3 out of 4 stars
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“What happens in Korea stays in Korea!” This phrase echoed playfully in my head while I was reading this book. I selected this story because I also served in South Korea and was curious about the author’s experiences there. This book, put into the right reader’s hands, will provide hours of nostalgia and intrigue.
In Ku-Pok’s Morning Calm by Dr. David Maloney, Captain Bill Sullivan volunteers for overseas duty in South Korea. Trying to escape the residual effects of a painful divorce, he is hoping for a distraction and some time to heal and put the pieces of his life back together. He finds himself in a country still reeling from the effects of civil war and the constant threat of an attack from North Korea. While the seeds of democracy emerge in this war-torn land, the United States military stands guard in opposition to the communist regime that threatens to overrun South Korea. Even though the war is over, there is unrest and tension. Meanwhile, American foreign policy and diplomatic relations change as world events unfold in Iran. Will Bill find the solace and healing he yearns for, or will his life be changed by what he experiences in South Korea? This story is both a narrative of one officer’s experience and a historical account of the aftermath of the Korean War.
The best part of this book is the author’s ability to capture the essence of culture in his writing. First, military culture is described in detail. For example, the camaraderie among soldiers can be seen in the characters’ dialogue and in the descriptions of the setting. Inspections, alerts, and what happens when a soldier is involved in an accident with a Korean civilian are described in realistic detail here. Second, the customs and cultures of South Korea are also depicted. Pictorial descriptions of the Korean countryside, traditional dances, and Asian customs satisfy the senses and create an enticing backdrop for the story.
The book’s tone is also poignant. There is a guarded sense of peace, preservation of identity, and hope for the future all at the same time. While North Korean officials perfect their weapons of destruction, South Koreans yearn for democracy. While troops patrol the DMZ, civilians farm their crops and go about their daily lives. A few parts of the book are narrated from the point of view of a North Korean. Through this character’s thoughts and the author’s words, readers can at least understand how things have come to be. By including this perspective, the author accentuates the tragedy of war and seems to remind us that even our most formidable enemies are also human.
The only thing I disliked about the book was its editing, and this is the only reason I give this book 3 out of 4 stars. There are many errors that were moderately distracting to the flow of the story. Ironically, I could not help but ponder for a moment that the errors actually enhanced the story, as I can imagine people in the military have other things on their minds than proper grammar. On a very minor note, I did feel the chapters were a bit long and could have been shorter. There were natural breaks in action within each chapter where new chapters could have begun.
I recommend this story to readers with an interest in history, Korean culture, or those who are interested in the military. The detailed descriptions of weapon systems and diplomacy in the region will appeal to history enthusiasts. Because this element of the book is most profound, readers who are not interested in history or the military may become overwhelmed, as these descriptions are quite lengthy. Overall, I found this book to be quite informative and engaging, and I enjoyed reading every page.
Ku-Pok's Morning Calm
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