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"Gongsantowol" written by Lee Mun-ku

#Books on Demand l 2018-08-07

Books on Demand

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I missed him more as I got older, so much so that I couldn’t have mourned enough for him in my lifetime. His name was Shin Hyeon-seok. He was 37 at the time and would have been 48 this year if he had lived. 

그 사람은 내가 일생을 살며 추도해도 다하지 못할 만큼

나이를 얻어 살수록 못내 그립기만 했다.

그의 이름은 신현석.

향년 삼십 칠 세였고, 살아있다면 올해 마흔 여덟이 될 터였다.

The main character then remembers a man who sacrificed himself to help other people. “Gongsantowol” was written to commemorate him. 

#Interview by literary critic Jeon So-yeong

Lee published “Gwanchon Essay” as a serial novel, because it contains the tragic experiences of people, including the writer, who lived through the rough times. The characters in this story are, in a way, in the same community since they all experienced Korea’s turbulent modern history. “Gwanchon Essay” is a collection of that community’s experiences.


Stoneworker was becoming the most exemplary worker. He wasn’t diligent only at his farm work. He never missed affairs, big or small, in even the neighboring village. 

He doggedly and earnestly did his work. 

He even dressed my mother in her funereal garb. Her grave was made by him as well. 

At the time I was a young teenager, in the second year of middle school, but I had to think about how to repay his sincerity. That was my long-standing assignment. 

석공은 가장 모범적인 일꾼이 되어갔다.

그는 자기집 농사일에만 부지런을 피운 것이 아니었다.

이웃동네 크고 작은 일에도 부러 빠진 적이 없었다.

그는 꿋꿋이 그리고 성심껏 일을 치러내었다.

어머니의 수의도 석공 손으로 입혀졌다. 유택 역시 석공 손에 이루어졌다.

그 무렵의 나는 겨우 중학 이년생의 어리보기였지만

도대체 어찌하여야만 그의 성의에 조금이라도 보답할 수 있을런지

궁리하지 않으면 안되었다, 그것은 오랜 세월의 숙제이기도 했다.

#Interview by Seoul Nat’l Univ. Korean Literature Prof. Bang Min-ho

Unfortunately, the stoneworker has leukemia at the young age of 37 and returns home to die. The description of how the sun rose above the mountains behind Ewha Womans University represents his attachment to life. This last scene represents his big heart as well as the author’s childhood experiences that were dreary yet bucolic. 


“I wish you luck so that I can see you again. Goodbye.”

I was determined to offer my hand for a handshake this time.

By the time I sorted this and that and finished packing stuff for his travel, the red sun was rising over the mountain ridge behind Ewha University. 

"다시 뵈올 수 있도록 행운이 있으시길 빕니다. 안녕히 가십시오"

그리고 이번만은 내가 먼저 손을 내밀어 악수하리라고 작정하고 있었다.

내가 이리저리 분별하여 떠나 보낼 채비를 두루 챙겨놓았을 때는

이화대학 뒤 산등성이 마루로 붉은 햇덩이가 떠오르고 있었다.

Lee Mun-ku (1941~2003, Born in Boryeong, Chungcheongnam-do Prov.)

Writing career started by publishing short story “White Waves” in Contemporary Literature in 1966.

Won Korean Creative Writing Prize with “Janghanmong (The Dream of Everlasting Sorrow)” in 1972

Published serial novel “Gwanchon Essay” in 1977

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