[KS] "The Martyred"
Kwang On Yoo
lovehankook at gmail.com
Thu Jun 16 00:15:12 EDT 2011
Dr. David Kim's announcement also brought to our attention the passing of
Professor Richard Kim in 2009.
In memory of Professor Kim, I would like to share following...
[image: Lost Names: Scenes From A Korean Boyhood]
*Lost Names* is a useful, rare, and wonderful book for several reasons. The
book’s title reflects the Japanese Pacific War policy of forcing Koreans to
replace their own names with Japanese ones. *Lost Names* is the story, as
recounted by a young boy, of one Korean family’s experience during the war
years. Although *Lost Names* is technically a novel, according to author
Richard Kim, " . . . all the characters and events described in the book are
real, but everything else is fiction." Never in my time in Asian Studies has
one work been so applicable to such a wide range of students as is the case
with *Lost Names*.
In the pages that follow, we feature an interview by *EAA* editorial board
member Kathy Masalski with Richard E. Kim and essays by a junior high,
senior high school, and university instructor on how they have used *Lost
Names* as a highly effective teaching tool. We sincerely hope this special
feature encourages teachers at all levels to read *Lost Names* and consider
using it with students.
[image: Lost Names]
[image: Kathleen Woods Masalski]
*Kathleen Woods Masalski* — I first met Richard Kim in 1994 when I asked him
to speak at a National Endowment for the Humanities summer institute on the
War in the Pacific. The audience responded so well that I invited him to
speak at several other summer institutes sponsored by the Five College
Center for East Asian Studies. After reading Peter Wright’s, Susan Mastro’s,
and Dick Minear’s essays about their teaching of *Lost Names*, I asked
Lucien if he would be interested in an interview with Kim. Lucien had read
the book and read the essays (Kim did not ask to see them before
publication), and urged me to proceed. Kim agreed to get together with me on
May 18 in Amherst, Massachusetts.
I presented him with a list of questions that I had prepared. The interview
lasted three hours; I took copious notes and wrote them up immediately
afterward. Although I suggested that he edit the final interview, Kim
declined. What follows are selected passages from our discussion that
I should note that I approach *Lost Names* as history, and my questions
reflect my background as a history teacher. An English teacher would have
asked different questions. Lost Names is first and foremost creative
writing. Social studies teachers may well wish to introduce the book to
their colleagues in the English or Language Arts departments.
*Masalski:* One question the audience always has about *Lost Names* is
whether it is fiction or nonfiction. Do you really intend to tell readers
that nothing in *Lost Names* is "factual" or "historical"? How much of what
is in it actually happened? How much actually happened to you?
*Kim: *Everything in the book actually happened. It happened to me. So why
am I always insisting it’s not autobiographical? I think because of the way
I used the things that actually happened. You have to arrange them, mix them
up. Above all, it’s interpretation of facts, of actual events—some thirty or
forty years later. For example, when "the boy" gets beaten, what went
through his mind? We don’t know. . . . even I don’t know. I like to separate
the actual events from the emotional, the psychological. One shouldn’t
confuse the actual events with the inner events. That’s where a lot of
beginning writers make a big mistake. A lot think everything is exactly as
it happened; but we put our own interpretation on events. I didn’t invent
any actual events. . . . but everything else is fiction. That is very
important to me.
[image: Richard Kim]
*Masalski:* When you wrote the book in 1970, how did you go about gathering
evidence? Or didn’t you?
*Kim:* I didn’t have to gather much. I made a chronology of actual political
events and a chronology of events in my life. Then I rearranged . . . I had
to rearrange the events in my life. I think that the private events happened
at the time [I described them] . . . but maybe not. The big world events
happened . . . [the question was] how to bring them together . . . .
The original plan for this book was different from what it turned out to be.
Praeger planned a series of books on different countries, Japan, China,
India, Korea, etc. to introduce these countries to American children. I
decided to introduce Korea through family life. As soon as I started
writing, the book took on a different life. I called my editor and said, "I
can’t do it the way it was planned." She said, "What is your idea for the
book?" and I said I didn’t know. She said, "Let it loose, let it go." I had
already listed many details, for example, what we typically ate for
breakfast, because I was using that information to introduce what Koreans
eat. When I finished writing (it took me only three months), we took a look
at the manuscript. It was not what the editors had in mind, but they liked
it. They took the work out of the country series and decided to publish it
separately. But, they wondered, how should they treat it? They sent the
manuscript to Pearl Buck, and she praised it as a novel. But Praeger didn’t
want a novel. So they convinced her to call it something else. [She called
it "the best piece of creative writing I have read about Korea."] So Praeger
decided to just get it out . . . to let others decide. And the reviews were
good. [Edward] Seidensticker reviewed it for the *New York Times* and
Praeger breathed a sigh of relief.
*Masalski:* You were a boy of thirteen or fourteen when the book—and the
war—ended. What do you remember of your feelings then? Now, fifty-plus years
later, how have your feelings changed?
*Kim: *I don’t feel differently about things today. I feel the same as when
they happened. My father was in a detention camp, so I didn’t jump up and
down for joy. Rather, I felt that finally it’s happened. Something that
should have happened happened.
I didn’t have feelings of hatred for the Japanese. My feelings were more of
contempt. I despised, had contempt for [them]. . . . In a perverse sort of
way, I had a feeling of superiority. It was a defense mechanism to think,
"Forgive them, Lord, for they know not what they do." This may be a
cultural, a class thing. I felt the Japanese were not to be trusted or
respected. It might have been different in Seoul, but not in my small town.
