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"Deferment of Death" by Kim Beom-seon

#Books on Demand l 2020-08-25

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“You have to eat nourishing food and take plenty of rest.” 


That was what the doctor said three months ago, before the summer break began. What he really meant to say was that the disease had progressed considerably. 


The X-ray photo that the doctor showed him while wondering how he could still walk about was full of blemishes. When Cheol took a look at the blemishes resembling cigarette smoke, he felt his lungs tickle all of a sudden. 


He kept clearing his throat because he felt as if huge tuberculosis germs were crawling up his throat. 


“좋은 것을 먹고 그리고 푹 쉬어야 합니다”

벌써 석달 전 그러니까 여름방학 전에 의사가 하던 말이다.

상당히 병이 진행됐다는 것이다.

이런데 어떻게 나와 다니느냐고 하며

창가에 비춰 보여주는 사진은 흠투성이었다.

그는 의사가 손끝으로 여기저기 지적하는 그 담배 연기 같은 흠을 보며

어쩐지 갑자기 폐가 근질근질 가려웠다.

이만큼씩이나 큰 결핵균들이 목구멍으로 꿈틀꿈틀 기어 올라오는 것 같아서

자꾸 헛기침을 했다.



Cheol took five days off from school. He told the principal that he suffered from an upset stomach and a bad diarrhea. But he couldn’t stop coughing up blood. 



Cheol threw up an enormous amount of blood this time. His face paled in an instant. His wife opened up the medicine bag. Cheol shook his head, indicating that it was useless now.


“What’s today’s date?” 

“It’s the 24th.”


His wife peered into his long, gaunt face. He coughed again. 


“Defer it.” 

“Defer what?” 

“Until tomorrow.” 

“Defer what until tomorrow?”

“Defer announcing my death until tomorrow.”


철은 이번에야말로 정말 대량으로 각혈을 하였다.

금시 얼굴이 파래졌다.

아내는 약봉지를 펴 들었다. 철은 약간 머리를 흔들었다.

이제 소용없다는 뜻이었다.

“며칠이오?”

“24일이야요”

아내는 유난히 길어진 것 같은 그의 얼굴을 지켜보고 있었다.

또 기침을 했다.

“보류하우” 

“뭐요?”

“낼까지는...”

“낼까지 뭐요?” 

“낼까지는... 죽었다고 하지 마우”



Interview by SNU Korean Literature Professor Bang Min-ho

Cheol believed that people would never pay the money due to him if they found out that he had died of tuberculosis. That was why Cheol wanted to defer the announcement of his death. His decision is surprising and sad. The story shows just how much of this man is being sacrificed for the sake of his family’s survival and why this society is shaped that way. “Deferment of Death” is a story about deferring the announcement of one’s death to avoid financial loss and ensure stability for his family. 




Lee Beom-seon (Born in Sinuiju, Pyeongannam-do Prov., 1920~1982)

: Debuted by publishing “Danpyo” on Modern Literature in 1955

Won the 5th Dongin Literary Prize in 1961, etc.

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