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"Whatever Happened to the Guy Stuck in the Elevator" by Kim Young-ha

#Books on Demand l 2019-02-26

Books on Demand

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There can be some pretty strange days during your lifetime. On those days you feel that everything is going wrong from the minute you wake up. And all the things that just might happen once in your life suddenly start to happen, one by one, like they’ve been lying in wait. Today was that kind of day for me.


 살다 보면 이상한 날이 있다.

 그런 날은 아침부터 어쩐지 모든 일이 뒤틀려간다는 느낌이 든다.

 그리고 하루 종일 평생 한 번 일어날까 말까 한 일들이

 마치 기다리고 있었다는 듯

 하나씩 하나씩 찾아온다.

 내겐 오늘이 그랬다.



Everything was really strange that day. Because his razor broke, he could shave only half of his face. 7:40 AM. He was apparently late for work, but the elevator didn’t come for some reason. It was already 7:55, he couldn’t wait any longer. 



I raced down from the 15th floor to the first floor like a Chinese food delivery man. 


As I was passing through the fifth floor, I saw that the elevator was stuck between the sixth and fifth floor with its door open. A man’s two legs hung out over the elevator door. One foot was shoeless. 


Just then, other tenants pushed me aside and ran downstairs. They were dressed in business suits and obviously on their way to work. 


How could they ignore a man who was stuck in the elevator, never wonder whether he was dead or alive? But there was really nothing else for me to do. It was 8 o’clock sharp. 


But I had no energy or time to help him.


나는 15층에서 1층을 향해 중국집 배달원처럼 달려 내려갔다.


5층을 지나가면서 보니 엘리베이터는 문이 열린 채로

6층과 5층 사이에 걸쳐 있었고,

엘리베이터 아래로 사람의 다리 두 개가 대롱거리고 있었다. 


그 때 내 앞으로 위층에 사는 사람들이 바삐 나를 밀치고 아래쪽으로 내려갔다.

말쑥한 신사복을 차려입은 그들은 출근중이었다.


사람이 엘리베이터에 끼여 죽었는지 살았는지도 모르는데,

저렇게 무심히 지나치다니.

하지만 나 역시 할 수 있는 일은 별로 없었다.

여덟시 정각.

하지만 그를 구해낼 힘도 시간도 없었다.



Interview by literary critic Jeon So-yeong

This situation is very intriguing. A guy was stuck in the elevator, but the protagonist sees not his face, but only his foot. If a man’s face represents his identity, the foot is exactly the opposite. We can’t tell who a person is by looking just at his foot. So, the man stuck in the elevator symbolizes the unspecified masses who lived in the city during the 1990s. The place he’s stuck in is the elevator of an apartment, what is considered the ultimate symbol of capitalism, and nobody comes to help this nameless man. This scene shows people that were excluded from the large urban system in the 1990s.  




Kim Young-ha (Born on Nov. 11, 1968, in Hwacheon, Gangwon-do Prov.)

: Debuted in 1998 with novel “I Have the Right to Destroy Myself“

Won the 2015 Kim Yu-jeong Literary Award, 2012 Yi Sang Literary Award and many more

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