The Japanese we dealt with were not very good. After all, who would go to a
dinky town, a dinky province, if they had a choice?
I [didn’t] think of the Korean characters as saintly, but as ordinary. In
those days there was no room for cynicism. Everything seemed clear cut. We
knew where we were and where we stood. Today is different; I don’t know
where I stand. I don’t know what to think. . . . in those days I knew. Them
and us. Cynicism comes from self-doubt. There was no room for that sort of
When the Japanese priest and his wife [who lived nearby] came [when the end
of the war was announced] and begged that we protect them, my grandfather
didn’t know what to do. . . . I didn’t know what to do. . . . We went back
to the source of authority. . . . do what your father would have done. The
tenant farmer, too, kept telling me that my father would have protected
them. . . .
Actually, my father was a saint. I wrote an inscription on his gravestone,
"He was a good man and just." He was like that—truly. I never heard him say
anything bad about anyone. I never saw him enraged. I’m not like him. . . .
He had a great capacity for suppressing his feelings; he was patient.
If I had been exposed to constant hatred at home, maybe I would have felt
differently about Japan and the Japanese. But I wasn’t. Grandfather never
said much. And I never heard my father say nasty things verbally. We
thought, they’re bad ones. . . . so why should we waste our time talking
about them. . . .
*If the Japanese had been victorious, if the war had lasted another four or
five years, maybe most Koreans would have become "Japanized."*
*Masalski:* What difference to *Lost Names* does it make that you and your
family were well-to-do and Christian?
*Kim:* This is a very important question. We were upper-middle class, the
town’s elite. The Japanese who were there were not. We saw them as men who
couldn’t get jobs in Tokyo. "Why are they here?" we asked ourselves. As
colonizers, they were supposed to be better than the colonized, but a lot of
Japanese were simply not that great. It’s a cultural, a class thing. I
didn’t hate them. They were like dangerous dogs to be avoided.
Although we were not that wealthy, we were reasonably well-to-do. In those
days we were made to look upper class because we went to college. The
Christian thing is tricky. I’ve been thinking about it. Some really
well-to-do Koreans, especially in the South—even among my
generation—sometimes the Japanese treated them like upper class, with kid
gloves. Made them feel better, like the aristocracy, the ruling class, the
landlord class. Made them feel as if they were treated with respect. To this
day I know people with backgrounds like this who are without anti-Japanese
The lower classes—what did they care if they were governed by the Japanese
or a Korean dynasty? They were treated the same. My grandfather told me that
one time, when he witnessed royalty passing by, he saw someone miserably
beaten because he didn’t bow low enough. And he (my grandfather) felt that
when the dynasty perished, well, it served the royalty right.
I don’t know how much of a sense of nationalism existed at the time of
Japanese annexation. As long as the upper classes kept their money and
status, and as long as the Japanese left them alone, what difference did it
make? And what difference did it make to the peasants—both Korean royalty
and the Japanese took eighty percent of their crops, regardless. If the
Japanese had been victorious, if the war had lasted another four or five
years, maybe most Koreans would have become "Japanized."
I think it was the middle class, the upper-middle class who were affected
most by the war. That group produced more educated people, those with
To the Japanese, the Christians were the ones with the most connections with
the West—simply because they were Christians. They were therefore
characterized as outsiders, as dangerous. They were an important minority
because they were upper-middle class. They sent their sons to schools and
colleges. So as a group they were more conscious of national identity. I
don’t think the upper or lower classes thought about nationalism or
independence, but I really don’t know. The early uprisings were not
organized by the upper classes. In those days [during the war], memories
were fresh. Twenty–thirty years later, I don’t know. . . .
Belonging to that class and being Christian made all the difference. We were
more aware of where we belonged. I grew up thinking we were a little
different. *Lost Names* would be a different book if it were written by
someone else at the same time but in a different class and in a different
The book is not representative of "the Korean experience." I was a marked
boy. Somehow the village had voted me most likely to succeed, because I was
my father’s son. My grandfather, the minister, was one of the best-known
leaders of the Christian community. Most Christians knew my grandfather’s
name. The first day back in a Korean school, things were very tense for me.
My parents wondered, how would he (I) be received—both by the Japanese and
the town’s kids. I always had to be conscious of what I was. The key was "do
not disgrace the family."
*One exception I take is to anyone who says it’s (Lost Names)
anti-Japanese. It’s not; there are some bad Japanese characters in the book,
but it is not anti-Japanese.*
*Masalski:* In your opinion, has the Japanese government apologized to the
Korean people for its treatment of them during the occupation period?
*Kim:* I’m not so sure they’ve apologized. Regret, maybe. But that’s beside
the point. I don’t really care if any government apologizes. It’s probably a
political thing, anyway. It seems to me that Asians are less capable than
Europeans of accepting collective responsibility for their actions. Maybe
the Judeo-Christian culture has more possibilities for atonement and
redemption. Not so true for Asians. Why is it so difficult for Asians or
Koreans to say we are all guilty? We tend to say, "I didn’t do it."
*Masalski:* The title of the book is problematic—in all three languages. Why
did you choose it? What was your intent?
*Kim:* I loved the word "lost" and all the things that it conjures up,
especially in English. *Paradise Lost*. Lost is almost damned. . . . almost
sinful. Lost Souls (which was at one point my working title). I like "lost"
because it has a lot to do with my sense of my generation. Kind of like I am
now. I don’t belong. Born in Korea. Moved to Manchuria. Back to the north
[Korea]. Then to South Korea. Didn’t belong either place. Then to the
military, where I didn’t belong. To here. For awhile I thought about it,
then I gave up thinking about it, for it’s not important. Especially my
generation of Koreans happened to be between periods. . . . Japanese
occupation . . . a little of that . . . then the country was divided. . . .
then exodus . . . lost again. Led a refugee’s life . . . lost again . . .
then ended up here in god-forsaken Shutesbury with a name like Richard. . .
