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“The Wedding Shoes” by Kim Yong-ik

#Books on Demand l 2022-09-27

Books on Demand

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To prevent chafing, she wore white muslin socks, and on the narrow path to the school, I often walked a step behind, watching the line between the white socks and the canoe-shaped shoes. The line always gave me the feeling that I was taking the sweetest nap. 

The day after it rained, across the road where rainwater pooled, I would cross, carrying her on my back, using all my strength not to fall. She would cling to my back like a green frog, and how I loved those shoes dangling on either side on my waist.

나는 내 결혼의 방해가 될 아무것도 생각할 수 없었다.

두 집 담 사이에 자란 표주박은 싸움 없이 나누었고,

아버지는 내가 기억할 수 있는 예부터 신집에 쇠가죽을 팔았다.

요즘에 와선 다음 달에 돈을 갚을 테니 쇠가죽 한 감을 팔라 했다.

우리는 지불할 능력이 없음을 알면서도

두 켤레 신발을 만들 수 있는 쇠가죽을 가져가게 했다.

I could think of nothing that might prevent my marriage. The gourds that grew on the dividing fence were always shared without a quarrel. My father had been selling the shoemaker ox hide ever since I could remember. 

Of late, as he was very proud, his wife would come to us, asking that we sell her some hides and promising to pay the following month. We knew they would not pay, but we let her have one piece large enough for two pairs of shoes. 

이제 내가 청혼했으니 내일 큰 쇠가죽을 가지고 가서

그의 딸을 위해 가장 아름다운 꽃신을 만들어 줄 것을 부탁하리라.

혼인날이면 가마 타는 대신 이웃집끼리니 

우리 가족은 집에서 싼 하얀 베를 깔아 꽃신이 그 위를 밟게 할 것이다.

So now that I had proposed, I would take the largest piece of ox hide tomorrow and ask him to make the most beautiful wedding shoes for his daughter. Instead of riding on a sedan chair on our wedding day, since we are neighbors, I would have her walk down the white muslin carpet woven at our home. 

“내 딸을 백정네 집 자식에겐 안 줘!

내 딸은 일곱 마을에서 가장 훌륭한 꽃신장이 딸이야.

쇠고기 덤이나 좀 있을까 해서 혀끝으로 좋은 말을 했더니, 이 백정 녀석이 마음을 크게 했나보네. 나는 혼인식 때 신는 꽃신장이야” 

“I would never give my daughter to the son of a butcher! She is the daughter of the best shoemaker in seven villages. I sweet-talked them so that I would get some beef on the side, but that butcher must have misunderstood big time. I make flower brocade shoes for weddings!”

# Interview with Korean literature professor Bang Min-ho

The shoemaker, father of Sang-do’s love, is a leather worker, the lowest of the low class. In the old days, leather workers and butchers were discriminated for their low social status. Despite belonging to the low class, the shoemaker was very proud of his craftsmanship, and although the demand for wedding shoes decreased with time, he still held on to his pride. His occupational pride lends classy elegance to the story. 

꽃신은 한 켤레 두 켤레 없어졌다.

나는 오고 또 오곤 했다.

노인의 물건이 차츰 줄어들자 그에 대한 날카로운 내 감정은 식어 갔다.

그 대신 슬픔이 자리를 차지하였다.

Wedding shoes disappeared one pair by one pair. I came back again and again. As the old man’s merchandises became fewer, my sharp feelings for him also dulled. It was replaced with sadness.

때때로 나는 노인이 나를 알아보기를 바랐다.

그러면 나는 부인과 딸에 관한 말을 물어볼 수 있었을 것이다.

그러나 그는 나를 알아보지 못했다.

Sometimes I wished that the old man would recognize me. Then I could have asked after his wife and daughter. But he failed to recognize me.

나는 꽃신이 다른 사람에게 다 팔려 가기 전 한 켤레 가지고 싶었지만

꽃신 아닌 슬픔을 사지나 않을까 두려웠다.

꽃신이 세 켤레 남았을 때 나는 그것에 차마 가지 못했다.

예쁘게 꾸며진 꽃신의 코가 나를 바라보고 있다가 

훌쩍 뒤돌아설 것 같아 더 이상 찾아가지 못했다.

I wanted to buy a pair of wedding shoes before they were all sold to other people, but I was afraid I might buy sadness instead of wedding shoes. Even when there were only three pairs left, I couldn’t get near them. I couldn’t visit that corner of the market anymore because I thought the beautifully decorated tips of the wedding shoes would stare at me and then turn their backs on me.

Kim Yong-ik (Born in Tongyeong, Gyeonsangnam-do Prov., May 15, 1920~Apr. 11, 1995)

Debuted with “The Wedding Shoes” in 1956

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