The Orphan Master’s Son

As you will note on the cover above, Adam Johnson won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for this book. You can read praise for the book and for Johnson at every turn. It is a good piece of writing.

More important for me is Jun Do, the leading character in the tale. An orphan sent to the army, then to language school for English, then to a fishing boat, from there to Texas (yes, in the US) as a translator in a failed negotiation with a US Senator, and finally to a uranium mine as slave labor.  All that is found in Part One.

Part Two is The Confessions of Commander GA. We quickly realize that Jun Do has somehow taken the role of the most respected military commander in North Korea, and is even living with Sun Moon, the most beautiful actress in all the world, with the blessing of Kim Jong Il.

In spite of improbability of all that happening anywhere in the world, it is possible in North Korea. The propaganda is more effective in that small isolated nation than perhaps any other in modern times. Hitler and Stalin would be taking notes.

In the midst of a nation living false truths, Jun Do/Ga proves to be a man who can both see the truth and navigate his way around the lies to win a kind of freedom for himself.

The story is brutal at times, but always human.

I have tried to imagine how this same story as a Christian one. I think it would have weakened the story. The chances of Jun Do being a Christian are slim and none. There is a handful of them hiding in the country and South Korean Christians try all kinds of ways to smuggle Bibles into the land of The Great Leader (named President forever after his death), still, an orphan would never get the chance.

There is a Christian message. Jun Do/Ga does all he can to help other people, and he does it without being a Christian.

Mike Lawrence

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