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"Stationery Vendor" by Hwang Sun-won

#Books on Demand l 2020-10-27

Books on Demand

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The woman hung Mr. Seo’s drenched outerwear over the furnace to dry.

Then her eyes rested on his feet. His socks were threadbare in the heels and toes.  

The woman offered to make him a new pair of socks. Mr. Seo was so embarrassed and grateful that he was left speechless. 

She finished the socks by midnight. Mr. Seo’s hands tremored as he watched her make the socks. Even though her kind act was motivated by her desire to have her son return home safely, Mr. Seo had never felt such a moving display of affection in his life. 

중늙은이 여인은 서노인의 젖은 두루마기를 부뚜막에 말려주었다.

그러다가 여인의 눈이 서노인의 발에 가 머물렀다.

발뒤축이 보이고 발가락이 드러난 양말짝이었다.

중늙은이 여인이 이제 날도 추워질텐데 버선 한 켤레를 지어주겠노라고 했다.

서노인은 너무 황송스러워 얼른 무어라 대꾸도 하지 못했다.

밤 깊기까지 버섯 한 켤레를 다 지었다.

그것을 지켜보는 서노인의 손이 절로 떨렸다.

여인이 이렇게 버선을 지어주는 것은 그것이 머언 타향에 가 

생사를 모르는 자기 아들을 위한 선심에서 나온 것이라고 하더라도,

서노인으로서는 칠십 평생에 처음 맛보는 따뜻한 정의가 아닐 수 없었다.

Interview by literary critic Jeon So-yeong

The day Mr. Seo met that woman could very well have been the most cherished day of his life. He was never able to form such a heartfelt relationship with anyone because he was traveling all the time. But he didn’t accept her generous offer because he didn’t want to take advantage of her kindness. This decision demonstrates that Mr. Seo is a man of integrity who cherishes even a chance meeting. 

An old beggar had certainly died there. 

But the village chief couldn’t help but notice that the sack on the beggar’s back looked quite familiar. He realized that it was Mr. Seo’s knapsack. 

He ordered other villagers to open the sack. 

It contained a bit of money and a new pair of socks that apparently had never been worn. And there also was a short note.

The note said to use the money to pay for his funeral and to put the socks on him before his body is put inside a coffin. 

틀림없이 늙은 거지 하나가 죽어 넘어져 있었다.

그런데 동장의 눈에 어딘가

이 늙은 거지의 메고 있는 괴나리 봇짐이 낯익었다.

다시 자세히 보니 그것은 다른 사람 아닌 서노인의 것이었다.

동네 사람들을 시켜 괴나리봇짐을 풀어보았다,

돈 얼마큼과 아직 한번도 신지 않은 진솔 버선 한 켤레가 나왔다.

그리고 거기 종잇조각이 있어, 이런 뜻의 글이 적혀 있었다.

여기 들어있는 돈으로 장례를 치러 달라,

그리고 그 때에는 수고스러운 대로 

여기 같이 들어 있는 버선을 신겨 달라는 것이었다.

Hwang Sun-won (Born in Daedong, Pyeongannam-do Prov., Mar. 26, 1915~Sep. 14, 2000)

: Debuted by publishing “My Dream” in literary magazine Donggwang (Eastern Light) in 1931

Received the Korea Literary Award in 1983, the Order of Civil Merit Dongbaek Medal in 1970, etc.

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