In this excellent, clear and highly readable translation by Paul Kim, still in high school, we learn the moving story of Young-Bok Yoo, whose life exemplifies the tragedies and divisions of Korea during and after the Korean War. This book provides much honest, probing insight into North Korea, where Mr. Yoo lived for decades, and the moving story of his ultimate return to the South.
This book could have been a political tract; instead it is an eyewitness account of a gripping and illuminating history.
— Bruce Cumings, Chairman of the History Department at the University of Chicago, and the author of Korea’s Place in the Sun.
Tears of Blood: A Korean POW’s Fight for Freedom, Family, and Justice, written by Young-Bok Yoo and carefully translated by Paul T. Kim, is required reading for those who care about history, particularly the history of our own times, about human rights, and about the almost unbelievable power of the human being to survive with dignity even under intolerable conditions.
Tears of Blood is Young-Bok Yoo’s account of his fifty-year ordeal as a South Korean held prisoner of war in North Korea. Against international conventions of war, he was, as were the other South Korean prisoners, denied repatriation, exploited as a laborer and surveyor in the mines, subjected to harsh political, social, and personal conditions, weakened by tuberculosis, famine, and privations of every kind, and nearly broken by the suffering of his family. "Tears of blood" is in fact a Korean phrase for the agony of witnessing the suffering of those one loves, and despite the brutality Mr. Yoo endured himself, his strongest expressions of grief are for those he loved, some in South Korea from whom he was forcibly separated, and those of the family he formed in North Korea, who suffered with him or who suffered because of his status as a POW.
Though this is not a story with a “happy ending,” it does end with Mr. Yoo’s daring escape--after five decades--from North Korea and his return to South Korea, a place changed beyond his comprehension, but his home. There, reunited with his surviving family members, he set himself the task of writing his story --for himself, for the 60,000 other South Korean POW’s whose stories would echo his but are lost, and for the few of those 60,000 prisoners who still may be alive and living against their will in North Korea.
There is a second story present in this book as well: the story of Paul T. Kim, a young Korean-American, only sixteen when he completed this translation, a task he was enabled to do because his Korean grandmother persisted in bringing him to full fluency in the Korean language. He found Mr. Yoo’s story so compelling that he has translated it so that English readers have access to this historical document and what the translator calls “the fading story” of South Korean POW’s.
The narrative is simple and unadorned as is appropriate for the grim experience it recounts. With useful explanatory notes provided by the translator and with references to corroborating witnesses, the book adds credibly to our knowledge of a war not given a great deal of attention and reveals the plight of the POW’s we seldom hear about. Moreover, the devotion, work, and achievement of the young translator augment our understanding of the concept of heritage. I strongly endorse the publication of Tears of Blood.
— Shirley Clay Scott, former Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, Hunter College.
Korea has an abundance of human tragedy and international injustice in modern times that has never been fully unfolded to the world. This autobiography by Young-Bok Yoo, a former South Korean POW, abandoned in North Korea for decades, so painful and sad as it may be, is only the tip of the iceberg, one of the countless stories of suffering in North Korea. The story behind this excellent translation, by Paul Kim who is still in high school, is itself an inspiring one for young people who wish to act against injustice.
— Sang Hun Kim, Chairman, Database Center for North Korean Human Rights, and Asian Hero 2003, TIME Magazine Asia (April 23, 2003).