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The protagonist and narrator of the book, Doc Hata was a medic in WWII. He is Korean, however he was adopted by Japanese parents (which explains his Japanese surname). During the war, he treated Korean comfort women (essentially sexual servants) in Burma, a camp for soldiers. He is traumatized by the memories of the war, and a certain comfort woman named K that he was enamored with. The novel deals mainly with his memories of serving as a doctor in the camp.
In the present, Doc Hata has a daughter named Sunny, and they have a difficult relationship. He also runs a medical supply store, Sunny Medical Store, named after her. His motto is "Routine trumps everything", which is eventually broken because of his growth over the book.
Sunny is the recalcitrant (adopted) daughter of Doc Hata who dislikes her adopted father and his behavior, preferring to spend her time with hoodlums in a violent sector of town. After she and Hata has a fight, she moves out, only to move back in when she is raped by one of the men she was staying with. Hata forces her to get an abortion, but this permanently ruins their relationship and she leaves the household for good.
Mary was Hata's former neighbor and girlfriend in the past. She and Hata have an easy, relaxed relationship, and she attempts to bond with Sunny, to no great success. She dies before the book begins, but Hata recalls many fond memories with her.
Real name Kkutaeh, K was one of the Korean "comfort women" that Hata treated in Burma. Her intellectual nature and beautiful exterior led him to become enamored with her, but she also attracts one of the senior officers, Ono, who desires her for himself. K asks Hata to kill her, for she despises her current life, but he refuses. It is heavily implied that she was eventually raped to death by many soldiers. K's violent death haunts Hata to the present day, even though he had a very one-sided relationship with her.
A senior officer in the Burma camp, Ono is Hata's "rival" in the affections of K (although she does not truly love anyone there). He demands K's services frequently, and keeps her to himself, causing Hata to become insatiably jealous. Ono is a dissolute man who indulges in sexual services, even when non-consensual.
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