My college dean in this country thought that other students would have
difficulty pronouncing my Korean name, so we looked at names in a telephone
book. I chose Richard because I knew of Richard the Lion-Hearted. I finally
had it legalized. I like to think it fits with my character . . . it’s how I
think of myself. I’m lost, lost between two cultures, two worlds, neither
North or South Korea, not Korean or American. I felt that way always, even
as a little kid. I couldn’t even sing Korean songs. . . .
This has been one of my missions in life, to teach Koreans to accept
responsibility for their lives, to stop blaming others, the Japanese, the
Chinese. We lost it. . . . but many Koreans would like to think someone
grabbed it. . . . thinking this justifies hatred. I’ve often said that
Koreans need a national psychotherapy session, a large couch. Why are we as
we are, why is self-examination such a rare commodity in Korean life?
Koreans are so good about blaming others . . . they know so little about
what they have done. They lack a collective sense of guilt or action.
Koreans can’t say we were careless, we dropped our names, and someone else
picked them up and took them away. What the Japanese did was
terrible—perhaps more stupid than terrible. How can such smart people do
such dumb things? Didn’t they see that what they did would cause more
*Masalski:* One of the most important scenes in the book takes place in a
graveyard, where all your known ancestors are buried. You, your grandfather,
and your father visit that burial ground after the Japanese have given you
new names, Japanese names. Your grandfather says, "We are a disgrace to our
family. We bring disgrace and humiliation to your name. How can you forgive
us?" He and your father bow, their tears flowing (p. 111). . . . Will you
explain that scene?
*Kim:* My father felt that his generation had failed. (Maybe that’s why
there isn’t naked hatred of the Japanese.) The kind of man he was resulted
in his asking, "What have we done? How could we have allowed this to
happen?" I don’t think he blamed grandfather’s generation. My father had a
perfect right to fly into a rage, but there was none of that. "The important
thing," my father said, "is now how can we deal with this? Someday your
generation will forgive us." Why otherwise would he have taken me to the
graveyard where he and my grandfather asked their ancestors to forgive them?
He was almost telling me that one day we would have to forgive his
*Masalski:* Were you surprised by the book’s reception? By the way readers
(then and now) interpret it? Is there a difference?
*Kim:* It has been a surprise. It’s especially a great honor to find it’s
read in so many schools. I really feel good about that. I have no way of
influencing how readers take it, however. One exception I take is to anyone
who says it’s anti-Japanese. It’s not; there are some bad Japanese
characters in the book, but it is not anti-Japanese.
I wrote it quickly—between books. I had some legal problems with my second
book and decided to do something with the Praeger series. It started out as
one thing and ended up another. So I was very surprised.
*Masalski:* When they finish reading *Lost Names*, how do you want readers
to feel toward the characters and the countries represented?
*Kim: *When I wrote the book, I didn’t feel that I wanted the reader to feel
this way or that. I really didn’t think about writing for a foreign
audience. I never thought about any audience, in fact.
*Masalski:* What led to the rebirth of *Lost Names*? How much did the 50th
anniversary of World War II have to do with it?
*Kim:* I was willing to let it go, but the time came when Asian studies
programs here and there realized that there’s not enough material around.
The talk was taken up on the Internet, and there you are. I don’t think it
had anything to do with the anniversary of the war.
*Masalski:* What do you think the book has become?
*Kim:* I don’t know. A textbook. I’ll tell you . . . when *The
Martyred*came out, the
*New York Times* reviewer said it would last. . . . When I finished *Lost
Names*, I didn’t think it was in the same class as *The Martyred*, but I
said to my wife, Penny, this is an exquisite piece, a small jewel. Because
that was how I felt. It was hard to find fault with the book. The technique,
the language: granted that the author was biased, prejudiced . . . I felt it
was nice, not grand, not big (*The Martyred* was), but nice. I felt good,
really good about it.
I don’t know. . . . maybe it [the book] will last. If it does, it’s only
because people will look at it [in a larger context?] . . . if it were only
a picture of a family. . . . I don’t know, maybe there’s something more to
it than a family and a family’s survival.
*Masalski:* If you were teaching in a college, high school, or junior
high/middle school classroom today, how would you "teach" the book?
*Kim:* I would stress that they shouldn’t read this book as issue-oriented,
as anti-Japanese or anti-colonial. I would ask that they [teachers and
students] observe and understand how a family, both in private and in times
of war, copes with war and with one another. I know you think the characters
are almost too good to be true, but we really were good. We never fought. My
parents never exchanged harsh words.
My grandparents were patient souls. It may have to do with the culture
thing. . . . They had humble beginnings. . . . didn’t have the "more sinned
against than sinning" attitude . . . they didn’t feel wronged; they were
always grateful for what they had. I think I have that. I’m so grateful
every time I go into a grocery store that I am able to pick from the shelves
that which I want. . . .
My grandmother was tough. . . . grandfather was saintly. They didn’t talk
that much. I’m different. I’m told that on the second day of Kindergarten I
didn’t like school so I stopped going. I left the house every morning and
hid. No one knew until the school came looking. I never went back. . . . I’m
different. . . .
