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.