You are here

Playing With Fire

85 Playing With Fire
CHO Chong-Rae
Publication Year: 
Publication Number: 

In this work, the smoldering hatred of the Korean War period resurfaces decades later in the form of a ruthless quest for justice. The main character, a successful Seoul businessman, has a secret past: unknown to his wife and son, he once led another life under another name as a ruthless communist partisan. After a lifelong search, the son of one of his wartime victims discovers his true identity, then proceeds calmly and deliberately to exact a terrible revenge.

Playing With Fire was awarded the prestigious Korean National Literature Prize upon its publication in 1982. Cho Chong-Rae's novella Land of Exile appeared in English translation in 1992. Cho subsequently published the immensely popular ten-volume historical novel The Taebaek Mountains (Taebaek Sanmaek), which sold millions in Korea in the late 1980s and was successfully adapted into a film. In the 1990s Cho continued his success with Arirang, another ten-volume roman fleuve set in the period of Japan's occupation of Korea. | 202 pages


  • "Playing with Fire is densely layered with symbolism throughout. Each character’s name and each place name reveals a range of possible meanings too complex to summarize here. While this penchant for symbolism might seem an unnecessary affectation at times, particularly when it appears to be obvious, it would be a mistake to leap to conclusions before careful consideration of these gestures from a variety of perspectives." — Korean Quarterly, Summer 1998

Author and Translator
  • CHO Chong-Rae is among the most popular contemporary Korean writers, dealing in his fiction with the personal trials and social agonies of Korea's division.
  • CHUN Kyung-Ja holds a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin and is Professor of English at the Catholic University of Korea. She has published many translations of modern Korean prose and poetry, including such novels as Peace Under Heaven by Ch'ae Man-Sik (M.E. Sharpe, 1991) and The Shadow of Arms by Hwang Suk-Young (Cornell East Asia Series).

ISBN (hardcover): 
ISBN (paperback): 
Price (paperback):