*Masalski:* At every one of our summer institutes, teachers have brought up
the incident in *Lost Names* that involves rubber balls. The chapter, "An
Empire for Rubber Balls," presents such an engaging, dramatic scene. When
the Japanese Empire was at its height, the Japanese distributed rubber balls
to all children. But after the tide turned for Japan, they wanted them back.
As class leader, the boy was responsible for collecting the balls. He
pricked them in order to fit them into a container, and the teacher beat him
severely. What is the message here, the lesson?
*Kim:* The Japanese really wanted the balls back. And here is the irony of
the situation. My grandmother, in her peasant wisdom, came up with the idea
of pricking holes in them. I think the Japanese assumed that the boy’s
father had influenced him. It was not so . . . the incident happened. . . .
I was beaten pretty badly. . . . I don’t remember all the details . . . for
example, there was a Korean policeman, but I don’t think he intervened. . .
. this is where the fiction comes in. . . . I brought him into the story.
That’s the fun part of a book like this. . . . taking fact and fiction and
mixing them together. I don’t know what my mother said in certain
situations, but I’d make what she said sound good in certain situations. The
momentum creates the situation. . . . dialogue comes out . . . you can’t
plan every dialogue. I would call my mother up (when I was writing the book)
and say guess what you said today, and she would ask, "did I really say
"There is no nobility in pain; there is only degradation" (p. 134). This was
an unusual thing for me to say. It’s not Christian, but . . . the truth is,
for most people a beating is a beating. I remember my father was held upside
down from the ceiling, not by the Japanese, but by a Korean who was working
for American intelligence. (This took place in South Korea after the family
moved from the north to the south.) He was picked up in 1946, ‘47, ‘48. . .
. a Korean detective working for the Americans brought him in, saying he was
a communist spy sent by the north Koreans. They held him upside down and
pulled all his hair out. (In the Japanese prison earlier, the Japanese
shaved his head every day. . . . he said that was so painful. . . .) The
Americans held him until something happened that proved he was not a spy.
When I arrived in the south, I found him and spoke with a Korean American in
intelligence. When my father was released, I shouted, "Someday I’ll kill all
you Americans." This was so difficult for me. . . . the Americans had come
as our liberators. . . .
*Masalski:* Which incident/passage in the book lends itself to teaching, or
presents an "ideal" teaching situation?
*Kim:* I don’t know about teaching it, but my favorite scene in the book is
in "Once upon a Time, on a Sunday." . . . They come home, finally, and the
boy is outside the cottage with paper screen (*shoji*) for windows; the
light inside glows, and the boy is looking up. . . . and this is fact and
fiction . . . being so afraid of the dark, but suddenly with a sense of the
insignificance of things . . . of his minute existence . . . and yet we were
killing each other. . . . the sudden ludicrousness of being in a vast
universe. That day we had studied with the map in the classroom. . . . and
the day ended with the entire universe in the dark. . . . I felt some kind
of fear, a primordial fear drove me into the cottage. Mom, Dad, and light
were there in the face of this primordial fear of the vast unknown. And what
was there to protect me was the family.
I like that one-page scene because it suggests the possibility for the mind
and the view of this boy. . . . the scene is so commonplace, the beautiful
stars, a conventional thing . . . why be terrified of that when everyone
else sees something beautiful, awesome. . . . What is there to terrify him .
. . something scary out there? Something terrifying out there—all this is
going on out there—war, nationalism, colonialism—it’s all so insignificant.
Maybe in a sense that’s what I think today, having gone through colonial
life, war which consumed my youthful existence . . . and defined everything
for me . . . now is so insignificant . . . in the twilight of my life.
Really, what we think is so earth-shaking turns out in the end to be so
insignificant. . . .
*Richard E. Kim* was born in Korea and has lived in the U.S. much of his
adult life. He was educated at Middlebury College, Johns Hopkins University,
the State University of Iowa, and Harvard. Richard Kim has taught at several
universities in the U.S. and, as a Fulbright Scholar, at Seoul National
University in Korea. In addition to *Lost Names*, he is the author of
several books including *The Innocent* (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1968) and
*The Martyred* (New York: George Brassiller, 1964). He has also scripted and
narrated several documentaries for KBS-TV in Seoul.
*Kathleen Woods Masalski* is Program Coordinator for the Five College Center
for East Asian Studies located at Smith College in Massachusetts. She
directs projects on China, Japan, and Korea that serve New England teachers.
She serves as chair of the AAS Committee on Teaching About Asia (CTA) and is
a member of the editorial board of *EAA*.
[image: Utilizing "Lost Names" in the Junior High Classroom]
I first was introduced to the novel *Lost Names* during a recent
postgraduate fellowship I participated in entitled *Imperial Japan—Expansion
and War, 1892 to 1945*. Sponsored by the Five College Center for East Asian
Studies, the seminar was conducted at Mount Holyoke College. Our
preconference assignment included reading this novel, and we actually had
the opportunity to meet its author, Richard E. Kim, during the conference.
He helped us analyze our feelings and reactions to his powerful story. In
announcing its reprinting, scheduled for 1998, he previewed our group with
his own Author’s Note for this new edition in which he states that he is
proud of the fact that his work is often taken as a factual memoir, not
fiction. [image: wright.jpg (5097 bytes)]
Fast-forward one year, and I am now teaching Seventh Grade Social Studies at
the Brimmer and May School in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. Brimmer is a
small, coed private school and a member of the Coalition of Essential
Schools. The philosophy of this coalition promotes a collaborative education
encompassing the values of independent thinking with group oriented problem
solving and analytical skills, community, individual responsibility,
citizenship, and respect.
