''The Orphan Master's Son'' is a PulitzerPrize-winning 2012 novel by Adam Johnson, set in UsefulNotes/NorthKorea.

The novel is divided into two parts. The first part focuses on Pak Jun Do, the son of an orphan master in the city of Chongjin. Jun Do is recruited by government officials to work in intelligence, first kidnapping Japanese civilians, and then as an intelligence officer on the ''Junma'', a fishing boat. This eventually leads to his joining a diplomatic mission to the United States.

The second part of the novel focuses on Commander Ga, a national hero and minister for prison mines. The chapters are split between the perspective of a government torturer, the narrative coming from the government's propaganda speaker and the actual narrative portraying Ga's relationship with his wife, the actress Sun Moon.

!! ''The Orphan Master's Son'' provides examples of:
* ArcWords: "[Jun Do's/My] mother was a singer."
* AuthorityEqualsAsskicking: Commander Ga, a ColonelBadass and much-lauded taekwondo champion. [[spoiler: Jun Do also excels in taekwondo, and bests Ga in a fight in the prison mine, killing him.]]
* BecomingTheMask: [[spoiler: Jun Do assuming the identity of Commander Ga after he kills him in the prison mine.]]
* BigBrotherIsEmployingYou: Many characters, including Jun Do (who among other things gets some experience kidnapping foreign nationals for Kim Jong Il) and the government torturer, and even Sun Moon, who works in the state-run film industry.
* BittersweetEnding: [[spoiler: Commander Ga/Jun Do helps Sun Moon and her children defect with the American delegation, but at the cost of his own life.]]
* BlatantLies: Used throughout the novel. When something goes wrong, the reaction of most characters is to try and concoct a story to tell government officials.
* BrokenBird: Sun Moon, so very much.
* ChekhovsGun:
** There is an offhand reference to a peach cannery that was closed when it was discovered to be contaminated with botulism toxin. Later Comrade Ba reveals that he kept a case of the tainted peaches as a suicide device.
** The before-and-after pictures of inmates at the mine, taken by the old lady who helps Jun Do escape, are used to document the atrocities taking place.
* ChekhovsGunman: The American girl Jun Do listened to while he was doing his radio surveillance--one half of a two-woman team that was attempting to row around the world--pops up unexpectedly in the second part of the book and proves crucial to the climax.
* CrapsackWorld: North Korea. Cross the government the wrong way, and you'll be off to the prison mines, along with the rest of your family. Even those in government work under the risk that one day the Dear Leader will simply decide they're no longer useful and simply make them disappear.
** The chapters told from the perspective of the propaganda loudspeaker make North Korea sound like a CrapsaccharineWorld.
* DeadPersonImpersonation: What Jun Do does after he kills Commander Ga in the uranium mine. Also the plot of the movie script that Kim Jong Il sends to Sun Moon.
* DrivenToSuicide: [[spoiler: Commander Ga/Jun Do. He manages to raise the power level on the autopilot to a fatal level.]]
** [[spoiler: Subverted with the torturer- he doesn't want to die, but he decides to wipe his own memories so he can be sent into the country and do simple farm labour.]]
* {{Eagleland}}: North Korean propaganda would have you believe that the US is flavour 2. When Jun Do visits Texas however, he discovers it's more of a mixed flavour.
* ElectricTorture: The torturer uses this to wipe out his victims' personalities, leaving them empty shells.
* EnhancedInterrogationTechniques: The torturer who narrates chapters in part 2 describes his work as writing biographies. His team write the life story of their prisoners and turn them into books.
** On the other hand, the Pubyok use [[ColdBloodedTorture more traditional methods]] of getting answers.
* EveryoneCallsHimBarkeep: Jun Do's father ran an orphanage (where the boys were used for slave labor) and was called the Orphan Master.
* EvilDetectingDog: When Jun Do and Gil are kidnapping an opera singer, and transporting her in a truck to the beach, a dog notices them and stares at them.
* FateWorseThanDeath:
** The prison camps. Maybe the worst is a coal mine that doesn't even have any guards besides the ones at the gate, and nothing inside but the mine, where they chuck you in and give you food if you push ore through the gate.
** The torturer's electronic device ("the autopilot") turns you into an EmptyShell, with your whole personality wiped out. The torturer doesn't see it that way, though; he actually regards his methods as more humane than the Pubyok torture group and their beatings.
* FauxAffablyEvil: Kim Jong Il is awfully cheerful.
* ForegoneConclusion: The torturer's narrative makes clear that Jun Do and Comrade Buc are arrested, while Sun Moon and her children get away.
* GloriousLeader: The Dear Leader, Kim Jong Il. TruthInTelevision.
* HeroicSacrifice: The fate of [[spoiler: Commander Ga]] according to the propaganda broadcasts- [[spoiler: after the American delegation 'kidnap' Sun Moon, Ga chases after their jet and manages to hold onto the wing as it takes off. However, upon sighting an American warship in North Korean waters below, Ga jumps from the wing to target the warship as [[SuicideAttack a human torpedo]]]].
