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"The Sound of a Gong" by Moon Soon-tae

#Books on Demand l 2021-02-23

Books on Demand

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Carrying his six-year-old daughter on his back, Chil-bok appeared like wind in the hometown where he was remembered by nobody. He sat still on a boulder of a hill that had been submerged in water for three years already and yelled out the names of each villager. He would also nod his head for no reason and mumble in a low voice as if he was talking with a ghost. Then he would suddenly look up to the sky and let out a loud guffaw and dance like a goblin while playing the gong.

아무도 기다리는 사람이 없는 고향에 여섯날 난 딸 아이를 업고

불쑥 바람처럼 나타난 그는

물에 잠겨 버린지 삼 년째가 되는 방울재 뒷동산 각시바위에

댕돌같이 앉아서는 목이 터져라고 마을 사람들의 이름을 하나하나 불러 대는가 하면,

혼자서 고개를 끄덕거려 가며 오순도순 귀신 씨나락 까먹는 소리를 중얼거리다가도,

불컥 고개를 쳐들어 하늘을 찔러 보고,

창자가 등뼈에 달라붙도록 큰 소리로 웃어대고,

느닷없이 징을 두들기며 겅중겅중 도깨비춤을 추었다.

Moon Soon-tae’s “The Sound of a Gong” was published 1978. The story is set against a rural village flooded when a dam was built nearby. 

Interview by literary critic Jeon So-yeong

Korea was rapidly modernizing in the 1970s. Several dams were built to develop water resources back then and many villages were flooded. For instance, when Jangseong Dam was built in the mid-1970s near the Yeongsangang River, people who lived in nearby villages had to be forcibly relocated. They had to abandon their fields and houses that they had owned for generations in exchange for absurdly small compensations. Bangwuljae Hill featured in this story is a fictitious place, but it represents the pain some villagers went through during the 1970s industrialization. 

As the rain came down harder, Bong-gu was startled awake at the faint sound of the gong coming from far away. 

The gong sound appeared to come from the nearby acacia forest and then fade away toward the dam. 

The sound seemed to come nearer and sadder. The villagers who couldn’t sleep because of the sound all thought that it may be the sound of Chil-bok crying. They came to fear the sound and the dawning day even more. 

두둑 후두둑 빗방울이 굵어지고

땅껍질 벗겨 가는 소리가 드세어질 무렵,

봉구는 잠결에 어슴푸레하게 들려오는 징소리에

퍼뜩 놀라 일어나 앉았다.

어쩌면 바람 소리 같은 그 징소리는

바로 뒤란의 아카시아 숲께에서 가깝게 들린 것 같다가도

다시 댐쪽으로 아슴푸레 멀어져 가곤했다.

징소리는 점점 더 가깝게,

그리고 때로는 상여 소리처럼 슬프게 들렸는데

그 소리에 잠을 이루지 못한 방울재 사람들은,

그게 어쩌면 그들한테 쫒겨난 칠복이의 우는 소리일지도

모른다는 생각들을 다 같이 했다.

그 생각과 함께 징소리가 더욱 무서워졌으며

아침을 맞기조차 두려웠다.

Moon Soon-tae (Born in Damyang, Jeollanam-do Prov., 1941)

Debuted with “Smile of Baekje” in 1975

Won the 7th Chae Man-sik Literary Award in 2010, etc.

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