In this collaborative setting, I found myself team teaching these students
with Joseph Iuliano, who taught English in addition to being Head of the
Middle School. Interestingly enough, when we met over the summer, we were
both new teachers to the Brimmer community. Our initial course curriculum
goal was to meld writing skills with the study of geography and culture of
the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America. We also planned to incorporate a
student project entitled "Family History—A Short Story." Questions to be
addressed included: what resources can students use to learn about their
ancestors and other cultures; and how can factual events be used to enhance
a fictional work? For this project, we required both accurate historical and
cultural information, along with a solid narrative model, which the students
could relate to and emulate. We also wanted to ensure that this experience
would be academically enriching for them as well as being personally
In August, I had given Joe my copy of *Lost Names* as potential curriculum
material for his English class. He rediscovered the book while cleaning out
his office prior to this term and began reading it. Simultaneously, I
realized that we were doing the students a disservice in not studying the
cultures of Asia. In discussing this lapse with him, we realized that this
novel would be a perfect fit for our project. When both Joe and myself had
initially read *Lost Names*, we did so without realizing that it was a work
of fiction because of its personal intensity. We hoped that our students
would assume the same until they read the Author’s Note at the end, thus
subliminally impressing upon them the literary style we were looking for.
In addition to reading the book to appreciate its composition, we also
wanted our students to glean the significance of the actual history. *Lost
Names* contains pronounced anti-Japanese sentiment expressed from the black
vs. white/good vs. bad viewpoint of a young boy. In order to counterbalance
this one-sided view, I also chose to incorporate excerpts from other works
such as Saburo Ienaga’s *The Pacific War: 1931–1945*, Norma Field’s *In the
Realm of a Dying Emperor*, and films like Isao Takahata’s *Grave of the
Fireflies*, which all added critical insight into this study. My fear was
that if I presented *Lost Names* on its own, my students would walk away
with a biased opinion of Japan instead of a variety of perspectives from
which they could judge Japanese culture and political actions themselves. We
did not believe our seventh grade students had been exposed to a strong
enough background in World War II history to prevent a bias if the book was
taken on its own.
Some initial student comments regarding Lost Names follow:
*We learned a lot about war and life in it. After we read the book we
watched a video about life in Japan during the war. I found out that life
was no picnic there either.*
*Lost Names was a really moving story. I think Lost Names was the perfect
book to read before we did the Family History Short Story Project.*
*. . . it was a great example of an autobiography and dealing with
hardships. Lost Names is a lot easier to understand than many other World
War II references. It is also rare to find a book with a Korean point of
*I am the same age as the narrator, but we have some huge differences in our
lifestyles. I can play football and use computers and do a lot of different
things. He was forced to work on building an airfield.*
*Before reading Lost Names, I always had thought of books based on history
as being boring, but after finishing it and writing the short story on my
family history, I realized what I had thought wasn’t necessarily true.*
*My great grandfather, the person I am writing about, also suffered through
a lot of persecution because he was Jewish. Reading about this boy’s
experiences helped me to understand what might have happened to my great
*The real events in Lost Names make it a great research tool as well as a
great book that teaches different writing styles.*
Many of the students’ projects on family history coincidentally involve that
same period of time illustrated in *Lost Names*. I think this novel gave
them an added perspective on the political changes erupting at this time.
The novel also illustrated to them that persecution and political unrest
exists across all cultures and age groups. They not only learned what
factors affected their recent ancestors’ choices in life, but that these
factors are in a way universal.
*Lost Names* is a multidisciplinary novel; it goes beyond the confines of
social studies or a history course; I plan to incorporate it into my United
States History courses in the future. I hope my seventh graders will have
the opportunity to study *Lost Names* at some other time in their
educational career with an insight gained from their Family History Short
*PETER R. WRIGHT* holds a Master’s degree in History and a Master’s in
Teaching from Simmons College and teaches United States History and Seventh
Grade Humanities at the Brimmer and May School in Chestnut Hill,
Massachusetts. He has participated in summer programs and fellowships at
Deerfield Academy, the University of Virginia, and at the Five College
Center for East Asian Studies at Smith College.
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In a currently popular world literature text of 1,442 pages, there are a
total of four pages on Korean literature. An entire country’s literary
heritage is condensed into two poems. Until I read *Lost Names* by Richard
Kim, my only contact with Korea had been to watch my mother cry as my older
brother set off for the Korean War. Then later I encountered some opinions
and allusions to the country through study of Japanese language and culture.
None of these led me any closer to what might be the heart and soul of the
Korean people—the essential quality to which I wanted to expose my students
in world literature. Then I read *Lost Names*. I knew immediately that this
text would help my students discover that a small country across the world
from America, with customs and traditions very different from theirs, is a
place with warm, friendly people who share the same hopes and dreams as they
The student body at W. G. Enloe High School is very diverse. There might be
a dozen different national backgrounds in any given classroom. A student
sitting side-by-side with a friend who speaks English fluently may have no
idea that his classmate’s home life is based on assumptions and ideas quite
different from his own. Until they are introduced to world cultures and
world literature in tenth grade, our students often have little idea of the
value and richness of other cultural heritages.
