Today Koreans celebrate Memorial Day — to pay tribute to those who died in war. Although very few books for children are set in Korea, Linda Sue Park’s extraordinary novel When My Name Was Keoko, published in 2002, explores World War II as seen by Korean citizens.
It's a book about a Korean girl, Sun-hee. She lives with her brother, Tae-yul, her mother, father, and uncle. The story takes place in the 1940's in World War II when the Japanese took over Korea. Koreans are forced to take Japanese names. Sun-hee becomes Keoko and Tae-yul becomes Nobuo. Sun-hee's uncle is secretly working for the resistance for the freedom of Korea. He is forced to go into hiding. Sun-hee is plunged into a world of uncertainty and strife. And when Tae-yul goes to war to become a suicide bomber Sun-hee becomes an only child. The story of "When My Name Was Keoko" has a beautiful setting. Linda Sue Park brings out the details in the story. It is probably one of the best books I have ever read in my life. Fun Facts:
Park weaves history and culture, family and friendship, deprivation and life’s joys together seamlessly in this novel. Although she does not avoid the horrors of the situation, she brings the events to a hopeful and happy conclusion—a free Korea where the young people can have their own names and customs. When My Name Was Keoko, in fact, ends with two young people practicing their once-forbidden Korean language.
When My Name Was Keoko explores the tremendous upheaval of war, the fate of minority people in times of crisis, and the power of language to shape identity. For any adult or child ages ten through fourteen seeking information about the significance of Korean Memorial Day, When My Name Was Keoko brings these historic events alive and makes readers understand why this day in history needs to be celebrated. Once readers encounter it, they will never look the same way on the war in the Pacific during World War II.
When My Name Was Keoko
Linda Sue Park
Limited preview - 2002