Study Guide

Commander Ga in The Orphan Master's Son

By Adam Johnson

Advertisement - Guide continues below

Commander Ga

Best Super Macho Military Leader

The real Commander Ga—the guy who wins the Golden Belt for his prowess in taekwondo, the real husband of Sun Moon, and the terror of gays throughout North Korea—is not someone you'd hang out with on a Saturday night. Or any other night, actually. His hyper-macho persona and pathological arrogance qualify him, however, as the first citizen of the North Korean state.

Even though the diminutive Dear Leader is locked in a bitter rivalry with him, the propagandists can't help but point to Ga as superior citizen material, a man completely above the masses of the starved and downtrodden in North Korea:

"Look at the photo of the real Commander Ga on the wall behind this imposter. The man in the picture had broad shoulders, a crenellated brow, and teeth worn down from aggressive grinding. Now look at the spindly man wearing the Commander's uniform—sunken chest, girl's ears, barely the notion of a noodle in his trousers." (220)

Compared to the upstart Jun Do, Ga is manly, aggressive, militaristic: everything the Dear Leader claims to be himself but may not actually really be. And that's precisely why Commander Ga, despite his shady behavior, becomes a hero of the state: his external character suits the story that Kim Jong Il wants to tell about himself and his country.

No Mr. Nice Guy

Jun Do and Comrade Buc find out firsthand just how lacking in manners the real Commander Ga is. In fact, Comrade Buc's encounter with the guy at work has to be the most blatant case of workplace harassment that we've ever seen. After dropping Buc to the ground, Ga presses his favorite defense scenario on his subordinate: what would Buc do if he was under "man attack"?

Um, what?

Yeah, this dude is talking about… you know, if one guy surprises you after you've dropped the soap in shower… that sort of thing. How original.

It's pretty clear that this "masculinity test" is a thin cover for Ga's own violent sexual tendencies, but like most predators, he cloaks his behavior in language that places responsibility on the victim:

"How could you not die trying to stop it, no matter what... unless you wanted it, unless you secretly wanted a man attack and that's why you failed to repel it. Well, you're luck it was only me and not some Japanese. You're lucky I was strong enough to protect you..." (238).

Commander Ga has it all: he's strong and creepy. But his arrogance takes him a step too far when he tangles with a desperate Jun Do. His mistake is to do it in the tunnel-fighter's house—a dark mine. In that incident, it seems as though Ga is bent on actually "man attacking" Jun Do. His language in the mine is that of a rapist or serial killer who shows admiration for his prey before destroying it:

... of course you're going to struggle with all your might. You don't know how I respect you You're the only one, in all this time, that's really fought back, you're the only one who knows me, who really understands me. (304)

The Dear Leader later echoes that sentiment about the American rower ("she's read all my writing, she really understands me") in the hope that he can justify his unlawful behavior toward her. Ga also has a need: to validate his violent sexual needs and to make someone else part of them. It's a "scar" he wants to give to Jun Do so that he doesn't have to bear the disfigurement himself.

Are we much surprised by Sun Moon's indifference when she finds out he's dead?

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...