, protesting against dictatorship regime and fighting for democratization in Korea.

On August 15th, 2006, on Korean Independence Day at 90 years-old, Ryejeong was invited by the Former President of South Korea, Moo-hyun No to receive the Patriot Independence Medal by the Order of Merit for the National Foundation for her father, Mr. Han Kim’s patriotic work for the country. Flowing with unbelievable tragedies and stories that will surprise the reader, “The River of Ryejeong Kim” is a book no one should miss.



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