It is the personal lives of others that draw students into literature, that
make them want to know and understand more about another culture. Literature
is the perfect key to open the curious minds of adolescents and help them to
understand that for all of our differences, human beings share the same
basic needs and desires and values. *Lost Names* is one of those rare texts
that appeal to all ages. Seeing World War II through the eyes of a boy
growing up in the midst of the chaos puts the war in a completely different
perspective for our students who have no understanding of genuine hardship
*I knew immediately that this text would help my students discover that a
small country across the world from America, with customs and traditions
very different from theirs, is a place with warm, friendly people who share
the same hopes and dreams as they do*
Before my students begin to read *Lost Names*, they have studied the
cultures, religions, and literatures of India, China, and Japan. They have
looked at World War II through the eyes of Japanese survivors of the bomb
dropped on Hiroshima. They are empathetic and sympathetic to the suffering
of the Japanese people. Then they look at another non-American side of the
war—not just what Japan suffered, but also the suffering Japan caused. They
triumph with the small victories of a young boy and his proud father trying
to retain their self respect amid the indignities of occupation and war. The
story that Richard Kim weaves encircles them and draws them into the pain
and daily victories of survival, into the courage and determination to
persevere in the face of great danger. They see the Confucian values of
family hierarchy and duty, not as abstract characteristics to memorize, but
as a way of life that, when they are practiced well, supports every member
of a society. They see filial piety and duty as two parts of a whole. They
see the boy practicing these values as a son and then as a leader of his
group at school.
Until American students see how these values work in everyday life, it is
hard for them to understand how anything but being a "rugged individualist"
can be a good way of life. When, in chapter three, the boy challenges a
classmate to a race, knowing the classmate will win, students can see that
losing can be a different kind of victory. From reading this novel students
can begin to develop an understanding of the tragedy of war in general and
civil war in particular. In addition, they can vicariously experience the
triumph of the human spirit, something common to all mankind.
At the end of last school year, when I asked which works in the curriculum
should be taught again and which replaced, there was a great outcry for the
continued inclusion of *Lost Names*. For further information, see *Teaching
More about Korea: Lessons for Students in Grades K-12*. The lesson plans are
published by The Korea Society as an outcome of the Tenth Annual Summer
Fellowship in Korean Studies Program. The booklet includes "A Study Guide
for *Lost Names* and Discussion Questions for Various Short Stories," all by
Korean authors. For more information about the publication, contact Yong Jin
Choi, Director, Korean Studies Program, The Korea Society, 950 Third Avenue,
8th Floor, New York, NY 10022; Phone: (212) 759-7525, ext. 25.
*SUSAN MASTRO* is currently the Coordinator of the International
Baccalaureate Programme at W. G. Enloe Magnet High School in Raleigh, North
Carolina. Formerly a teacher of world literature and Japanese language, she
has written curricula for both subjects and an article on Japanese
literature for AGORA magazine (1992). She is an adjunct to the North
Carolina Japan Center and has traveled extensively in Japan.
[image: kim4.gif (2410 bytes)]
"Problematize the master narrative!" These were the words some years ago at
an NEH summer institute for teachers. The speaker’s language wasn’t mine
then (it is now), but I realized that that’s what I’d been doing in my
teaching for years: making an issue of the dominant interpretation (usually
that of a textbook). It is what more of us need to focus on, at all levels
and in all subjects. Textbooks are always wrong. History is never simple.
As a professor of Japanese history at a major state university, I have the
luxury of teaching a full-semester survey course on Japan (History of
Japanese Civilization). It is in this course that for many years now I have
used Richard Kim’s *Lost Names*. (Just before the first edition went out of
print, I was able to buy forty copies, so that *Lost Names* lived on in my
course even though it was out of print.) So let me describe the course.
[image: Richard Minear]
There are forty-five students of various rank, freshman through senior; and
the class meets three times per week. Two meetings per week are lectures,
films, or other activities; one meeting per week is a discussion. I lead all
the discussions. One of the concerns throughout the course is the relation
between author and material (study the historian), and the syllabus carries
biographical data on all authors we encounter, including both me and Richard
Kim. I have as well the advantage of having been present twice in the last
five years when Kim discussed *Lost Names* with groups of teachers.
The latter half of my course, roughly, is Japan since 1800. Because I
dislike textbooks, I assign a non-textbook, Ienaga Saburo’s *The Pacific War
*, and then spend much of my time disagreeing with it. My lecture
presentations take issue with Ienaga, and for the final paper the students
have to compare and contrast Ienaga and Minear. The next-to-last paper
concerns *Lost Names*.
The *Lost Names* paper focuses on ethnocentrism in the Japanese treatment of
their Korean subjects (*Lost Names* is the students’ only source) and on how
to evaluate the evidence Kim presents. Lost Names is not a history book; but
how do we process the information Kim offers? Students find the first part
of the paper—how ethnocentrism affects the narrator and his family and the
Japanese officials—very easy and the second part very difficult. The sheer
power of Kim’s prose makes it difficult for them to step back and
criticize—even though this is late in the course and we have been
criticizing sources all semester.
But close reading and criticism are what the course is about, and despite
the fact that many students complain that *Lost Names* is all they know
about the subject, I insist that they can and must *criticize*. It is not a
matter of liking the book or not liking the book; with rare exceptions,
students are bowled over by it. It is a matter of processing the material.
So where to begin? As always, with the author’s biography. Clearly, the
narrator’s life and Kim’s overlap. But how do we deal with autobiography?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of hearing things "straight from
the horse’s mouth"? Some students find it impossible to believe that the
narrator was so utterly invincible, so right in all the major choices he
makes. The "Author’s Note" at the end of the new edition states artfully
(too artfully?), "Perhaps I should have included a disclaimer [in the first
edition]: all the characters and events described in this book are real, but
everything else is fiction. . . . It is for me a happy predicament. On the
one hand, a book I created as fiction is not accepted as such. . . ." In
sessions with teachers, Kim has come close to stating that things happened
essentially as he recounts them in the book, except that he combined events
from separate days into one day or changed a daytime event to nighttime.
