Summary: Chapter 12

Doc Hata spent four days in the infirmary alone with K, talking with her and giving her rice from his own meager rations. He wondered whether his comrades thought he’d fallen for K. In hindsight, Doc Hata thinks he didn’t know he was becoming interested in K since he continued to believe he was just following Captain Ono’s orders.

Doc Hata spoke about his family. K took an interest in his adoptive parents and asked if they treated him like their real son. He said they did but that he felt unsure about whether he had sufficiently honored them in return.

K explained that her father largely ignored her and her sisters, though he was elated when her brother was born. When the war started, recruiters came for her brother, but her father used his influence to prevent conscription. In his son’s stead, he offered his two unmarried daughters, and the next day the recruiter returned and took K and her sister away. The recruiter told the family that the girls would be put to work in a boot factory in Shimonoseki, Japan, but instead they were transported to Rangoon, Burma, and brought to this camp. The revelation that K and the others did not volunteer horrified Doc Hata.

Doc Hata tried to comfort K by professing that she would persevere through this experience and go on to have a long and decent life. He also told her about his own dream to receive full medical training and become a cardiopulmonary surgeon. He explained his longstanding fascination with the heart, which he thought might serve as a vessel for the human spirit and the source of individual perseverance.

As he approached the infirmary one morning, Doc Hata saw that Captain Ono had raised the black flag. He went inside and asked K if Ono had come. He hadn’t. Once again, K begged Doc Hata to help her commit suicide. Once again, Doc Hata refused.

Their conversation turned away from the present situation, and Doc Hata told K about the places he’d like to travel with her. K revealed more about her family and how her father was a scholar and ambassador. Her father had helped to establish an agreement on the issue of Japanese colonists in Korea, but then he fell on hard times when the agreement turned out not to work.

Doc Hata fantasized about the war coming to an end soon and running off with K, but K rejected his fantasy, saying that it wouldn’t become a reality before Captain Ono came for her that night.

K lay down to sleep, and as Doc Hata stroked her hair, he became aroused and initiated sex with her. The experience filled him with warmth, and he felt that he would anything to protect her. As he left her side he whispered, “I love you.” Standing outside her door, he thought he heard her saying his name, “hata-hata,” but he soon realized that she was crying.

Exhilarated by his sense that he and K shared a special “affinity of being,” Doc Hata sought out Captain Ono. He confronted his superior officer about his plans for K as well as about what he believed was Ono’s plan to usurp control from Colonel Ishii.

Ono heard Doc Hata out but then criticized him for his inability to act. He knew Doc Hata wanted to become a surgeon, but whereas a surgeon makes a decision and acts on it, Doc Hata depends too much on the vagueness of “gesture.” Ono called Doc Hata a fool for thinking he could protect K’s honor. Doc Hata insisted that he loved K, and Ono replied that K was pregnant before she arrived at the camp. In response, Doc Hata tackled Ono and dislocated his shoulder. Ono pulled out his gun and beat Doc Hata unconscious.

Analysis: Chapter 12

Doc Hata’s account of his relationship with his adoptive parents suggests an important difference between his upbringing as an adoptee and Sunny’s. When K asked him whether or not he and his adoptive parents treated each other like “real” family, she pointed to a question of authenticity that has long plagued the relationship between Doc Hata and Sunny. Doc Hata initially wanted to adopt a daughter of “like-enough race” whom others in his community would readily accept as his own. Yet as he recounted in Chapter 10, he felt disappointed when he found that Sunny appeared to have a mixed-race background and hence did not share a reasonable likeness with her adoptive father. Without the appearance of authenticity, Doc Hata felt taken aback, and this initial moment of hesitation has remained a constitutive part of their relationship ever since. Although Doc Hata supported Sunny throughout her adolescence just as his own adoptive parents did for him, he never felt the unconditional love he’d expected to feel toward his own child. And, in turn, Sunny has never shown him the honor and respect that he felt he owed to his own adoptive parents.

Doc Hata’s fascination with the heart strikes the reader as ironic given that he has such a hard time navigating matters of the heart. When Doc Hata explained his desire to become a cardiopulmonary surgeon to K, he spoke with an interest that went beyond scientific fascination. Although inspired by the scene he once witnessed of a surgeon massaging a man’s heart with his hands, Doc Hata also nourished a personal philosophy of the heart as a spiritual organ. That is, he understood the heart as a material vessel that housed a person’s immaterial soul. In this regard, the heart represented for Doc Hata not just a physical entity but a metaphysical one that animated a person and guided them through the rocky terrain of life. In the particularly difficult time of the war, Doc Hata increasingly felt like his heart drew him toward K. Energized by his affection for her, he confronted his ill-tempered superior officer and dared to proclaim his love for her. Yet the reader, who knows that K doesn’t share Doc Hata’s feelings, sees his love as naïve and one-sided, and therefore agrees with Ono when he scoffs at Doc Hata’s earnest proclamation.

The conversations between Doc Hata and K highlight the cultural and political tensions between the Japanese and Korean peoples. The reader gets a whiff of tension when Doc Hata recounts how he explained to K that he and his fellow comrades had taken up arms to defend the Asian way of life. K noted wryly that the lifestyle they sought to defend was, in reality, the Japanese lifestyle. Her comment demonstrates the strong cultural influence of Japan in the region, and it also recalls Doc Hata’s own preference to consider himself Japanese and not think about his Korean ethnicity or early upbringing. In addition to the cultural tension between Japan and Korea, K also draws attention to political tensions. When she told Doc Hata about her father’s ultimately failed attempt to broker a deal related to Japanese colonists in Korea, she referenced the historical fact that Korea had submitted to Japanese rule and occupation since 1910. Japan enjoyed cultural and political dominance throughout Asia, placing Korea in a subordinate and relatively powerless position. This geopolitical reality is reflected in the power dynamic between Doc Hata, a representative of the Japanese army, and K, a Korean woman forced into sex slavery.

Captain Ono’s critique of Doc Hata’s insufficient ability to act echoes Sunny’s complaint in Chapter 6 that her father lives a life made of gestures. Recall that Sunny complained about how Doc Hata uses gestures of goodwill to cultivate a sterling reputation. According to Sunny, his goodwill always has the ulterior motive of making him look good, and because of this, it has a coercive function. Doc Hata’s gestures give him the appearance of kindness, but they frequently remain unsubstantiated by actual selfless expressions of care. Many years prior, Ono made very similar points about Doc Hata’s conduct. Ono claimed that Doc Hata consistently failed to take strong action and so appeared insubstantial, like someone making vague gestures rather than moving with clarity and fully embodied self-possession. Ono cited the vagueness of Doc Hata’s gestural character as a reason why he would never become a surgeon, who must work with confidence and precision. Although they spoke at different times in Doc Hata’s life and in very different contexts, both Captain Ono and Sunny make a similar critique of Doc Hata’s character, representing that Doc Hata has not evolved much since his days in the army.