The years of the Korean War were very brutal and destructive times. Battle was constant between the Communist North and the Democratic South, and as a result many lives were lost and friends and families were torn apart. This is the setting of Hwang Sunwon’s short story, “Cranes”. One of the main characters, Tokchae, who is fighting for the Communist North, is captured by the south and is held prisoner.
When being transported to another facility, he is escorted by an old friend of his who had fled the country when the war broke out. During their reminiscing of old times and their reacquainting of themselves with one another, it becomes apparent that Tokchae is a loyal and courageous man. Being strong and faithful, Tokchae stays loyal to both people and places in this short story. When the war first breaks out, Tokchae, unlike his old friend Songsam, does not abandon his farmland or his father.
Instead, he embraces his position in the economy and works hard to be the Vice-Chairman of the Farmers’ Communist League, demonstrating true dedication to his family and to his work. The faithful farmer does not let the fierceness of the war win him over, Tokchae stays to protect his family and his property that represents generations of hard work and family honor. Exemplifying the persona of the loyal family man, he continues to fight the war and remain in the North to protect and be with his wife and expected child.
Although he has the opportunity to leave his wife and child as well as impair them by holding a job that’s value has decreased due to warfare, he stays dedicated to his family by staying by their side through the torturous war and by working diligently for a job that is of importance to the war, thus providing for them. Even though being a loyal man eventually leads to his captivity, he stays loyal to his beliefs and stays true to his loved ones and his home.
With much bravery and determination, Tokchae is courageous through the struggles of war and his encounter with an old friend. By taking a leading role in the war as the Vice-Chairman of the Farmers’ Communist League, the hardworking North Korean family man shows true courage in the riskiness of his position of power. By being in a powerful position, Tokchae risks his own safety as well as the safety of his family. It takes immense earlessness in order to place himself in a harmful position for the greater good. Not only is he endangering himself and his loved ones, but he is also taking a stand for what he believes in and is leading others in a fight for what he believes would be a better life. When he is captured by the South and is forced to move to another base, Tokchae shows no sign of weakness or vulnerability, but rather stands his ground, ready to accept his fate.
Many men may try to beg their old friend for mercy and freedom; however, being an honorable man, Tokchae sticks to his ground and stands for what he believes in no matter how much it will influence Songsam to set him free. Lucky for him, Songsam is able to look past their difference in the end and allows him to escape. By having courage to do what was right and honorable, Tokchae was able to escape his imprisonment and return to his former life with dignity and pride.
With the qualities of loyalty and courage, Tokchae is able to live a very meaningful and fulfilling life. If he continues to remain loyal to those he loves and to his beliefs, he will never have to worry about losing those he cares about and what he loves. Remaining courageous, Tokchae will continue to excel in life and take opportunities that will not only help him become a better person, but that will also help better the lives of others. Having the ability to be loyal and courageous are two important characteristics for a hardworking, successful man to possess.