This story was published in 1953, but was set during the Korean War in a village that is situated along the thirty-eighth parallel, which is of course the line that now divides North Korea and South Korea. The setting is crucial to the story as a whole, because it enables the author to present the grim realities of Civil War. The two central characters, who find themselves opposed to each other ideologically because of their location, realise that they are actually childhood friends who used to play together. The way in which Songsam realises this and shows how friendship is a force that is stronger than ideological convictions by releasing Tokchae is a powerful testament of love.
It is also, however, a disturbing story that shows the true cost of Civil War as villages are literally split in half and families and friendships are destroyed through nothing more than ideology and war. This short story paints a very graphic picture of the true cost of war and how so much suffered as a result of a war that pits friend against friend and family against family.