How in Heaven's Name

A Novel of World War Two

Cho Chŏngnae

Translated by Bruce Fulton


2012, 150 pages

ISBN 978-1-937385-16-3 Paper $23.00
ISBN 978-1-937385-17-0 Cloth $45.00

How in Heaven's Name is a microcosm of the uprooting and dislocation that have characterized much of modern Korean and East Asian history. It is based on the true story of several Korean youths who in the late 1930s were lured into the Japanese Imperial Army either through promises by the Japanese colonial overlords of a government clerkship upon discharge or by means of threats to transplant their entire families to colonial outposts in Manchuria. Upon joining the Imperial Army, these Koreans were sent to Manchuria and thence to Mongolia, where they were captured by joint Mongolian-Soviet forces and then offered the options of joining the Soviet Red Army or being returned to the Japanese, at whose hands they faced certain execution for allowing themselves to be captured during battle instead of committing ritual suicide. The Koreans who elected to join the Red Army were than transported west, where they served in the defense of Moscow against the massive German offensive of 1942.
    Captured by the Germans, they spent a year and a half in German POW camps, until early 1944, when the German high command began active preparation for the large-scale Atlantic Ocean-based invasion they expected from the Allies. This serendipitous process explains why on D-Day, June 6, 1944, among those captured by the Americans who landed at Omaha Beach were soldiers in German Wehrmacht uniforms who had Asian features and spoke a language no one understood. At a time when the U.S. presence abroad remains controversial, How in Heaven's Name serves as a reminder of the countless hidden effects and untold stories of those who are swept up by world geopolitical forces beyond their control.

Cho Chŏngnae is one of Korea's most important living writers. Born in 1943, he is best known for the 10-volume novel The T'aebaek Mountains (1989), the 12-volume Arirang (1995), and the 10-volume The Han River (2002). Together these three works offer a panorama of Korea extending from the period of Japanese colonization to South Korea's development into a high-tech industrialized nation.

Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton are the translators of numerous volumes of modern Korean fiction, most recently Lost Souls: Stories by Hwang Sunwon (2009).



“No event in the twentieth century had as much of a global impact as World War II. Cho Chŏngnae is revered as one of Korea’s greatest writers, and his newest novel doesn’t

disappoint. Following soldiers’ stories from both the Axis and Allies, “How in Heaven’s Name” explores the many tragic truths about World War II.”

–World Literature Today