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"I Had Planted a Flowering Tree" by Lee Tae-jun

#Books on Demand l 2021-04-27

Books on Demand

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“Stop looking back. We should make way when we can.” 

His voice sounded casual as he looked back at his wife, but his eyes were tearing up again. 

Once they walk over this hill, they would never see that village again. Just thinking about it dragged down their feet. 

When he reached the top of the hill, he turned around to take one last look at the village.

“자꾸 돌아봔 뭘해? 어서 바람을 졌을 때 휑하니 걸어야지....”

아내를 돌아보는 그도 말소리는 천연스러우나

눈에는 눈물이 다시 핑그르 돌았다.

이 고갯마루만 넘어서면 저 동리는 다시 보려야 안 보이려니 생각할 때

발도 천근이나 무거워지는 것 같았다.

그는 고개 마루턱에 올라서더니 질빵을 치키며

다시 한 번 돌아서서 동네를 바라보았다.

Interview by SNU Korean

The story was published about 20 years after Japan’s annexation of Korea in 1910. The Japanese colonial government allowed the Japanese to take away the Korean-owned land and impose high rents on tenant farmers. Mistreated and victimized Korean farmers had no choice but to leave their hometowns. Even while Japan plundered Korean people’s land, they ordered Koreans to plant Sakura trees and enjoy the blossoms. In this story Lee Tae-jun criticized the way Japan dealt with the problem of diminishing village population.   

So, last spring the county government gave the villagers 200 sakura or cherry trees. Each household was allocated with two trees and some were planted along the roads and on the hill. 

The county officials believed that when these cherry trees blossomed, even ignorant villagers would develop a deeper love for their village and decide not to leave their hometown. 

Most of the cherry trees survived well. Those planted in the front yard and on the hill by Mr. Bang also grew tall and strong. County officials expected the trees to blossom by next year. 

But people still left the village. 

지난 봄에는 군으로부터 

이 동리에 사꾸라나무 이백여 주가 나왔다.

집집마다 두 나무씩 나눠주고 

길에도 심고 언덕에도 심어주었다.

그래서 그 사쿠라나무들이, 꽃이 구름처럼 피면

무지한 이 동리 사람들이라도

자기 동리를 사랑하는 마음이 깊어져서 

함부로 타관으로 떠나가지 않으리라 생각했던 것이다.

사쿠라나무들은 몇 나무 죽지 않고 모두 잘 살아났다.

방서방네가 심은 것도 앞마당엣 것, 뒷동산엣 것 모두 싱싱하게 잘 자랐다.

군에서 나와 보고 내년이면 모두 꽃이 피리라 했다.

그러나 떠날 사람들은 자꾸 떠나고야 말았다.

Lee Tae-jun (Born in Cheorwon, Gangwon-do Prov., 1904~?)

: Debuted by publishing “Omongnyeo” in 1925

Activities include membership in the Guinhoi literary club, serving as vice chair of the Joseon Literature Art League (North Korea), etc.

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