Short story “Finding an Ox,” set against a rural community in the 1970s, depicts the conflict and love between the protagonist, Dong-maen, and his father over an ox.
We acquired oxen three times. Father was a great farmer despite his few flaws.
According to the villagers, the flaw that my father had was that he approached farming as an art.
When making furrows, Father didn’t allow an inch of crookedness. When sowing rice seeds, he would hold a trowel like a plasterer and flatten the ground on his knees.
That was why my mother argued with him all the time.
소를 우리 집에 들인 것은 세 차례이다.
아버지는 몇몇 흠이 있기는 했지만 훌륭한 농사꾼이었다.
아버지가 지닌 소소한 흠은,
마을 사람들의 입을 빌려 하자면 농사를 너무 예술적으로 접근한다는 것이었다.
아버지는 밭고랑을 타더라도 줄을 띄워 한 치의 비뚤어짐을 허용하지 않았다.
못자리를 만들 때는 미장이처럼 흙손을 들고
무논에 꿇어앉아 반듯하게 만들어나갔다.
그래서 어머니와의 다툼이 늘 끊이지 않았다.
Interview by SNU Korean literature professor Bang Min-ho
There is a saying that parents in Jeju Island raised their children with the money earned from growing tangerine trees. In rural communities, that role fell on oxen. This story shows the sentiments of Korean farmers in traditional rural communities. Oxen are the symbol of agricultural society. This story demonstrates the importance of oxen and the feelings Korean farmers have toward them.
“What did you say?”
“I said I found this ox.”
“Doggone it, what kind of an idiot would lose his ox?”
Finding father’s reaction less enthusiastic than expected, I went on babbling irritably.
“I found it at the Okgang River. It almost died there before I rescued it out of the water. It’s ours from now on.”
But as soon as the account of my brave deed was over, he slapped the back of my head.
“You punk! Did I teach you to jump into the water so recklessly? Why do you treat your life so carelessly, you ungrateful little twerp!”
Then he proceeded to rap me on the head a few more times.
“조노므 새끼가 뭣이라고 해싼가?”
“나가 소를 줏었당께”
“닌장, 으떤 얼개미 겉은 작자가 소를 대구 내돌렸디야?”
아버지의 반응이 의외로 시큰둥하자, 나는 안달이 나서 주절거렸다.
“옥강이서 줏었당께요. 다 죽어가는 걸 나가 생똥을 싼시롬 건져내부렀어요.
인자 요것은 우리 것이에요”
그런데 내 말이 채 끝나기가 무섭게 아버지는 내 뒤통수를 냅다 내질렀다.
“이 놈의 새끼. 내가 그렇게 함부로 물에 기들라고 가르치든? 응?
목심을 왜 고롷게 조심성 없이 헛치고 다니냔 말여. 이 에미 에비를 튀겨묵을 놈아!”
아버지는 몇 번을 더 그렇게 쥐어박았다.
Jeon Seong-tae (Born in 1969, Goheung, Jeollanam-do Prov.)
: Debuted with short story “Chicken Drive” in 1994
Won the 10th Oh Young-soo Literary Prize in 2011, etc.