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“In the Middle of Breaking Up” by Kim Hee-jin

2023-11-21

ⓒ Getty Images Bank
On our second wedding anniversary, he brought Roy home along with my favorite chiffon cake. It had a serial number of RO-294759.

The clever Roy was well-behaved and loveable. The best part was that it was convenient, quiet, and clean, which was expected because Roy didn’t need to be fed or washed. Our conversations and laughter, which had dwindled until then, came back with Roy’s presence. Another positive change was that we often bonded around Roy.


로이는 ‘올-에이아이(ALL-AI)’사가 내놓은 제품 중에 
가장 하등한 인공지능이 장착된 애견로봇이었다.
그럼에도 녀석은 꽤 스마트한 교감능력을 지니고 있었다.
인간의 언어와 표정과 행동들을 인지했고,
인간의 여러 감정 중에 다섯 가지 정도를 읽어낼 줄도 알았다.
Roy was a pet robot equipped with the lowest level of artificial intelligence among the products released by ALL-AI. Nonetheless, Roy had a fairly smart interactive capability. It could understand human languages, distinguish facial expressions and behaviors, and recognize about five human emotions. 

그래서 나는 로이가 그와 나만의 공간, 특히 침실에 들어와 있으면 신경이 거슬렸다.
녀석은 유독 침대 위에서 벌이는 그와 나의 행위를 빤히 쳐다보곤 했는데,
그럴 때마다 나는 로이를 쫒아내기에 바빴다.
그러면 그는 관계를 하다 말고 침대에서 일어나 녀석을 달래러 쪼르르 따라 나갔다.
It bothered me when Roy came into our private space, especially our bedroom. The robot dog used to watch what we did in our bed, so I was busy kicking Roy out when we were being intimate. But my husband would stop making love to me and follow it out to comfort it.

“왜 자꾸 로이를 밀어내는 건데!” 
“Why do you keep pushing him out?” 

절정의 순간을 망쳐버린 게 화가 난 터라 나 역시 물러서지 않았다.
Outraged that the robot ruined the climactic moment, I didn’t back down.

“난 저 녀석 눈동자가 맘에 안 들어!  처음부터 그랬어!”
“I don’t like his eyes! I didn’t like them from the beginning!” 


# Interview with SNU Korean literature professor Bang Min-ho
ALL-AI, the manufacturer of the AI robots featured in this story, makes robots that meet customers’ specifications. The woman in the story asked for a man whose job was a composer and who smelled of soap. So, the robot manufacturer delivered such an android, setting the stage for courtship and marriage. The two get married, but the human wife feels weird when their robot dog comes into their bedroom and stares at them while they’re in bed. This reaction is natural for a human, but the android husband doesn’t think anything is wrong with the pet robot watching them in bed. This is when the woman begins to have doubts about the relationship. The story is set in a time when a person can choose an AI spouse programmed to his or her liking. The story asks the questions, “What is love, what is marriage and what is a breakup?”  


나는 휴대폰을 닫고 그를 바라봤다.
십 분후에 그의 모든 기능이 멈추고 나면
그는 다른 직업과 다른 성향과 다른 성격을 가진 또 다른 그로 재설정될 것이다.
그의 몸에서는 더 이상 비누향이 나지 않을 것이며,
목소리도 걸음걸이도 달라질 것이다.
어쩌면 다음번엔 요리하는 걸 별로 좋아하지 않거나
상실에 대한 두려움을 가져본 적이 없는 그가 될지도 몰랐다.
I closed the mobile phone and watched him. Once he is shut down ten minutes later, he will be reprogrammed into another version of himself with a different job and different tendencies and a different personality. He will no longer smell of soap, and his voice and gaits will change. Maybe next time he will no longer like to cook and wouldn’t have experienced any loss. 

나는 고개를 떨군 그의 머리를 마지막으로 쓰다듬어 주고는 자리에서 일어났다.
나는 다시 사랑이란 걸 할 수 있을까? 결혼은?
그런데 왜 나는 다음에 그가 만나게 될 여자가 궁금해지는 걸까?
I patted his drooped head for one last time before standing up. Will I be able to fall in love again? What about marriage? Why do I wonder whom he is going to meet later? 

현관으로 나가 신발을 꿰어 신으려던 나는 뒤돌아 가만히 그를 쳐다봤다.
힘없이 떨궈진 그의 고개가 나를 향해 
잘 다녀오라며 인사를 하는 것만 같았다.
I was about to put on my shoes in the foyer when I looked back at him. His head, now hanging listlessly, seemed to be nodding at me to say, “See you later.”



Kim Hee-jin (Born in Gwangju, Dec. 12, 1976~ )
Debuted with “The Tongue” in Segye Ilbo Spring Literary Contest in 2007

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