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When My Name Was Keoko by Linda Sue Park

When My Name Was Keoko (2002)

by Linda Sue Park

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This incredible book follows the story of a Korean family dealing with the Japanese invading Korea during World War II. I liked how the book creatively told the story through two different perspectives, the daughter and the son of the Korean family. As each chapter unravels, readers are able to view the same situation or event through the others' eyes. For example, the son joins the army and is able to explain his experience and everything that is going on, but as you get to the daughters chapter, she has no idea what he is going through, nor does he know what shes going through, back at home. I also liked how the author represented the Korean culture. For example, the author included a glossary of Korean words that would be used multiple times throughout the story, such as, 'Omoni', meaning mother, and 'Abuji', meaning father. I also liked how we were able to see the war in a completely new way. As an American, I obviously have a different perspective of the war than the Japanese and Koreans. The big idea of this book was to shed some light on the hardships the Koreans faced during the war and how they really relied on the Americans to win the war for the Japanese to surrender Korea back to the Koreans. ( )
  CatalinaDiaz | Mar 3, 2015 |
I had mixed feelings about this book. While I enjoyed the historical fiction aspect of it and seeing the viewpoint on World War II from the Koreans, I didn't like the plot progression within the book. There were times when I would think "Is anything going to happen soon?" or "Yes, I already know that " (about a particular character). I feel that if there was more going on with the characters or between the characters, I would have been much more interested in the book. Also, I was not expecting the book to have a "happy ending" with the son coming home from being a suicide pilot. I feel that the book would have had much more of an impact on the reader if there was a slightly different ending that spoke to the reader and truly affected them.
However, I did enjoy learning (from the Korean point of view) about the livelihood in Korea at the time of World War II. In my U.S. history classes, I learned about World War II but only from the perspective of the United States. This book allowed me to see the hardships that the Koreans endured and what the Japanese did while in Korea at that time during the war. ( )
  srogel1 | Mar 3, 2015 |
“When My Name Was Keoko,” written by Linda Sue Park, is an amazing story. Once the story caught my attention I couldn’t put it down, although I personally had some difficulty getting into the book at first. The main messages that I found throughout this book are the importance of one’s culture and heritage, and having determination and courage can play a significant role in regaining freedom that has been cruelly and forcefully taken away. In order to convey these messages, the author incorporates different literary elements, such as point of view, characterization, character development, and a plot that follows the Kim’s, a very close-knit Korean family.
This story takes place in Korea during World War II at the time when the Japanese ran Korea. The author creates the plot and conveys the main messages through the characters from the Kim family. Korean families, including the Kim family, are forced to obey Japanese law; although, the Koreans are determined to have their freedom back at any cost.
The author presents the message of the importance of one's culture and heritage in various ways throughout the story. One way this message is conveyed is through the family’s open dialogue. For example, when the Japanese order the Koreans to take Japanese names, Uncle responds saying, “Let them! Let them arrest me! They will have my body but not my soul-my name is my soul!” This quote conveys to the reader how important Korean names are to the Korean people’s heritage and culture. Along with the dialogue, the author uses the mother’s character, Omoni, to help convey this message. For instance, when the Japanese order families to dig up and burn rose of Sharon trees, which are the national trees of Korea, Omoni does not obey. Without directly telling her children her plan, she instructs them to put the last rose of Sharon tree in a pot and hide it near the tool shelves. Although Japanese soldiers were going from house to house to make sure the trees were destroyed, Omoni didn’t think twice about her decision. This scene is the novel truly conveyed the author’s message of the importance of one’s heritage and culture because even though Omoni could be arrested, or worse, for breaking the law, she didn’t care one bit. This was because the national tree of Korea was a part of her culture and heritage, a part she was unwilling to let the Japanese take, no matter what the consequences might be.
Through the use of literary elements, the author is also able to effectively convey to the readers the message that even when faced with terrible circumstances and situations, determination and courage can play a significant role in regaining one’s freedom that has been taken away. To give the reader a mental image of how the Japanese were taking away the Korean’s rights, the author uses text that emphasized how bad it really was. For example, Sun-hee, the daughter of the Kim family, conveys to the reader that, “The Japanese made a lot of new laws.” In order to emphasize just how negatively the Koreans were being affected, the author provides details and examples through Sun-hee’s text. Sun-hee’s text explains that, “One of the laws was that no Korean could be the boss of anything…The person at the top had to be Japanese…Schools weren’t even allowed to teach Korean history and language…People weren’t even supposed to tell old Korean folktales. These details provided by the author, set the stage to convey how determination and courage can help regain freedom that has been taken away.
This story is told from the perspective of Sun-hee, the daughter of the family, and Tae-yul, the son of the family. This literary technique that the author uses allows the reader to get a deeper look into the courage and determination the Koreans had in an attempt to regain their freedom. For example, through Tae-yul’s character, the reader learns about the resistance, “…the illegal independence movement,” that Uncle is involved in. If the Japanese discovered someone working for the resistance, they were often taken away and not seen again. This provides the reader with a clear image of how determined the Koreans were to have their freedom at any cost. Another way the author engages the reader and conveys this message is through the characterization and development of Tae-yul. Through Sun-hee’s point of view, it seems as though Tae-yul has dishonored his family and choosing the Japanese when he decides to enlist in the Japanese army, which the reader eventually learns in untrue.
When the story switches back to Tae-yul’s point of view, the reader is shown his true intentions. When Tae-yul volunteers to be a Kamikaze, the reader gets the feeling that Tae-yul has chosen the Japanese over the Koreans. Not until the end of the story, when Tae-yul returns alive, does the author reveal what actually happened. Tae-yul explains to his family, “I had a plan all along, you know…I’d fly out with my squad and it would look like I was attempting an attack. But I knew if I were to dive my plane just a few degrees off target, I’d miss and it would still look like I tried to hit it. It would have been a double feat-I’d have done no damage to the Americans and I’d have taken out a Japanese plane.” This detailed explanation and imagery incorporated into the story allows the reader to clearly see how Tae-yul developed into a brave, courageous young man who was determined to help fight for the Korean’s freedom, even if it meant he would die in the process.
This characterization and character development effectively conveys the author’s message that even when faced with terrible circumstances, determination and courage can play a significant part in regaining one’s freedom that has been taken away. Near the end of this novel, the reader sees the Koreans’ courage and determination pay off when the Americans attack and defeat the Japanese, resulting in the Koreans having freedom once again. This powerful, moving story was extremely enjoyable and engaging to read once I got into it. I believe that author’s use of literary elements, such as point of view, characterization, and character development adequately conveys two extremely important messages. One, the importance of one’s culture and heritage; and two, determination and courage can have a significant impact on regaining freedom that has been cruelly and forcefully taken away. ( )
  heathergoodman | Mar 2, 2015 |
This was a really good book for two reasons. One, I learned more in depth of how things were for Koreans under Japanese ruling. Two, I loved the courage of some of the characters in the book. I never knew that the Japanese took over Korea. They forced Korea to live under new laws. I could not imagine having to change my life around and become a whole new culture. The second reason I thought that the book was good was because of the courage I saw in some of the characters. The uncle was very brave when he changed the Japanese flag to a Korean flag in the newspaper. Moments like that made me realize that people will do whatever to show their love and pride for their culture and country. The big idea of this book was to show that the Koreans went through under Japanese rule and how they tried to remain humble as long as possible. ( )
  KinderelHodgson | Mar 2, 2015 |
To my surprise, I really enjoyed the book When My Name Was Keoko. My favorite element of this book was the changing points of view that the author used. I thought that switching from the brother, Tae-yul, to the sister, Sun-hee, was very creative and added depth to the story. It allowed the reader to watch both characters develop as the story moved along, as well as allows both genders to relate to the story. Another aspect of the book that I enjoyed was the main message of the story. The message that I got out of the book was that it is important to support your family members during tough times and that if you work together, you can get through anything. Nonfiction is often difficult for students to engage in, but the author did a great job engaging readers by introducing them to an unfamiliar culture. The main focus discussed in most classrooms about World War II is the Holocaust, and because of this Japanese and Korean conflict was not discussed. The author did an excellent job introducing this history without making it feel as though you were reading a textbook, but rather you could put yourself in the character’s shoes. Because of this, it really encourages readers to think more about different cultures and situations that they personally could hardly imagine. The book shows a wonderful representation of how a Korean family’s life is changed by the Japanese occupation of Korea. Overall, I was impressed with the book and could see it being effective in the classroom. ( )
  agates5 | Mar 2, 2015 |
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To my children: Sean and Anna

