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"Bokdeokbang: The Place of Good Fortune" by Yi Tae-jun

#Books on Demand l 2020-09-08

Books on Demand

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The tall man with a red face and the bulging eyes is Mr. Seo. Always wearing a wide-brimmed Korean hat called ghat, he often scans the streets should anyone come looking for a room to rent. 

He could have felt sorry for himself, recalling that he had been a proud military officer. He could have felt miserable, realizing how he had fallen so far to become a mere real estate agent, who had to pander to even a prostitute or a lowlife who wanted to rent a room. 

언제 누가 와, 집 보러 가잘지 몰라 늘 갓을 쓰고 앉아서 행길을 잘 내다보는,

얼굴 붉고 눈방울 큰 노인이 서참의다.

칼을 차고 훈련원에 나서 병법을 익힐제는

한번 호령만 하고 보면 산천이라도 물러설 것 같았지만

지금은 한낱 복덕방 영감으로 

기생, 갈보 따위가 사글셋방 한 칸을 얻어 달래도

녜녜 하고 따라나서야 하는 만인의 심부름꾼인 것을 생각하면

서글픈 눈물이 아니 날수도 없는 것이다.

Mr. Ahn, Mr. Seo, and Mr. Park Hee-wan are three men with no particular occupation who spent their time at Mr. Seo’s real estate office. Although Mr. Ahn idles away his time at Mr. Seo’s real estate office, he still longs to make a financial comeback before he grows any older. 

“The world would be so much better with a lot of money!” 

All he saw around his neighborhood was newly built high-rises and picturesque homes. 

Automobiles as sleek as catfish just out of water roared at his behind whenever he didn’t pay attention to where he was going. If he happened to look back, the driver would glare at him and a fat gentleman would be smirking from the backseat. 

“I’m going to be sixty soon, damn it!” 

Mr. Ahn was resentful of growing old. 

“돈만 가지면야 좀 좋은 세상인가!” 

심심해서 운동 삼아 좀 나다녀보면 거리마다 짓느니 고층 건축들이요,

동네마다 느느니 그림 같은 문화주택들이었다.

조금만 정신을 놓아도 물에서 이제 막 튀어나온 메기처럼 미끈미끈한 자동차가

등덜미에서 소리를 꽥 지른다.

돌아다보면 운전사는 눈을 부릅떴고,

그 뒤에는 금시곗줄이 번쩍거리는 살진 중년신사가 빙그레 웃고 앉았는 것이었다.

“예순이 낼모레...젠장할 것” 

초시는 늙어가는 것이 원통하였다.

Interview by SNU Korean literature professor Bang Min-ho

“Bokdeokbang: The Place of Good Fortune” is one of the most historically significant works of Yi Tae-jun. The characters are all from the late Joseon period in the early 20th century. Mr. Ahn worked for the government and Mr. Seo was a military official, but the time changed and the Joseon Dynasty was replaced by the Japanese imperial reign and capitalism. People who had jobs under the old system became obsolete and had to look for new ways of life under the new world order. This is a sad story of how these men cling to the tiny real estate office to find what little energy they can to live the rest of their lives. 

Yi Tae-jun (Born in Cheorwon, Gangwon-do Prov., 1904~?)

: Debuted by publishing “Oh Mongn-yeo” in Joseon Mundan in 1925

Works include “Night Walk,” “Before and After the Liberation,”Flourishing of the Youth,“ and more

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