** Jun Do does this, deliberately staying behind to make sure that Sun Moon and her children get safely on the plane.
* HistoricalDomainCharacter: Kim Jong Il, mostly referred to as [[GloriousLeader Dear Leader]] in the narrative.
* HitSoHardTheCalendarFeltIt: As in RealLife North Korea, the years are dated as Juche years, with Juche 1 being 1912, the year of Kim Il Sung's birth. The floods and famine that closed Jun Do's orphanage happend in Juche 85, aka 1996.
* InAWorld: Said word-for-word as Dak-Ho the film producer describes to Sun Moon the plot of her next movie.
* MeaningfulName: Pak '''Jun Do'''. [[MrSmith "John Doe".]]
** Also invoked with Sun Moon. Dear Leader chose her stage name because of how it would sound to the Americans.
* MercyKill: While imprisoned in the uranium mine Jun Do encounters the captain of his fishing boat, who is being stoned to death for an escape attempt. Jun Do embraces the captain, then throws a rock hard at his temple to knock him out.
* MindRape: What the autopilot does to captives. The intent is to wipe their memories completely, reducing them to [[EmptyShell Empty Shells]] that will be sent to work in rural collectives.
* MissingMom: Jun Do's, believed to be working as an opera singer in Pyongyang. His driving purpose in part 1 is to reunite with her.
* NearRapeExperience: Commander Ga tries to rape Jun Do when they are in the mine. It goes badly for Ga.
* NiceJobBreakingItHero: Comrade Ba's wife to Park Jun Do, whose scheming is endangering her family.
* NoHoldsBarredBeatdown: Jun Do gets one from a government interrogator after he explains the disappearance of the Second Mate from his ship (he's defected, but the crew agree to explain that he was killed by Americans). Because of his pain training, Jun Do is able to get through the beatdown and stick to the story.
* NoNameGiven:
** Jun Do never learns the names of his shipmates aboard the fishing boat, instead [[EveryoneCallsHimBarkeep calling them by their ranks]] (Captain, First Mate, etc.). This becomes a plot point when the fishing boat is boarded by the U.S. Navy and a South Korean intelligence agent challenges Jun Do to name his shipmates.
** Sun Moon's son and daughter won't tell Jun Do their names when he comes home in the guise of Commander Ga. Towards the end the boy wants to tell Jun Do his name but Jun Do stops him, saying that names aren't important.
** The government torturer who narrates much of the second half of the book is never named.
* PatrioticFervor: The narratives from the perspective of the propaganda loudspeaker are full of this.
* PeoplesRepublicOfTyranny: Hoo boy.
--> "And don't forget, citizens: the ban on stargazing is still in effect." (first page of novel)
* PornStash: The torturer finds the gay porn stash of the original Commander Ga--magazines featuring South Korean taekwondo fighters.
* ReleasedToElsewhere: Retirees are described as having retired to Wonsan, believed to be the site of a vibrant retirement community at the seaside. When Jun Do's ship sails past Wonsan, he sees no such thing; the beaches at Wonsan are empty and deserted and there is no town. More than one character is troubled by the lack of any word from old friends and relatives who supposedly are living comfortably at Wonsan. The old guys in the Pubyok torture unit are deeply disturbed when Jun Do reveals that one of their colleagues is actually imprisoned in the uranium mine, instead of retired to Wonsan as they had been led to believe.
* RoboticTortureDevice: The autopilot, used by the biographer's team. It's used for ElectricTorture.
* SelfMadeOrphan: [[spoiler: The torturer kills his parents by feeding them tinned peaches poisoned with botulinum toxin.]]
* StockholmSyndrome: Discussed by Dear Leader and Commander Ga. Dear Leader wonders if his American captive is falling in love with him.
* SwitchingPOV: After a brief prologue written as a news announcement, the first part of the novel is third-person from Jun Do's POV. The second part of the novel switches back and forth between Jun Do's POV, the first-person narration of the unnamed government torturer, and third-person omnisicient written in the style of North Korean propaganda.
* TwentyMinutesIntoThePast: The date is vague, but it's several years after the famine of 1996 but before the death of Kim Jong Il in December 2011.
* TheUnreveal:
** The fate of Jun Do's mother, although this is North Korea, so it was probably bad. His father's fate is also a mystery, although given the circumstances--the orphanage closing as North Korea's infrastructure collapses during the 1996 flooding and famine--Jun Do is almost certainly correct in presuming his father dead.
** What happened to the Second Mate after he stole the life raft and tried to defect. The Pubyok torturer said that they caught him, but continues to pummel Jun Do while interrogating him about the incident and at the end seems to think Jun Do might be telling the truth. Jun Do later tries to find out what happened to the Second Mate but fails.
* YourDaysAreNumbered: Jun Do admits this towards the end of the book.
** Given the fact that his chest set off a Geiger counter after he was imprisoned in a uranium mine, his days might have been numbered anyway.