Lost Names: Scenes from a Korean Boyhood
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Lost Names: Scenes from a Korean Boyhood

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  389 ratings  ·  42 reviews
In this classic tale, Richard Kim paints seven vivid scenes from a boyhood and early adolescence in Korea at the height of the Japanese occupation, 1932 to 1945. Taking its title from the grim fact that the occupiers forced the Koreans to renounce their own names and adopt Japanese names instead, the book follows one Korean family through the Japanese occupation to the sur...more
Paperback, 196 pages
Published June 10th 1998 by University of California Press (first published 1970)
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from my Amazon.com review

I collect books about Korean, and have read many novels, poems and non-fiction works, but Lost Names is certainly one of the best.

Small details and major characters both help to build an accurate, emotional depiction of Koreans and the struggle to live during the brutal Japanese occupation of World War II. I read this book in one sitting, mailed it to one of my sisters, and have bought a copy for another sister.

Some passages are humorous, and others are painfully sad.....more
Well, humph, what can I say? I am glad that is over. It reads like a child's book. A boy with tremendous wisdom, honor and valor saves the day when the family's Korean town is liberated from the Japanese at the conclusion of WW2! And the conclusion of the book. The adults in the village listen to the wise advice of the thirteen year-old as he explains how the liberation can most effectively be carried out in the town:

The police can be isolated, sir. Most of them are inside the station right now,...more
Apr 25, 2011 Nancy rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Nancy by: Sam
Shelves: fiction, sam-s
This was a book my son read in school - 10th grade English. It is about a boy (at least semi-autobiographical) growing up in Korea in the 1930s and 40s during the Japanese occupation of Korea. The title refers to the fact that Korean citizens had to give up their Korean names and take Japanese names. In the story, no one is ever called by a proper name. A couple of nicknames are referred to: "Pumpkin" for a school mate; "Chopstick" for a lanky teacher.

The story was compelling and, in some ways,...more
Cheryl Gatling
First the Japanese occupied Korea. They forbade the teaching of Korean language and history. They phased out Korean language newspapers and magazines. The Thought Police imprisoned and beat dissenters. They impressed young Koreans into the army (as "Special Volunteer Soldiers"). They forced farmers to sell their rice to Japan ("voluntary contribution to the national war effort for the glory of the emperor"). They forced schoolchildren to worship at a Japanese shrine to pray for the health of the...more
Reconstructed autobiographical account of a young boy growing up in annexed Korea from 1932 to 1945. The book's title stems from a chapter where all the Koreans in the boy's town are forced to take on Japanese names. That chapter includes a vivid scene where the townspeople troop to the cemetery to wail and prostrate themselves before their ancestors in shame at what they have just done to survive.

The material was worthwhile, offering an intriguing glimpse into this strange, often Kafkaesque per...more
Lost Names is the story of a people who have lost control of their destiny. It tells of the Japanese occupation of Korea as a series of snapshots into the way Koreans defied their Japanese oppressors on a daily basis in their everyday lives. Despite their best efforts, the most striking theme is just how little control the characters in the book have on the outcome. Korea is unable to overthrow Japan; only when outsiders come in to save the day are they freed. Some of the characters in Lost Name...more
Keodara Moua
This little boy is taught with a generation of survivors. It's compassionate and honest with the love of human nature. Although many wars has encouraged killing, through the guidance of his father, this young boy grows up to understand the idea of how to love without hate and how accommodate to situations. If being weak made him stronger, he was willing to go through the pain. Lost Names has a little something everyone can grasp or even learn from. The word lost just means lost but also finding...more
Rick Muir
Aug 16, 2007 Rick Muir rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fictionalized history fans.
First, it's hard to believe this book is fiction. It's set in a small village in Korea during the height of the Japanese occupation. The beautiful and painful details of day-to-day village life are so vivid and true. The book follows a young boy into his early adolescence under Japanese rule, through a period of time when the Korean people are forced to take on Japanese names instead of their own. The Japanese occupiers seem rather benign but the author (Richard E. Kim) manages to set an underly...more
Kevin Brandon
I read this book on my flight to Korea. So sad to hear how the Japanese tried to erase the Korean culture, language, and even family names in the Second World War. Also it was fascinating to see the world war from a unique perspective - from a child in an occupied country.
This book is a must read! It was very interesting and very educational. I learned a lot of history that I wasn't really aware of until now. This book has many scenes that made me feel upset and hurt for the Koreans. The progression of the book is kind of fast paced, but I think that is best because Kim doesn't harp on unimportant details. Overall, this book is well written and moving and should be read by everyone!
A difficult book to categorize because as the author says himself, it is a fictional book that has become non-fiction in the minds of many people, and it is based from real events.

I enjoyed it, the main character wasn't an "Angel Child" but he also wasn't obnoxiously selfish. When the main character is a kid in a novel for adults, they tend to swing one way or another and here at least, this isn't the case.

