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Tears of Blood: A Korean POW's Fight for Freedom, Family, and Justice Kindle Edition
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War, for lack of a better word, sucks. The populace does the bidding and suffers on account of the ideology of a few. We all know this, but this book brings this issue to the uncomfortable forefront. In one of the contradictions in the story, the author is forced to serve "the other side" in the prelude to the main story. Eventually, he fights for the South and is captured shortly before the ceasefire, and he is forced into hard labor. Here, again, complexities mount: another consequence of war is the displacement of people and the redrawing of territorial lines. Thus, the author's sole goal to get back to the South is muddied when he discovers part of his family is in the North. Further, to better his life and the life of his family in the North, he tries to become a Party member, something that can only be explained by this difficult and twisted story.
On a personal level, adding to the complexity, what the North has done with these POWs is unexcusable, but incredibly, after reading this book, for me, understandable. While their methods were inhumane, their motivations were logical. This understanding for me was unexpected. Finally, the firsthand uncomfortable account of the starvation makes me step back and question many things. In a time where K-Pop, Gangnam Style, and K-town are reflections of the current Korean image, this book has made me aware of myself as a Korean and a Korean-American, but I hope that this story of humanity has an impact on non-Koreans as well.
Above all, this book is a story of courage and drive. The author's journey is nothing short of incredible, and his tenacity reflected in his desire to bring the issue of still-living POWs from a war more than half a century ago to the forefront is admirable. The reluctance of the South to take an active role in "retrieving" its citizens is distasteful and disheartening, but it is books like this that will push the awareness of this issue forward, and hopefully progress will be made.
Disclaimer. The translator is my cousin's son: The translation is just right--like a referee in a football game, the less we are aware of the translator, the better job he or she has done. Yet there are times you need and want clarification and the translator injects just enough context in his footnotes.
The writing is very simple and straightforward...neither condemning, nor eloquent, just a retelling of this man's strength and courage to survive...just like many first-hand retellings by survivors of concentration camps in Poland.
I don't know how many people would chose to read this...my interest as I mentioned is because my family is linked with my daughter-in-law's Korean heritage.
.I really wanted to bring this story to as many as possible. The POWS and all the North Korea people who are suffering right now need a voice
I hope that more well written books translated from Korean to English will emerge. For translators interested in following this path, I recommend that they study the style presented by Paul Kim as a how-to reference point. Paul Kim removes the formalities of Korean speech. This decision by the translator was excellent because overly formalized text has been the norm in Korean-English translations.
The story is one of survival and endurance. Despite the hardships that Mr. Yoo endured, I found the book very interesting. I was very curious to know what would happen to him next. How he would handle each situation that he faced.
The writing was vivid, subtle, and nuanced. I could see the pictures that the author and translator were painting.
Coincidentally, I watched the movie, The Way Back (director Peter Weir), at the same time as reading this book.
Combining the two works at the same time was a good choice. One complimented the other.