Study Guide

The Orphan Master's Son Part 2, Pages 179-193

By Adam Johnson

Part 2, Pages 179-193

Part Two: The Confessions of Commander Ga (One Year Later)

  • Keep your eyes open, because we're switching point of view here. This is the first-person narrative of an unnamed North Korean interrogator in Pyongyang.
  • This guy works for Division 42, and he tells us that while he and his team are finishing up an interrogation of a professor, Commander Ga is brought in.
  • The whole team is very excited, and they send their young interns Q-Kee and Jujack to find out if the rumor is true.
  • The Interrogator talks about the professor. He's accused of "counterrevolutionary teachings"—that is, playing South Korean pop songs to his students.
  • We learn that there are two divisions inside Division 42: the old-school thugs, called the Pubyok, and the team that the Interrogator is on.
  • The Interrogator's team is more intellectual and psychological. They do a kind of twisted talk therapy that combines compassion and cruelty to get the subject to confess.
  • At the end of the team's Q&A, they make a bound biography of the subject's life. In this case, they're studying the professor. They present him with the book about him, and he seems to enjoy reading it.
  • But the professor still hasn't confessed to anything, so the Interrogator has to hook him up to the "autopilot," which is an automated pain delivery system that uses an electrical current.
  • The Interrogator takes away the professor's gold pen so that the electricity will zap him extra hard there. When this happens, the Interrogator says, the man will realize that he will never be a professor again.
  • The team is going for total transformation of the person in this type of "interrogation," so pain, they say, is an essential part of the process.
  • The team leaves the professor to his pain machine and takes his biography to the "library," a bare storeroom that nobody ever visits.
  • The Interrogator thinks of the biography collection as something that "saves" the subjects, no matter what happens to them when they leave Division 42.
  • Q-Kee and Jujack return with the news that the Pubyok have got to Commander Ga first, which is bad luck for their own team. Now they have to wait their turn.
  • The team members go upstairs to talk to Sarge, who is the leader of the Pubyok. Sarge has a bloody nose. He tells them that his "subject" is not the real Commander Ga.
  • Sarge tells the Interrogator that they're sending this Commander Ga to the "sump"—more on that later.
  • But the Interrogator really wants to get his hands on Ga, especially so that he can learn his story and create a biography for his "library."
  • Sarge doesn't like the other team's way of doing business, but he lets them have their turn. When they see Ga, he's in pretty rough shape: there's frostbite on his fingers, and his Sun Moon tattoo revealed.
  • The interrogators tell Ga that they are here to take down his story, and Ga tells them that he hopes they like happy endings.
  • The team puts Ga in a "Q&A chair" and gives him aspirin to soften him up. They put a note saying "Is not Commander Ga" into a vacuum tube and send it off to some floor above them.
  • When it comes back, a note reads "Is Commander Ga." It's all very perplexing.
  • The interrogators let Ga rest in the chair for the day. When they check on him, he's half awake, and it looks like his fingers are typing something out on his stomach.
  • The team is in suspense. They want to ask him so many questions, but they know it would be poor technique.
  • Q-Kee, however, is young and blurts out the obvious: where did he put Sun Moon's body? The plot thickens.
  • The team has to remove Q-Kee from the room and school her a bit on interrogation. They need to build some kind of relationship with Ga so that he will open up to them.
  • Q-Kee tries again and asks Ga how he first met Sun Moon. Ga gives a strange answer: he speaks of the cold, of the infirmary, and of the snow blocking his view. Hmmm.
  • Jujack asks Ga what he was dreaming about when they came in. Ga tells them about driving with Sun Moon in a car back to her house, thinking that she would let him touch her when they got there.
  • Ga talks about coming across families in the park stealing chestnuts because they were starving, and about how Sun Moon thought that they are playing a game or were circus families.
  • Ga says this makes him love her more, because she knows nothing of suffering.
  • The team leaves Ga alone after that. They ride to their separate homes in Pyongyang.
  • The Interrogator notes how the impostor has totally taken on the identity of Commander Ga and even dreams that he is actually Ga.
  • The Interrogator says that the impostor has completely forgotten that he'd "disposed" of the real Commander Ga. But the Interrogator knows most of that story from rumors that have been flying around.
  • The Interrogator's excited because it seems that this will be a significant biography to compile.
  • The Interrogator talks about the library as something sacred. He says that the stories inside it are never read except by the Propaganda folks who need something for the loudspeakers.
  • The Interrogator makes his way home, trading the professor's gold pen for food. We learn that the Interrogator lives on the 22nd floor of a building with his elderly parents. It works out, because it's too far up for them to wander off. Furthermore, nobody else wants to live up there, because the elevators don't work.
  • The Interrogator's parents are kind of paranoid because they've both lost their eyesight. On top of that, they feel that they are constantly being watched by someone who will denounce them to the government.
  • We learn that the Interrogator has tried to write his own biography, but he finds his life boring. He's also superstitious, thinking that if he completes it, something will happen to him.
  • The Interrogator gets an idea about Commander Ga, so he leaves home and returns to work. He wakes Ga and asks him if his first encounter with Sun Moon was by watching a movie in a prison infirmary.
  • And the Interrogator is exactly right: this "Commander Ga" was a prisoner—with a tattoo of Sun Moon on his chest. Sound familiar?
  • The Interrogator asks the fake Commander Ga what the real Ga did that made him want to murder him—and murder his wife and children, too.
  • But Commander Ga falls asleep in the chair and doesn't answer. The Interrogator takes a sedative and goes home.
  • We're in Commander Ga's point of view now, as he sits in the Q & A chair for the night, after the Interrogator has left for the second time.
  • Ga recalls one of Sun Moon's roles—the one that hooked him—as one of three abalone-diving sisters.
  • In the flick, Sun Moon dives into the dark sea and stays away for a long time. Soon, both the audience and the two remaining sisters begin to panic. What if she doesn't surface?
  • Ga recalls that he saw the film on a day off from work, in the infirmary, with dying patients having their blood drained away all around him.
  • Sun Moon's character surfaces again, and all is well. Mongnan pulls Ga away from the group to teach him an essential scavenging skill: how to collect and eat moths that fall from searchlights.
  • We learn that Ga's hunger is serious, since he hadn't eaten much since Texas. Both he and Mongnan gather enough moths in their pockets to eat for a week.
  • It's back to the loudspeaker and the vital news of the day.
  • Along with warnings to keep off the subway escalators and to can enough kelp to defend against hunger, the voice promises to air the Best North Korean story of the year.
  • The story will be one of love and woe, with lots of action.