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“Scorching Sun” by Kim You-jeong

#Books on Demand l 2022-01-25

Books on Demand

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The burly Deok-sun grabbed the left shirtsleeve with his right hand to wipe away the sweaty nose before coming to a dead stop at the Tongan crossroads. 

He looked around, his face flushed in the heat. The midsummer sun was scorching, forcing people to walk only under the eaves across the street. 



병이 괴상하면 할수록 혹은 고치기가 어려우면 어려울수록

월급이 많다는 것인데

영문 모를 아내의 이 병은 얼마짜리나 되겠는가고

속으로 무척 궁금하였다.

아이가 십원이라니 이건 한 십 오원 쯤 주겠는가,

그렇다면 병 고치니 좋고, 먹으니 좋고,

두루두루 팔자를 고치리라고 속안으로 

육자배판을 늘이고 섰을 때,


조만치서 참외를 벌여놓고 앉았는 아이가 시선을 끌어간다.


The money gets better as the disease grows weirder or harder to treat. Deok-sun couldn’t help wondering how much his wife’s strange illness would fetch. If the boy got ten won, she would maybe get fifteen. He thought it was a win-win situation – she would get her illness treated and get plenty of food. 

Just then, his eyes caught a child selling melons on the street. 


덕순이는 쌈지에 든 잔돈 사 전을 얼른 생각은 하였으나

다음 순간에 그건 안될 말이라고 꺽진 마음으로 시선을 걷어온다.


Deok-sun recalled that he had four jeon전 in his pouch but withdrew his eyes chastising himself for thinking the unthinkable. 


사 전에 일 전만 더 보태면 봉지담배 한 봉이 되리라고

어제부터 잔뜩 꼽여 쥐고 오던 그 사 전,

이걸 참외 값으로 녹여서는 사람이 아니다.      


He had held on to the change since yesterday, thinking that just one more jeon added to the four coins would be enough to buy him a bag of tobacco. He wouldn’t dare spend the precious coins on melon.      



# Interview with literary critic Jeon So-yeong

Deok-su was a farmer but relocated to the city when the Japanese landlords exploited Korean farmers. But the life in the city wasn’t any different. The story is titled “Scorching Sun,” implying that the city is like a scorching sun to the main characters. A metaphor for their hardship is the wife’s illness. Deok-sun turns her misery into an opportunity to make some money. It may seem heartless of him to think this way, but it shows how desperate the couple’s lives are. 



인제 남은 것은 우중충한 그 냉골에 갖다 다시 눕혀 놓고

죽을 때나 기다리고 있을 따름이었다.

The only thing left to do is to put her back in that dreary cold room and wait for her to die.  


덕순이는 눈 위로 덮는 땀방울을 주먹으로 훔쳐 가며

장차 캄캄하여 올 그 전도를 생각해 본다.

서울을 장대고 왔던 것이 벌이도 제대로 안 되고

게다가 인젠 아내까지 잃는 것이다.

Deok-sun thought about the dark future as he wiped away the drops of sweat with his fist. He came to Seoul with high hopes but ended up penniless and now doomed to lose his wife. 


이 놈의 팔자가 하고 딱한 탄식이 목을 넘어오다 

꽉 깨무는 바람에 한숨으로 터져 버린다.

He almost lamented out loud, blaming his lot in life, but caught it just in time and only a sigh escaped from his lips.  


때는 중복, 허리의 쇠뿔도 녹이려는 뜨거운 땡볕이었다.

It was jungbok, the middle of summer with the scorching sun hot enough to melt a bull’s horns. 


덕순이는 빗발같이 내려붓는 등골의 땀을

두 손으로 번갈아 훔쳐 가며 끙끙 내려올 제,

아내는 지게 위에서 그칠 줄 모르는 그 수많은 유언을

차근차근 남기자, 울자, 하는 것이다.

While Deok-sun trudged on, wiping the sweat raining down his back, his wife sobbed as she left countless dying wishes from the A-frame carrier.




Kim Yu-jeong (Born in Chuncheon, Gangwon-do Prov., Jan. 11, 1908~Mar. 29, 1937)

Debuted with short story “A Rainy Spell” in 1935

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