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Part 2 of “Out of the Blue” by Yeom Sang-seop


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A narrow alley leading to the beach appeared as I walked out of a stinky backstreet. There was a two-story Japanese-style house, shoddy and haphazardly built. It didn’t look like it belonged to a Korean, but those who went in and out of it were definitely Korean. It was clear, even at a glance, that it was a place of ill repute, commonly seen in a port area. 

I again walked out to the main street and checked different alleys, looking for a place to eat. I wanted a place where they sold kimchi and I can use a spoon. 

But I couldn’t find a single Korean restaurant. Funny thing was that, in this small, cramped area, more than half of the people walking on the streets were Korean. 

I wondered where all these people go at night. At the same time, I couldn’t help but worry about the fate of these poor people in white. 

천대를 받아도 얻어맞는 것보다는 낫다!

그도 그럴 것이다.

미친 체하고 어리광 비슷한 수작을 하거나 어떻게든 저편을 웃기기만하면

목전에 닥쳐오는 핍박은 면할 것이다.

Being shunned is better than being beaten! How true. 

If your crazy, silly antics can make them laugh, you could at least avoid being persecuted. 

공포, 경계, 가식, 굴복, 비굴...

이러한 모든 것에 숨어사는 것이 조선 사람의 가장 유리한 생활 방도요, 현명한 처세술이다.

실상 생각하면 우리의 이러한 생활 철학은 오늘에 터득한 것이 아니요,

오랫동안 봉건적 성장과 관료 전제 밑에서 더께가 앉고 굳어빠진 껍질이지마는

그 껍질 속으로 점점 더 파고들어 가는 것이 지금의 우리 생활이다.

Fear, caution, pretense, submission, subjugation...

Avoiding all this is the most helpful and wise survival plan for a Korean person. Frankly, we didn’t come to realize such life philosophy just now. Our lives now consisted of burrowing deeper into the thick, hardened skin formed under the long-standing feudalism and bureaucratic dictatorship. 

# Interview with literary critic Jeon So-yeong

When Lee In-hwa arrived in Busan, he was deeply disappointed at how all the buildings and streets were renovated into Japanese style. If you saw photos of Busan from back then, you’d realize that the city looked a lot like a Japanese city, illustrating the great changes Korea experienced. More shocking was, however, how much Korean people’s thinking changed. The protagonist met a waitress at a Japanese restaurant, who was from a Japanese-Korean family, yet she hated Koreans. She was denying her Korean identity. As the Japanese regime expanded its dominance over Korea, every aspect of the Korean people, even their spirit, was changing.


공동묘지 속에서 살면서 죽어서 공동묘지에 갈까 봐 

애가 말라 하는 갸륵한 백성들이다!

구더기가 득시글득시글 거리는 무덤속이다

모두가 구더기다. 너도 구더기, 나도 구더기다. 

‘It’s the public cemetery! These pathetic people worry that they will go in the public cemetery even when they are living in a public cemetery now. Maggots are crawling all over the graves. Everyone is a maggot. You are a maggot, I’m a maggot. 

그 속에서도 진화론적 모든 조건은 한 초 동안도 거르지 않고 진행되겠지!

생존경쟁이 있고 자연도태가 있고,

네가 잘났느니 내가 잘났느니 하고 으르렁댈 것이다.

그러나 조만간 구더기는 낱낱이 해체가 되어서 

원소가 되고, 흙이 되어서 내 입으로 들어가고 네 코로 들어갔다가,

네나 내가 거꾸러지면 미구에 또 구더기가 되어서 

원소가 되거나 흙이 될 것이다.

에엣! 뒈져라!  움도 싹도 없이 스러져 버려라!

망할 대로 망해 버려라!

사태가 나든지 망해 버리든지 양단간에 끝장이 나고 보면

그 중에서 혹은 조금이라도 쓸모 있는 나은 놈이 생길지도 모를 것이다.’

But even there the evolutionary stages would go on without skipping a beat. There is survival of the fittest and natural selection. They will fight over who is better. But the maggots will soon disintegrate and become elements and dust to enter my mouth and your nose. And when you and I die, we will soon become maggots to become elements and dust. 

Just die! Disappear! Go to rot! Once it’s decided one way or the other, maybe someone a little useful would come out of it.’ 

Yeom Sang-seop (Born in Seoul, Aug. 30, 1897~Mar. 14, 1963)

Debuted with short story “Tree Frog in the Specimen Room” in 1921

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