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“Forsythia” by Choi In-wook


ⓒ Getty Images Bank

“I was unfortunate enough to lose my wife last year. I’ve been living as a widower since then, but I don’t have any children and both my parents are dead. Since it will be just the two us, there won’t be much work to do. But I wonder if you would mind the fact that I’m much older than you.” 

The man gently took Yeon-i’s hand as he finished the sentence. She could only feel her heart race, unable to think of nothing else.

After that encounter, the man came to Yeon-i’s house frequently on his truck. Sometimes, he even stayed the night in Yeon-i’s room.

Three months since then, she couldn’t deny that a life was growing inside her womb.

돌각담 담장 너머로 개나리가 노랗게 핀 어느 날,

돌이는 돌각담 밑에서 놀고 있었다.

그는 준이가 공부할 때면 곁에서 한두 마디씩 들은 것이 기억났다.

One day when yellow forsythias blossomed behind the stone walls, Dol-i was reciting a few things he picked up while Jun-i was studying.

“제 삼십일과, 고드름, 고드름 수정 고드름~~”

“The thirtieth day, the icicles, the sparkling icicles.” 

돌이는 이리저리 거닐면서 커다란 소리로 글 읽는 흉내를 내고 있는데 구길이가 왔다.

He was pretending to read a book out loud when he ran across Gu-gil, another young boy from the neighborhood.

“돌이 너희 엄마 시집간다며?”

“Hey, I heard your mom is getting married.” 

“응, 우리 엄마는 시집간다”

“Yeah, my mom is getting married.” 

“너도 가나?”

“Are you going with her?”

“응, 나도 간다.  할매도 간다” 

“Yeah, I’m going with her. And so will my grandma.” 


“You liar!” 


“It’s true!” 

돌이는 입을 한번 삐죽하고 나서 이내 또

글공부에 대한 흉내를 내며 저 혼자서 신작로 저편으로 걸어간다.

Dol-i twisted his lips before pretending to read a book again and walking over to the road by himself.

# Interview with SNU Korean literature professor Bang Min-ho

If a man loved a woman enough to marry her, he should also be willing to take care of her son from the previous marriage. Even I was surprised at the scene where he said they should bring the boy to live with them when he is older. So, imagine how disappointed Yeon-i must have been. I wondered why the author put Yeon-in in such a dismal situation. During the Japanese colonial era or immediately after the liberation, it wasn’t easily accepted for women to remarry and make a new life for herself. It was an unreasonable social restriction. Yeon-i demonstrated how much pain and hardship Korean women had to suffer even after the country was liberated. 

돌각담 담장 너머로 개나리가 노랗게 핀 어느 날 한낮이 훨씬 겨웠을 때.

돌이네 집앞 신작로에 재목을 가득 실은 트럭이 한 대 정거하였다.

운전대에서는 예의 사나이가 다 해진 가방을 들고 돌이네 집으로 들어갔다.

얼마쯤 지나서 사나이는 두 눈에 눈물이 글썽글썽한 연이를 앞세우고 나왔다.

In the middle of the day when yellow forsythias blossomed behind the stone wall, a truck loaded with lumber stopped in front of Dol-i’s house. The man left the truck, carrying an old bag, and entered the house. Before long, he came out with Yeon-i, her eyes brimming with tears, walking ahead of him.

연이는 차에 올라서야 비로소 눈으로 돌이를 찾았다.

Before getting on the truck, she looked for her son.



목메인 소리로 한 마디 불렀으나 돌이는 눈앞에 나타나지 않았다.   

Her voice choked as she called out his name, but the boy didn’t show up.

할매 하고 있으면 내 꼬까옷 사가지고 올게, 하고

눈물을 머금고 타이르던 돌이, 돌이는 어디로 갔는가.    

Where could he be? “If you stay with Grandma, I will buy some nice clothes and come for you,” said Yeon-i while holding back the tears. 

차가 막 떠나려 할 무렵, 연이가 불러도 대답이 없던 돌이는 

어느새 그렇게 재빠르게 올라탔는지 차짐 위에 올라가 자그만히 앉았는 것이

그제야 발각이 되어 조수의 손으로 끄집어 내려졌다.

Just when the truck was about to leave, Dol-i, who hadn’t answered Yeon-i’s call, was found to have smuggled himself into the truck, secretly tucked among the belongings piled on the truck bed. He was discovered by the man’s assistant and dragged down from the truck. 

차가 위잉 떠나자 돌이는 기를 쓰고 트럭의 뒤를 쫒아갔으나

거리는 점점 점점 멀어질 뿐이었다.

Dol-i desperately chased after the truck, but the distance simply grew farther and farther. 

연이는 번연히 그런 줄도 저런 줄도 알면서, 알면서도 간다.

차가 가는 대로 몸을 맡겨야만 되었다.

Yeon-i knew what was happening behind her. But she still went. She had to go where the truck took her.

Choi In-wook (Born in Hapcheon, Gyeongsangnam-do Prov., 1920-Apr. 12, 1972)

Debuted by publishing short story “Wilted Heart” in 1938

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