The short story “Cranes,” published in 1953, was written by Hwang Sun-won, a prominent author in the Korean literary canon. The story is set during the Korean War in a small village along the thirty-eighth parallel. Tokchae, one of the story's main characters, was the vice-chairman of the Farmers’ Communist League, but he was forcibly removed from his home and is now a prisoner. He is to be escorted by the police to another police station in Ch’ongdan.
One of the officers, Songsam, realizes that Tokchae is his childhood friend, so he volunteers to serve as escort. Songsam thinks of offering Tokchae a cigarette, but he thinks the timing is bad. Then Songsam reminisces on the times when, as children, Tokchae shared chestnuts with him. Songsam changes his mind and decides to offer a cigarette.
Along the way, Songsam feels a sudden burst of anger and asks Tokchae how many men he has killed in the war. Tokchae remains silent. Songsam presses him, but Tokchae will not speak. Songsam asks Tokchae why he did not run away instead of becoming part of the war. To...
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