To Kill a Tiger: A Memoir of Korea

A couple of days ago I finished this book. I had read it a few years ago, but felt compelled to reread it now. A lot of reviews put it down for its weird combination of memoir and history lesson, but that was what I enjoyed the most about it.

The memoir takes place from around the 50s on. It talks alot about the politics of the time. It was all kind of confusing and hard for me to grasp. For much of the 1900s, Korea was not its own country. Growing up in America, I don’t know what it is like to live under the occupation and rule of another country. I also don’t know what it is like to fear even harboring thoughts of dissent against the current governmental rule.

One concept I was able to understand, and which was heavily prominent throughout the book, was the extreme suppression of females.

Since the age of 6, the narrator did not understand and rebelled against the idea and practice of men being superior. Her father, raised under the practice of Confucianism which stressed the superiority of men, was burdened throughout her life with an independent mind. Secretly, but passionately opposed to the dictator-style ruling of the country, he was arrested and tortured multiple times, an occurrance that happened to many during that period. He lived in fear and poor health, turning his nose up to well paying, high position government jobs, and saw his family struggle to get by.

The practice at the time was to give the best and most to the men. For her disaggreement, Jid was often abused severedly by the males of the family, and her mother never defended her. It was this way in all Korean families of the time. Most people know the strong desire of an Asian family to produce a male heir. Most people don’t know the extent of the privilage they receive.

As the book progresses and Jid grows up, while still strong in her belief in gender equality, she begins to truly see how much her parents loved her, and the struggles they faced just to survive. She was able to see that while the men were fed first, sometimes her mother sacrificed her portion to ensure that Jid also was fed.

It is embarassing to me, how little I actually know about the country I was born in, despite my pride and love for it. This book gave me the ability to experience some of it though. Through her life, and her experiences.

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