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"Emperor of Ramyeon" by Kim Hee-sun

#Books on Demand l 2020-01-14

Books on Demand

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There used to be a food called ramyeon. 

It was sort of an instant food consisting of dried noodles that is cooked with soup powder or just by pouring hot water. 

At its peak, more than 100 billion ramyeon packages were consumed annually, making it the hottest food on earth. 

한 때 라면이라는 음식이 있었다.

그것은 기름에 튀겨 건조시킨 국수를

수프와 함께 끓이거나 

혹은 그냥 뜨거운 물만 부어 먹을 수 있도록 만든

일종의 즉석식품이었다.

전성기에 라면은 연간 약 천억 개 이상이 소비되던,

그야말로 지구상 최고의 인기 식품이었다.

Kim Hee-sun’s “Emperor of Ramyeon,” published in 2013 on literature journal Creation and Critique, is set in a future where ramyeon is no longer available.


Interview by literature critic Jeon So-yeong

There are many things around us that we take for granted without thinking about their origins or values. Kim Hee-sun has a way of taking something that’s very familiar to us and describing it in a new, unfamiliar manner, which prompts us to have different perspectives on our lives. Ramyeon in this story is such an item. This instant noodle is an indispensable part of Korean life. This story makes us think about what kind of problems we would experience if it suddenly disappeared from our lives one day. 

“Dad, do you remember ramyeon? What did it taste like?” 

He opened up the book where the following sentence stuck out noticeably. 

‘I can easily withstand even the extreme cold with a bowl of ramyeon.’

“But my father only looked up at the ceiling. I think he nodded his head slightly when I asked him if a person could really withstand the extreme cold if he ate ramyeon. It was actually a very cold day. A snowstorm was raging outside and it really felt like a bowl of ramyeon could fix everything.” 

“아버지, 라면을 기억하세요? 도대체 어떤 맛이었어요?”

그러면서 그는 책의 중간쯤을 펼쳐 보였는데

이 페이지에 이런 문장이 적혀 있었다.

‘이런 극한의 추위도 라면 한 그릇이면 거뜬히 이겨낼 수 있다’

 아버지는 저의 모든 물음에 그저 천장만 계속 쳐다볼 뿐이었습니다.

 다만 제가 진짜로 라면을 먹으면 

 저 엄청난 추위를 이겨낼 수 있느냐고 물었을 땐

 아주 잠깐 고개를 끄덕였던 것 같기도 하지만요 

 실제로 그 날은 무척이나 추웠습니다.

 밖엔 눈보라가 치고 있었고

 먹어보진 못했지만 정말이지 라면 한 그릇만 있다면

 모든 게 다 좋아질 것 같은 그런 날이었어요.

Kim Hee-sun (Born in 1972, Chuncheon, Gangwon-do Prov.)

: Debuted by winning the Writer’s World Award for New Writers 2011 with “The Birth of Education”

Works include “Emperor of Ramyeon,” “Book of Infinity,” etc.

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