At war’s end, Kim the author is thirteen years old, the age of the narrator.
But Kim wrote *Lost Names* twenty-five years later, in 1970, when Kim the
author was thirty-eight. Between 1945 and 1970 Kim had continued his
education in Korea, fought in the Korean War (on the side of South Korea),
attended Middlebury College, and written several novels about the Korean
War; in 1970 he was teaching in the English Department at the University of
Massachusetts (he wrote *Lost Names* in English). What is the relation
between Kim in 1970 and the narrator in 1933 or 1940 or 1945? That is a real
Most if not all students note that Kim the author cannot have remembered the
scenes from 1933, at the beginning of *Lost Names*. After all, he is a baby
in his mother’s arms. Fewer raise questions about the scenes of 1940 (the
loss of names, when author Kim was eight years old) or 1945 (the liberation,
when author Kim was thirteen). *Lost Names* is seductive in part because it
purports to be a child’s recollection, but are we reading the thoughts of an
eight-year-old Korean schoolkid (1940) or the thoughts of a war-hardened and
cross-culturally sophisticated 38-year-old (1970)? At the end of the "Lost
Names" chapter, the narrator speaks: "Their pitifulness, their weakness,
their self-lacerating lamentation for their ruin and their misfortune
repulse me and infuriate me. What are we doing anyway—kneeling down and
bowing our heads in front of all those graves? I am gripped by the same
outrage and revolt I felt at the Japanese shrine, where, whipped by the
biting snow and mocked by the howling wind, I stood, like an idiot, bowing
my head to the gods and the spirit of the Japanese Emperor." Are these the
words of an eight-year-old? Fortunately, some students have a family member
or know a neighbor of that age.
If the thoughts are, in part at least, the thoughts of a 38-year-old, what
were the influences on him? When teachers asked author Kim about favorite
reading when he was young, he mentioned the great Russian novelists (in
Japanese translation). Is Kim’s narrator perhaps part Tolstoyan hero?
Is the narrator’s experience representative of the Korean experience? *Lost
Names* is useful in my course in part because much of what the students hear
from me (especially in contrast with Ienaga’s book) is sympathetic to the
Japanese—not in their treatment of Koreans but in relation to their struggle
with American power. To hear a Korean viewpoint is enormously useful. But is
Kim’s viewpoint *the* Korean viewpoint or *a* Korean viewpoint? This is a
tougher issue for students, but some acknowledge that the narrator and his
family are exceptional in terms of wealth, prestige, nationalistic activity
and religion, that one of the narrator’s classmates—Pumpkin, for
example—might have written a very different book. On occasion I have given
them a quotation from an essay by Bruce Cumings to underline the point that
not all Koreans think alike. Speaking in 1950, a Korean industrialist
commented that the return to Korea after the war of "numerous revolutionists
and nationalists" had stirred up anti-Japanese feeling, but today "there is
hardly any trace of it." Korea and Japan "are destined to go hand-in-hand,
to live and let live," so bad feelings should be "cast overboard." Today "an
economic unity is lacking whereas in prewar days Japan, Manchuria, Korea and
Taiwan economically combined to make an organic whole."
Almost to a person, the students are appalled at the Japanese treatment of
the Koreans that *Lost Names* describes. It reinforces what they read in
Ienaga, and I offer them no contrary evidence. (A former colleague of mine,
growing up on Taiwan at the same time, was sure at the end of the war that
he was Japanese, not Chinese. Was Japanese colonialism the same everywhere
and for every person subject to it? That is material for an entire course.)
Could *Lost Names* happen only in Korea, or are there echoes in the
histories of other countries, perhaps even our own? This is a tough one. A
number of students come up with Ellis Island and the changing of names; but
that was by and large voluntary—a simplification, not the forced purging of
a past. A very few mention the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the schools it
ran, which outlawed the use of native languages and insisted on "Christian"
names. These events do not excuse the Japanese acts we read about in *Lost
Names*, but they provide a context that the book does not.
We do not discuss *Lost Names* in class; the students read it on their own.
Here are excerpts from two papers from Fall 1998 (I have made no changes):
*Lost Names* is a work of fiction, and it can not be construed otherwise. .
. . [t]he narrator’s family counters each insult from the Japanese in a
glorious manner, which gives the story an element of unrealistic
magnificence often found in fiction. . . . Events described in the book may
have happened to Koreans, but it is implausible to have one family
continually shake the foundations of Japanese occupation in one town without
being ousted or "disappeared"—especially when the Thought Police knew the
narrator’s father organized a resistance in the past. The story is perfect.
It was obvious that the narrator would save the Japanese Shinto
priest—everything falls into place, and the family reclaims their dignity at
every step. But these elements exist only in fiction.
—a junior majoring in History
Kim did not write *Lost Names* as a journal, as events happened. Instead he
wrote the story when he was in his late 30’s as a subjective reflection on
what happened. The story was subjected to his experience and his views of
the occupation and later events that shaped his life.
—a sophomore majoring in Political Science
It was clear from both their papers that *Lost Names* had moved these
students, but they had been able to keep their critical faculties intact.
And that, I suggest, should be one major goal of our teaching.
