Name Truly Becomes a Part of Identity

There comes a point in time in an individual’s life in which their name truly becomes a part of their identity. A name is more than just a title to differentiate people; it is a part of the person. In Lost Names: Scenes from a Korean Boyhood by Richard E. Kim, names play a major role on the character’s identities. The absence and importance of the names in the story make the story rich with detail and identity through something as simple as the name of a character. Names are a significant factor affecting the story and the characters throughout the novel Lost Names. When the Koreans are forced to change their family names to Japanese ones, their Korean identity is weakened. Going through this traumatizing experience is extremely hard for the Korean people because their family name is everything to them. To the Koreans, the family name is “the only legacy we hand down to the next generation and the next and the next” (113). Taking away their family name takes away their culture and attempts to convert them to the Japanese way of living. The family does not react well to the situation, as their true names must be erased forever. The day that this takes place is known as a day of mourning among all of the Koreans.

They main character’s experiences this loss first had with his grandfather and father both grieving. “Lowering their faces, their tears flowing now unchecked, their foreheads and snow-covered hair touching the snow on the ground. I, too, let my face fall and touch the snow” (111). The family name is a big deal in the Korean culture, and being forced to change this completely devastates the entire family. A name gives people so much about themselves, and being stripped of it can cause many issues. Similarly, not even having a name can suggest some comparable issues. The way that the characters do not have any names suggests that they are “lost”. Richard Kim refers to the characters as Student-of-the-Day, Teacher-of-the-Day, Japanese teacher, Principal, and many more titles throughout the entire novel. He defines each character by their position. Calling a character by their position suggests that that is the only thing of importance related to them. The way that they are not given specific names shows their importance and identity. “I call the names of one of my friends. ‘You take charge while I am gone’” (130).

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“The principal tells the policeman who I am, the son of —” (130). Kim does not specifically refer to a person in the class, instead any “one”. He refuses to write out the father’s name. The main character’s name is never given either. Not giving specific names to each and every character of the story makes the reader wonder what the most essential part of a story missing really means. Each character is portrayed as a general position and nothing more. All of these characters must have the same general or stereotypical personality as the rest of their “group” in which they are categorized. The importance of a name is the underlying identity of the character. Along with unidentified characters, the title of this novel also portrays the importance of names. The title of this book relates to many aspects of the story. Lost Names alludes to the fact that the names of the characters in the story are lost. It corresponds to the identity crisis that most of the characters in the story go through like the main character’s father as well as all of the other Korean families that are forced under the Japanese occupation. The conservation of the main character’s name makes readers ponder upon the significance of the title of the book; the lost name of this story is this lost identity of the Korean population living under tyranny.

In the subtitle Scenes from a Korean Boyhood, the author does not state the novel to be his boyhood, but rather suggests a boyhood. Kim chooses to leave this pronoun out in order to prove a more generalized view of humanity. The readers would be forced to make these characters a general idea so that a concluded common idea for them is The people of Korea are having their identity stolen. The rights of the Korean people are not being granted. Their culture is all together being stolen. A similar thing is happening in America today. The National Security Agency, which is a part of the United States federal government, is monitoring many United States citizens’ personal matters. The agency has the power to access any information that they feel necessary including Internet searches, text messages, and phone calls. Can an individual really truly be themselves when their entire life, every move, every purchase, every website they visit, is being monitored? The actions by the NSA invade the privacy of the country’s population. In a similar way to Lost Names, the government has an unfair and unjust authority to control the population. The identities of both societies are being falsely tampered with, and government should never have that power over the population.a

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Name Truly Becomes a Part of Identity. (2016, Jul 06). Retrieved from