Tae-woo attended elementary school and later middle school, through the age of fifteen, which was standard for the sons of farmers. The language of instruction was Japanese. Japan had annexed Korea in 1910 and deposed the last of the Korean emperors, after which it went about methodically stamping out Korean culture and superimposing its own. During the early years of the occupation, the older men in the village had been forced to cut off the long braid that Korean males traditionally wore bound in a topknot and covered with a black hat. They were made to take Japanese names. The Japanese levied heavy taxes, taking 50 percent or more of the rice harvest, claiming it was necessary to support the war they were waging in the Pacific. Young men and women were shipped off to Japan to contribute to the war effort, while girls were forced into prostitution, becoming what were euphemistically known as “comfort women” who sexually serviced the troops. The rice farmers loathed the Japanese. They couldn’t do anything without Japanese approval.
Nothing to envy. Ordinary lives in North Korea.