and for my parents:
Eung Won/Nobuo/Ed
Joung Sook/Keoko/Susie
First words
"It's only a rumor," Abuji said as I cleared the table.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0440419441, Paperback)

Inspired by her own family's stories of living in South Korea during the Japanese occupation in the years preceding World War II, Newbery Medal-winning author Linda Sue Park chronicles the compelling story of two siblings, 10-year-old Sun-hee and 13-year-old Tae-yul, and their battle to maintain their identity and dignity during one of Korea's most difficult and turbulent times. In alternating first-person chapters, they relate their family's troubles under the strict fascist regime. The Kim family is stripped of their cultural symbols, only permitted to learn Japanese history and language, and forced to convert their names to Japanese. Sun-hee, now Keoko, struggles to reconcile her Korean home life with her Japanese school and friends, while Tae-yul, now Nobuo, attempts to convert his growing anger into a more positive passion for flight and airplanes. Both are worried for their uncle, whom they discover is printing an underground Korean resistance paper. When Sun-hee inadvertently puts her uncle's life in danger, she sets in motion a chain of events that results in her brother volunteering as a pilot for the Japanese near the end of WWII. While Sun-hee and her parents wait in breathless uncertainty to hear from Tae-yul, the war rushes to a close, leaving Korea's destiny hanging in the balance. This well-researched historical novel is accompanied by a thoughtful author's note that explains what happened to Korea and families like the Kims after WWII and a bibliography to entice interested young readers into learning more about a topic largely unknown to American audiences. (Ages 10 to 14) --Jennifer Hubert

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:48:36 -0400)

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With national pride and occasional fear, a brother and sister face the increasingly oppressive occupation of Korea by Japan during World War II, which threatens to suppress Korean culture entirely.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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