The Orphan Master’s Son

Orphan Master“The Orphan Master’s Son” by Adam Johnson

Jun Do’s considered an orphan, but he isn’t really an orphan.  His mother was taken to Pyongyang because of her beauty, and Jun Do was left with his father – the Orphan Master.  Jun Do (John Doe) was given an orphan’s name by his father, so he could stay in the orphanage and be watched over.  Because of this labeling, he is given one of the most unfortunate of jobs – tunnel fighter.  So starts his life, an endless series of unfortunate events.


  1. Men in North Korea were forced to marry. If they defected, it would be their wife, children, parents, and friends that would suffer. Jun Do had none of these, yet he continued to make sacrifice after sacrifice for others. Why? Do you consider Jun Do a martyr?
  2. Jun Do offers his theory on Communism vs Capitalism – In Communism you are threatened into compliance, but in Capitalism obedience is obtained through bribes. What do you think of his theory? Is it off the mark?
  3. Commander Ga and Sun Moon witnessed a hungry man stealing an ostrich egg. Ga asked who suffers more; the hungry man or the guard who has to punish the hungry man? Sun Moon answered “isn’t it the bird that suffers?” Who do you believes suffers more? Why?
  4. When Sun Moon asked if she could take her father’s instrument to America, Commander Ga told her that she couldn’t take any possessions. That it is safer to keep people in your heart than within an object. What does this say about possessions? Is it better to have memories or keepsakes?
  5. In the second half of the book, you read the story from three separate viewpoints: Commander Ga’s, The Interrogator, and The Propaganda. Did any of these perspectives change how you viewed Jun Do?
  6. In the end, would you consider Jun Do a hero? Why or why not?
  7. Do you see any parallels between this book and 1984?
  8. If you were asked to describe this book in one word, what would it be?

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