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"City and Ghost" by Lee Hyo-seok

#Books on Demand l 2021-03-30

Books on Demand

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I witnessed a ghost in the civilized city of Seoul. Am I lying? No. I’m not lying and I wasn’t seeing things. 


I clearly saw with my own two eyes what people call a ‘ghost.’ 


나는 문명을 자랑하는 서울에서 유령을 목격하였다.

거짓말이라구?

아니다. 거짓말도 아니고 환영도 아니었다.


세상 사람이 말하는 ’유령‘이라는 것을

나는 이 두 눈을 가지고 확실히 보았다



Interview by literary critic Jeon So-yeong

The protagonist is a plasterer who works in the city’s building projects. But ironically he doesn’t even have a room of his own. Not realizing the sad irony of this situation, he just lived his life doing whatever he was told without complaining. He even thought that he should get rid of the ghosts as a civilized member of the city. But once he realized what the ghosts really were, he began to think differently. He understood the many goblins and ghosts at Dongmyo or Jongmyo were actually impoverished Koreans deprived of the benefits of colonial capitalism. In fact, the protagonist himself belonged to the group of goblins and ghosts. 



It became dramatically quieter when they stepped into the midsection. Looking much like a vacant lot left abandoned for many years, the shrine housed a forest of weeds measuring easily more than a foot tall and a ceiling with a dull paintwork was made to look even more drab at night. And then the rain made all this appear even more somber than usual. 


That was when Mr. Kim let out a startled gasp.


“What the heck is that?”


I followed his fingertip to see where he was pointing at only to be startled myself. Suddenly I got shivers all over my body and hair stood on their ends. Just a few rooms away, next to the tribute hall across the yard, I saw a couple of flashing lights. The blue lights rolled over on the ground and then jumped up in the air. Also, the lights suddenly went out as they flew in the air before appearing and disappearing time and again. 


That was when I discovered something even more frightful. The faint light revealed a pair of shoes and a vague, misty human form.


중문턱까지 들어서니 더 한층 고요하였다.

여러 해 동안 버려두었던 빈 집터같이

어둠 속으로 보아도 길이 넘는 잡풀이 숲 속같이 우거져 있고

낮에 보아도 칙칙한 단청이 어둠에 물들어 더 한 층 우중충하고

게다가 비에 젖어서 말할 수 없이 구중중한 느낌을 주었다.

그 때였다.


“에그, 저게 뭔가 이 사람아!” 


김서방이 가리키는 곳에 시선을 옮긴 나는

새삼스럽게 놀라지 않을 수 없었다.

별안간에 소름이 쭉 돋고 머리끝이 또 다시 쭈볏하였다.

불과 몇 간 안되는 건너편 정전 옆에!

두어 개의 불덩이가 번쩍번쩍 하였다.

정신의 탓이었던지 파랗게 보이던 불덩이가

땅을 휘휘 기다가는 훌쩍 날고, 날다가는 꺼져 버렸다.

어디선지 또 생겨서는 또 날다가 또 꺼졌다.  


오...그 때에 나는 더 놀라운 것을 발견하였다.

꺼졌다 또 생긴 불에 비쳐 헙수룩한 산발과

똑똑치 못한 희끄무레한 자태가 완연히 드러났다.




Lee Hyo-seok (Born in Pyeongchang, Gangwon-do Prov., Feb. 23, 1907~May 25, 1942)

: Debuted with “City and Ghost” in 1928

Posthumously honored with the Geumgwan Order of Cultural Merit in 1982

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