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"The Hand" by Choi Jung-hwa

#Books on Demand l 2021-04-20

Books on Demand

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It’s been more than a month since five little kids set up their hangout near my house at dawn, in the gloom before sunrise. 

There were two boys and three girls in that group, but I have never actually seen them myself. I only gleaned a few facts just from hearing their voices. 

As I kept listening in a sleepy stupor to the loud commotion they were making, I came to believe things that I never witnessed almost as facts. 

동트기 전 어두운 새벽이면

조무래기들 다섯이 몰려와

내 집 근처를 아지트 삼은 지 벌써 한 달이 훨씬 더 지났다.

아이들은 남자가 둘, 여자아이가 셋이다.

하지만 한 번도 그애들을 직접 본 일은 없다.

잠들지도 깨지도 못하는 반수면 상태에서

아이들이 떠드는 소리에 귀를 기울이는 시간이 계속되다보니

눈으로는 한 번도 확인하지 못한 것들을 거의 기정사실로 여기게 되었다.

Choi Jung-hwa’s “The Hand” was published in 2018. The story starts with the narrator’s monologue about how she wakes up to the sound of children early in the morning.

Since he was Park’s replacement, he was seated next to me. But even when I sat sideways to avoid seeing him, I found myself stealing glances at his hands.

His hands appeared devoid of any muscle. He cut his fingernails so close that the skin at the tip of his fingers was red. 

I was drawing up a seating chart for an outdoor event scheduled for next week but my thoughts were captivated by the movement of his hands. He had a 330-millimeter tube of hand cream on his desk and applied it on his hands once every fifteen minutes. 

Just when I managed to concentrate and start working, he picked up that hand cream as if he were watching the time. I felt as if I was under some strange torture. 

그는 박의 후임이었으므로 내 옆자리에 앉았는데

보지 않으려고 방향을 바꾸어 앉아도

자꾸만 그의 손이 시야 안에 들어왔다.

하의 손은 근육이 거의 없는 것처럼 보였고

손톱을 어찌나 바싹 깍았는지 손톱의 끄트머리에 불은 살에 벌겋게 성이 나 있었다.

나는 다음 주에 진행할 외부 행사의 배치도를 작성하고 있었지만

신경은 온통 하의 손이 움직이는 경로에 붙들려 있었다.

그는 색상위에 330밀리미터짜리 핸드크림을 세워놓고

십오 분에 한 번씩 손등에 발랐다.

겨우 집중을 해서 일을 시작하려 치면

그는 타이밍을 정확히 알아챘다는 듯 핸드크림을 집어들었다.

나는 이상한 종류의 고문을 받고 있다고 느꼈다.

Interview by SNU Korean Literature Prof. Bang Min-ho

What does this mean, the fact that Ha is a neat freak? His obsession doesn’t seem to end with personal hygiene. It extends to his compulsion to discover his predecessor’s corruption. Ha’s hands represent his obsession with cleanliness, but also implies that he violates other people’s privacy and condemns them based on his personal principles. 

Choi Jung-hwa: (Born in Incheon, 1979)

Debuted with short story “Palm Beach” in 2012

Won the 7th Young Writer’s Award in 2016, etc.

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