I appreciate the day-to-day feeling, because while the memories are from different times...more
Sarah Elizabeth
This was required reading for my college course: East Asian History. It was a class to fulfill a requirement, and I did not enjoy my professor at all. I didn't learn a thing, except from the required reading. This book is beautiful. It is not widely read nor is it a bestseller to my knowledge. However, it is a wonderful portrait of life during the Japanese occupation of Korea. It is very well-written, and it is also a surprisingly quick read. The book, as indicated by it's subtitle, follows a yo...more
I am Cat。
This is particularly touching piece that's quite engaging and easy to keep reading. Normally I bore almost immediately with historical type novels or memoirs, but seeing the strength of these people through the eyes of a youth is what kept me going. What I really appreciated was the author's ability to retain his naivette recollections even though he comes to clearly understand some things as he ages. It really enables the reader to step into the author's shoes instead of reading a drab retellin...more
Certainly a semi-biographical account worthy of a read by anyone interested in the Japanese occupation of Korea and Manchuria. For those with good knowledge of the events surrounding WWI and WWII, the book gives a unique perspective to many events and provides an engrossing read. You will find yourself thinking through history and re-positioning your perspective again and again throughout the book and finally find yourself in shoes that you never expected to be in. A wonderful journey of a book...more
Kim writes of a young boy growing up in northern Korea during WWII. He takes you through the injustice, the fear, the hunger, the sorrow of growing up in an occupied nation as a young boy, and the exultation yet concern of being suddenly set free with the end of World War II as a teenager. It's a lovely story, and I only wish he'd kept going to deal with the moments when North Korea became a state in its own and yet another war broke out. Oh, wait, he does. But, it's another book. (The Korean Wa...more
I didn't really uunderstand what was going on at the beginning because I don't know anything about the war and stuff that was going on. But as it progressed I understood more of what was happening instead of understanding less and less. It really got my involved though. I like the characters and their connections to main character even if they came and went and didn't seem to have any reason to be there. I like it since its a real book to so it tells what really happened.
A good, uplifting read, if not maybe a bit idealized. (spoiler alert: Japan loses WWII?) Lingers just long enough on the more gruesome aspects of the occupation to give the appropriate level of suffering, but the boy comes from a place of privilege, so the novel does dodge what could be a far more terrible time.

Pretty intriguing time in history, but the novel reads almost too perfectly, like the plot of a Hollywood movie, for me to be completely in love with it.
Charles Ellenbogen
This is a powerful book. I thought the small moments between nations, between family members, between children, etc. were more powerful than the deliberately drawn BIG moments. This is the kind of historical fiction I like. Kim narrows the lens and looks at one Korean family trying to live with Japanese occupation as a means to illuminate issues about colonization. It's a journey story, a coming-of-age story, and a history lesson. Read the author's note.

Autobiographical tales of Korea under Japanese occupation - not brilliantly written or terribly surprising, but useful as history. Becomes a lot more interesting if you reflect that all of it, the suffering and depression and eventual joy at the liberation of the Korean homeland, takes place in what would ten years later become the DPRK. Becomes still more interesting if you reflect on the author's class, his well-connected father, and his surname.
I read this in college for an anthropology class. Being a Korean American with parents who both survived the Korean War and the Japanese occupation, this book allowed me to ask questions and open up dialogs with my parents regarding the history of it all. The book paralleled very closely to my parents' experiences. The ending brought me to tears. It's hard to find a class text that brings you to tears like this one. ^^ Happy Reading!
I read this for my East Modern Asia class.

Set during the Japanese occupation of Korea, this story tells of one generation's shame for being preoccupied with individual survival (grandfather), another generation's failure to bring reforms before the country degenerated (father), and a new generation with the opportunity to learn from history and not make the same mistakes (son). This could be fiction or memoir. I appreciated the pacifist elements.
Richard Kim is to be praised for capturing this time period so movingly well. The title comes from the fact that the Japanese occupation forced Koreans to take Japanese names, and "lose" their old ones.

This book depressed me, literally. While reading, it raised my stress level. But that's nothing to shy away from. It's a (mostly) true story.

This was a fascinating novel about how the Japanese conquered Korea and forced the Japanese culture on the Koreans.
I read this for a class and truly enjoyed it. It showed how the Japanese took over countries and how they attempted to "modernize" (but really just force the japanese identity on) Asia without help from the West.
Apr 25, 2007 Laura rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Historically minded folk.
A dramatic story of a young man conquering many of the dynamic problems of Koreans being deprived of their identities and opportunities by an ethnocentric occupation force. The psychological affects of the Japanese policies promoting the end of Korean culture should shake all who read this.
VERY interesting history lesson about Japanese occupation of Korea. Quick read, good story. Feel smarter for reading it.. and it was entertaining..
Reading the notes, he said it was a work of ficiton.. that he should have warned.. the people and events are true, all the rest is made up?
This was a gripping story and I couldn't put it down until it was finished. Although fiction, it had the ring of authenticity and I was deeply moved by the insights it gave me, not just to the Korean experience, but that of all colonised peoples, including mname

Thank you Mr Kim
Elvia Ramirez
More of a read for someone in middle school/high school but overall, the stories were built up nicely. The writing was a little off since sometimes it would be third person, other stories 1st person. So consistency would've been nice! Definitely a nice short book to enjoy/learn a bit
I didn't love the writing style, especially in the beginning, but in the end it turned out to suit the tale well. I'm giving this 4 stars because it tells a story that people probably don't think about very much--I certainly didn't before reading it--and it tells it with true feeling.
The title is accurate, this sparse narrative is a collection of scenes from the point of view of a young boy who lived in Korea during the Japanese occupation. These vignettes are very moving and tell about a chapter in Asian history that most Americans do not know about.
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