Books set in Asia, Family dynamics, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Park-Linda Sue, Social Commentary, WWII, Young Adult

#641 When My Name was Keoko by Linda Sue Park

When My Name was Keoko by Linda Sue ParkWhen My Name was Keoko by Linda Sue Park

Sun-hee had to change her name during WWII. Japan had taken over Korea and Korean citizens were supposed to learn Japanese and be as Japanese as possible. They weren’t supposed to talk in their native tongue or tell their folktales. They were supposed to be Japanese.

This was especially true during WWII. Sun-hee had to become Keoko. Everyone in her family had to have new names. They also had to have a new last name. In school they learned to use bayonets. They were not allowed to read the leaflets that dropped from the sky. They had to line up outside their homes. Anybody Korean could not be the boss of anything.

Sun-hee’s brother joined the Japanese military. He knew it would get his family more rice. At one point he volunteers for a very special mission, but it’s a mission that will end in his death, or so the family thinks.

What I liked

I loosely knew that the Japan had taken over parts of mainland Asia, but I didn’t know to what extent it had been. I didn’t know that Japan had tried to make the Korean people assimilate into Japanese culture. It’s very interesting. I had no idea that they made people change their names.

What I didn’t like

There is an entire generation, or more, of Koreans who didn’t know as much as they should of their culture. I’m sure that there were people who never learned to be completely Korean after having lived under Japanese rule for so long. The Korean culture is divided even further into North Korea and South Korea. The two cultures are even more different now. The Japanese culture ultimately led to Korea being split. It’s sad that so many people have lost so much of their heritage, but it’s something that has happened all over the world time over again and again.


It’s sad when people are forced to lose their culture and traditions.

Weigh In

What name would you choose if you were forced to change it?

If your culture were taken over by another culture, do you think you would assimilate or hold on to much or your original culture?


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