*Lost Names* is a work of high art. It deserves the most serious
consideration. In my course, we use it in significant measure to
problematize the Japanese master narrative. But just as there are American
and Japanese master narratives, so there is a Korean master narrative. We
need to be as leery of the Korean master narrative as of the other two. We
may not know much about Korea, but there, too, we need to problematize the
*RICHARD H. MINEAR* is Professor of History at the University of
Massachusetts at Amherst. He has translated the writings and poetry of
atomic bomb survivors of Hiroshima, *Hiroshima:Three Witnesses*, 1990; *Black
Eggs*, 1994; *When We Say ‘Hiroshima*,’ 1999. His most recent book is *Dr.
Seuss Goes to War: The World War II Editorial Cartoons of Theodor Seuss
On Wed, Jun 15, 2011 at 7:50 AM, Laura Reizman <lhreizman at gmail.com> wrote:
> This is in reference to the film version by Yu Hyon-mok. They do have it at
> KOFA, I believe it is titled "The Martyrs," (순교자) and was made in 1965.
> Those who are interested in watching the film can do so via VOD online. You
> do have to pay a small fee to watch it though, and will need Internet
> Laura Reizman
> On Wed, Jun 15, 2011 at 8:26 PM, Mark Morris <mrm1000 at cam.ac.uk> wrote:
>> This is very good news.
>> Now if only someone could get Bitwin to re-release
>> the DVD of the film version by Yu Hyon-mok -- one of the best Korean War
>> of the 1960s.
>> Mark Morris
>> On 13/6/11 20:14, "David Kim" <dkim at asiafound-dc.org> wrote:
>> Dear Korean Studies Colleagues:
>> It gives me great pleasure to share with you this news on the re-release
>> of "The Martyred."
>> David Kim
>> *Penguin Classics proudly presents the *New York Times *bestseller and
>> National Book Award Finalist back in print for the first time in twenty-five
>> THE MARTYRED
>> Richard E. Kim
>> With an introduction by *Heinz Insu Fenkl
>> *and a foreword by *Susan Choi
>> PRAISE FOR **THE MARTYRED:
>> *“Written in a mood of total austerity; and yet the passion of the book
>> is perpetually beating up against its seemingly barren surface…I am deeply
>> *―Philip Roth
>> *“An extraordinary book. **To take one incident and through it express
>> the universal need of the human heart for God…the agony of doubt combined
>> with the longing to believe, is difficult indeed. Kim has accomplished just
>> ―Pearl S. Buck
>> *“Kim’s book stands out as one written in the great moral and
>> psychological tradition of Job, Dostoevsky, and Albert Camus…it is a
>> magnificent achievement, and it will last.
>> ―*The New York Times Book Review
>> *RICHARD KIM*’s breathtaking novel, *THE MARTYRED (*Penguin Classics;
>> ISBN: 978-0-14-310640-1; On-Sale 5/31/11; $16.00; 240 pages; also available
>> as an e-book), begins during the early weeks of the Korean War. Captain Lee,
>> a young South Korean officer, is ordered to investigate the kidnapping and
>> mass murder of North Korean ministers by Communist forces. For propaganda
>> purposes, the priests are declared martyrs, but as he delves into the crime,
>> Lee finds himself asking: what if they are not martyrs? What if they
>> renounced their faith in the face of death, failing both God and country?
>> Should the people be fed this lie? Part thriller, part mystery, part
>> existential treatise, *THE MARTYRED** *is a stunning meditation on truth,
>> religion, and faith in the time of crisis.
>> *THE MARTYRED *is a moving modern classic that will appeal to fans of
>> Chang-Rae Lee’s *The Surrendered, *and its publication is timed to
>> coincide with the sixtieth anniversary of the Korean War (June 1950 to July
>> 1953). It also follows the recent publication of the fortieth anniversary
>> edition of Richard Kim’s *LOST NAMES *from University of California Press
>> (ISBN: 9780520268128; on sale: March 2011; $18.95).
>> *ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS
>> Richard E. Kim *(1932-2009) was born Kim Eun Kook in Hamheung, Korea.
>> After an honorable discharge from the Republic of South Korea’s army, he
>> immigrated to the United States, where he rose to prominence as an academic
>> and a writer of novels, including *The Innocent *and *Lost Names*.
>> Heinz Insu Fenkl *is the director of the creative writing program at the
>> State University of New York, New Paltz.
>> Susan Choi *is the author of *A Person of Interest, The Foreign Student,
>> *and *American Woman*, a finalist for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize.
>> *THE MARTYRED
>> *by *Richard E. Kim* with an introduction by *Heinz Insu Fenkl *and a
>> foreword by *Susan Choi
>> *Penguin Classics ♦ 978-0-14-310640-1 ♦ On-Sale 5/31/11♦ $16.00 ♦ 240
>> Also available as an e-book.
>> For more information or to schedule an interview with Heinz Insu Fenkl or
>> Susan Choi, please contact:
>> Langan Kingsley
>> 212.366.2226 **/ langan.kingsley at us.penguingroup.com
>> *Please visit:
>> http://www.richardekim.com/** <http://www.richardekim.com/><http://www.richardekim.com/>
>> http://us.penguingroup.com <http://us.penguingroup.com/><http://us.penguingroup.com/>
>> David L. Kim
>> *Coordinator, Luce Scholars Program
>> The Asia Foundation
>> 1779 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, #815
>> Washington, DC 20036
>> Tel: (202) 588-9468 / Fax: (202) 588-9409 / Cell: (301) 787-1195
>> Email: dkim at asiafound-dc.org <mailto:dkim at asiafound-dc.org><dkim at asiafound-dc.org>
>> Skype: Davidlkim (The Asia Foundation)
>> www.asiafoundation.org <http://www.asiafoundation.org/><http://www.asiafoundation.org/>
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