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"Gyunghee" by Na Hye-sok

#Books on Demand l 2019-03-19

Books on Demand

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“Gyunghee” was an autobiographical novel published in 1918, when Na Hye-sok finished her studies in Japan.



“Are you going back there? You should just stay put and then get married to a rich man and have children. There’s no need for you to work so hard.” 


Gyunghee knew that the old lady would tell her to get married soon and there’s no use studying.


Gyunghee’s lips were itching to say something.


‘A human life is not just about eating and living. A person should learn and study. The reason there are four concubines between your husband and your son is because you’re uneducated and you can blame your ignorance for getting upset about it. So, women should be taught to keep their husbands from having affairs and men should be taught not to cheat on their wives.’ 


She wanted to take several examples to explain how things were. But she knew that it was like talking to a brick wall, that these thoughts would keep her from sleeping tonight. 


 “거기를 또 가니? 인저 고만 곱게 입고 앉었다가 부잣집으로 시집가서

 아들 딸 낳고 자미드랍게 살지 그렇게 고생할 것 무엇 있니?”

경희는 이 마님 입에서 ‘어서 시집을 가거라. 공부는 해서 무엇하니’

꼭 이 말이 나올 줄 알았다.

경희의 입술은 간질간질하였다.

 ‘먹고 입고만 하는 것이 사람이 아니라 배우고 알아야 사람이에요.

 당신 댁처럼 영감 아들 간에 첩이 넷이나 있는 것도 배우지 못한 까닭이고,

 그것으로 속을 썩이는 당신도 알지 못한 죄이에요.

 그러니까 여편네가 시집가서 시앗을 보지 않도록 하는 것도 가르쳐야 하고,

 여편네 두고 첩을 얻지 못하게 하는 것도 가르쳐야만 합니다’

그러나. 경희는 쇠귀에 경을 읽지.. 하고

제 입만 아프고 저만 오늘 저녁에 또 이 생각으로 잠을 못 자게 될 것을 생각하였다.



Interview by SNU Korean Literature Professor Bang Min-ho

In Na Hye-sok’s time, women’s role was to raise their children well and be obedient to their husbands. To these women, there existed no community outside of their family. The world outside their homes belonged to men. No matter how rich and peaceful their lives were, they weren’t able to enjoy the rights given to all human beings.



“That, that is a dog. That is a flower and that’s a chicken. That’s a pear tree and that flying in the sky is a magpie. That is an urn and that is a mortar.” 


Gyunghee named everything she could see. 


“Then what am I? I’m a person. Yes, a person.” 


Gyunghee was ecstatic. She seemed to be much taller, as if she was pulled like taffy. And her neck appeared to take up all of her face. 


“저것! 저것은 개다. 저것은 꽃이고 저것은 닭이다.

저것은 배나무다. 저 하늘에 뜬 것은 까치다.

저것은 항아리고 저것은 절구다.”


이렇게 경희는 눈에 보이는 대로 그 명칭을 불러본다.


“그러면 내 명칭은 무엇인가? 사람이지! 꼭 사람이다”


경희의 정신은 황홀하다

경희의 키는 별안간 엿 늘어지듯이 부쩍 늘어진 것 같다.

그리고 목은 전 얼굴을 가리는 것 같다.




Na Hye-sok (Born in Suwon, Gyeonggi-do Prov., Apr. 28, 1896~Dec. 10, 1949)

: Poetess, painter

Won an award at the 10th Joseon Art Exhibition in 1931

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