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“The Nakdong River” by Cho Myung-hee

#Books on Demand l 2023-08-22

Books on Demand

ⓒ Getty Images Bank
The Nakdong River flowing for seven hundred li merge embraces its branch streams at this location before heading out to the sea. Square patches of reed field along the river stretch toward the sea and villages are scattered here and there in the folds of the vast fields. 
This river, these fields, and the man who lives there. The river has meandered for as long as the human being has survived. This river and this man, would he be separated from it forever? 

“당신은 최하층에서 터져 나오는 폭발탄 같아야 합니다.
 가정에 대하여, 사회에 대하여, 같은 여성에 대하여, 남성에게 대하여,
모든 것이 대하여 반항하여야 합니다” 
“You must behave like a bomb exploding out of the lowest social class. You must rebel against everything, your family, the society, other women and men.” 

그럴 것 같으면 로사는 그만 감격에 떠는 듯이 
성운의 무릎 위에 쓰러져 얼굴을 파묻고 운다.
로사는 사랑의 힘으로 급격히 변화하여 가는 사람이 되었다.
Greatly moved, Rosa would bury her face in Seong-wun’s lap and cry. The power of love dramatically changed Rosa. 

그의 본 성명도 로사가 아니었다.
어느 때 우연히 로사 룩셈부르크의 이야기가 나올 때에 성운이가 한 말이 시작이었다.
Her real name wasn’t Rosa either. She gained a new name when Seong-wun made a suggestion at the mention of Rosa Luxemburg. 

“당신 성도 로가고 하니, 아주 로사라고 지읍시다. 
 그리고 참말 로사가 되시오” 
“Since your last name is Roh, let’s change your name to Rosa. Try to become a real Rosa.” 

# Interview with literary critic Jeon So-yeong
Cho Myung-hee was always mentioned among the modern Korean writers who helped shape contemporary Korean literature and socialist literature. “The Nakdong River” is about the pains of intellectuals who had to live through Japanese occupation. In the story’s conclusion, Rosa leaves her hometown, looking to accomplish Park Seong-wun’s unfulfilled dream. She heads north, where Seong-wun had wandered in his attempts to make his dream come true, somewhere like Manchuria, Siberia, or Shanghai. This last scene shows that Rosa is the person who shares and inherits Seong-wun’s ideals. Seong-wun and Rosa became a pair who dreamt of restoring Korea’s community represented by the Nakdong River and the folksong.

맨 앞에 선 검정테 두른 기폭에는 
‘고 박성운 동무의 영구’라고 써 있다.
On the flag rimmed in black was written “The late Comrade Park Seong-wun’s coffin.” 

그 다음에는 가지각색의 기다.
무슨 ‘동맹’, 무슨 ‘회’, 무슨 ‘조합’, 무슨 ‘사’.
각 단체 연합장임을 알 수 있다.
또 그 다음에는 수많은 만장이다.
Flags of assorted colors followed. Each one featured the name of an association, of an alliance, of a co-op, or of a company. The flags were from the heads of those groups. Trailing them were several funeral banners.

‘용사는 갔다.  그러나 그의 더운 피는 우리의 가슴에서 뛴다’ 
‘The warrior is gone. But his passionate blood is still coursing through our hearts.’

‘갔구나, 너는!  날 밝기 전에 너는 갔구나!
밝는 날 해맞이 춤에는 네 손목을 잡아 볼 수 없구나’
‘So, you’re gone! You left before the day broke. I can no longer hold your hand during the daybreak dance of a new day.’

이 해의 첫 눈이 푸뜩푸뜩 날리는 어느 날 늦은 아침.
구포역에서 차가 떠나서 북으로 움직여 나갈 때이다.
기차가 들녘을 다 지나갈 때까지, 객차 안 들창으로
하염없이 바깥을 내다보고 앉은 여성이 하나 있었다.
그는 로사이다.
One late morning when the first snow of the year came down furiously, the train departed from Gupo Station to go north. A woman sat gazing out the carriage window until the train passed by the field completely. She was Rosa.

아마 그는 돌아간 애인의 밟던 길을 자기도 한 번 밟아 보려는 뜻인가 보다.
그러나 필경에는 그도 멀지 않아서 다시 잊지 못할 이 땅으로 돌아올 날이 있겠지.
Perhaps she wanted to walk the road her dead lover once roamed. But maybe one day he would return to this unforgettable land before long. 

Cho Myung-hee (Born in Jincheon, Chungcheongnam-do Prov., Aug. 10, 1894~May 11, 1938)
Debuted with stage play “The Life of Kim Yeong-il” in 1921

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