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"The Houseguest and My Mother" by Joo Yo-seop

#Books on Demand l 2019-03-12

Books on Demand

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I’m a girl who turned six this year. My name is Park Ok-hee. There are only two people in my family – the most beautiful woman in the world, my mother, and me. 

나는 금년 여섯 살 난 처녀애입니다.

내 이름은 박옥희이구요.

우리 집 식구라고는 세상에서 제일 이쁜 우리 어머니와 단 두 식구뿐이랍니다.

In Joo Yo-seop’s “The Houseguest and My Mother,” six-year-old Ok-hee lives with her mother, whose husband died just one year after they got married. This tale is told from the perspective of this precocious girl. 

Interview by literary critic Jeon So-yeong

Joo Yo-seop had studied in Japan, China and the United States. Most of his writings were about how young Koreans should enthusiastically accept foreign cultures and reform their old way of thinking, because he believed that young people were the ones who would take the colonized Korea out of the grim past and into a new, brighter future. Ok-hee’s mother and the houseguest all belonged to the younger generation. The author showed their suffering and despair caused by the society’s feudal practices in order to criticize the old stagnant society that stripped people of their inherent right, the right to love.        

One day after lunch, I went over to his room to see him eat late lunch. 

“Ok-hee, what’s your favorite thing to eat?” 

Upon hearing me say boiled eggs, he gave me a boiled egg from his table. 

As I peeled the egg, I asked him, “What is your favorite food?” He smiled for a while and said, “Boiled eggs.”

I clapped my hands out of joy and stood up, saying, “Wow, just like me. I’m going to tell Mother.” But he grabbed my hand and said, “Don’t tell her that.”

But I was a girl who always carried out what I set my mind to.

“Mommy, Mommy. Mister likes boiled eggs just like me.” 

“Be quiet,” said she disapprovingly. 

But the fact that our houseguest liked eggs worked in my favor, because my mother began to buy more eggs since then. 

I really liked him. 

어느 날은 점심을 먹고 이내 살그머니 사랑에 나가 보니까

아저씨는 그때에야 점심을 잡수셔요.

“옥희는 어떤 반찬을 제일 좋아하누?” 

그래 삶은 달걀을 좋아한다고 했더니

마침 상에 놓인 삶은 달걀을 한 알 집어 주면서 나더러 먹으라고 합니다.

나는 그 달걀을 벗겨 먹으면서,

“아저씨는 무슨 반찬이 제일 만나우?” 하고 물으니까

그는 한참이나 빙그레 웃고 있더니

“나도 삶은 달걀” 하겠지요.

“엄마, 엄마. 사랑 아저씨두 나처럼 삶은 달걀을 좋아한대” 

“떠들지 말어” 어머니는 눈을 흘기십니다.

그러나 사랑 아저씨가 달걀을 좋아하는 것이

내게는 퍽 좋게 되었지요.

그것은 그 다음부터는 어머니가 달걀을 많이씩 사게 되었으니까요.

Joo Yo-seop (Born in Pyongyang, Nov. 24, 1902~Nov. 14, 1972)

: Debuted in 1921 by publishing “Broken Urn” in Maeil Shinbo

Won the National Foundation Medal in 2004

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