Born in Chinyong, South Kyongsang Province, in 1942, Kim Won-il was still only a child when his father defected to the North during the Korean War, leaving his wife and four children behind. Growing up in great poverty and under the cloud of ideological suspicion resulting from his father's act, he began to write in the early 1970s. His early works were short stories portraying lives similar to his own, marked by childhood trauma and bitter memories, with families destroyed by unspecified conflicts. His first collection of short stories, Odumui hon (Soul of Darkness) was published in 1973 and he was awarded the Hyundai Munhak Literary Prize in 1974. His first full-length novel, Noul (Twilight) was published in 1978.  
During the 1980s his works being more and more explicitly centered on the problems arising from the division of Korea. His works frequently illustrate the way in which ideology destroys lives and dehumanizes those who pursue it, as in Hwanmyorul ch'ajaso (In search of disillusionment, 1983) and Kyol kolcchagi (Winter valley, 1987), where he portrays youthful protagonists caught up in historical events.  
His works focus on the way individuals experience history and in the novel Madang kip'un chip (The house with a deep yard, 1989), as in some short stories, he portrays children growing up in poverty without a father. The portrayal of mothers' heroic struggle to take the place of the absent father and instill a sense of morality and dignity in the children suggests that his concern is to highlight the human sublimity attained within such harsh struggles.  
The ultimate message to be drawn from Kim Won-il's work, which culminates in the nine-volume novel Nul p'urun sonamu (The Evergreen Pine, 1993), is that individuals can transcend the suffering and humiliation that history imposes upon them by reason of their human weakness. Behind such individual stories lies a concern to suggest a wider hope for the future history of Korea. 

Prisons of the Heart 


This year Korea sent more than 570 books to the seventh annual Moscow International Book Exhibition for the first time. The Korean Publishers Association handled the arrangements. Twenty-two local publishing companies applied for spots on the delegation. I was among them. We stayed in Moscow for the week-long exhibition, the seventh of its kind, then traveled around the Soviet Union for 12 days, visiting Leningrad and Kiev. My wife told me about Hyon-gu when she met me at Kimp'o Airport.  
"It's so hard to talk on those overseas phone calls. I knew you'd worry if I told you, so I didn't say anything when you called from Leningrad or wherever it was. Your brother was hospitalized at Kyongbuk University Hospital a week ago."  
The prison authorities had finally transferred Hyon-gu to the hospital. From what my wife said, I assumed that his condition had deteriorated to the point where he required the constant supervision of a specialist. At his first trial, Hyon-gu had been sentenced to 18 months. The sentence was pending appeal to the High Court. I couldn't help feeling, however, that it was not out of the goodness of their hearts that the authorities had transferred him to the hospital. My brother contracted hepatitis ten years ago, in 1979 right after he had been released on a suspended sentence while serving a 20-month term. At the time, the whites of his eyes were yellow with jaundice, but he recovered quickly on outpatient treatment at a small hospital near Suk-yong's house where he was staying. While no one would ever call him robust, Hyon-gu was hardly sickly, and after that bout of hepatitis, he went on with his life, busy as always. After his arrest this time, however, he often complained that he felt nauseous and so listless he could hardly sit up. He couldn't digest the "fine cuisine" they served at the jail where he was being held pending appeal. One day in early July at the beginning of the rainy season when it poured everyday, I went down to Taegu to visit him. It was only a month since I had last seen him but he was miserably thin and his color was poor. His complexion was a dark shade of yellow and his cheekbones stuck out prominently. He was clearly suffering from malnutrition, as though he had gone on another hunger strike. Five years earlier, he had gone on a hunger strike at Andong prison and drank nothing but water for a week in protest against the inhumane treatment of prisoners of conscience. When I visited him, he was thin and pale, but not jaundiced.  
"Sometimes when I worry about how the people will make it through the rainy season with no work, it's like a dream. Suddenly I'm free and I'm running up the hill to our neighborhood." A shy smile, unseemly for someone his age, played on my brother's lips as he spoke. The parched skin at the corners of his mouth gathered in wrinkles when he smiled, like an old man, although he was only thirty-nine. There was clearly something wrong with his digestive system or liver. I suggested he have some tests, but Hyon-gu said he was taking some antacids and would soon be better. I met his lawyer, Chu Yong-jun, and asked him to request that Hyon-gu be placed in evaluative custody for tests and treatment at a general hospital. Then I returned to Seoul. The request hadn't been granted by the time I left for the Soviet Union.  
In the car on the way home from the airport, my wife said she'd taken a quick day trip to Taegu two days earlier and learned that Hyon-gu was undergoing tests in the hospital. According to the doctor, the problem was in the liver, not in the digestive tract, and it didn't look good.  
"They drained the fluid that was building up in his abdomen. He lost six kilograms in the process. He's awfully thin. They won't let him eat anything because of the tests, not even rice gruel. I'm afraid your mother is going to collapse from the strain. But I've got the kids to think of. You'd better go, no matter how busy you are."  
My wife dabbed her eyes with a handkerchief and then seemed to remember something.  
"Oh, your sister gave the lawyer one million won for his help last time and for getting your brother transferred to evaluative custody," she added.  
The mid-August heat seethed outside the car window. The leaves on the trees lining the street drooped, and in the distance an apartment complex seemed to ooze as if it were about to evaporate like steam. Hyon-gu's emaciated face hovered in the background hazily like a dead leaf at the bottom of a pond. I was eight years older than my brother. We had spent more time living apart than together and had never really had a chance to get to know each other. We lived under one roof until I graduated from high school. When he was in middle school, I was attending university in Seoul. When he entered high school, I was in the army, and I was already working for a living in Seoul by the time he entered university in Taegu.  
The next morning I took the bus to work, leaving my car in the apartment parking lot where it had sat covered for the two weeks I was in the Soviet Union. As I checked over the sales records from my absence, I realized few books would sell when everyone was off in the mountains or on the beaches for vacation. I also reviewed the status of three books we planned to publish in the fall. We were in a hurry to publish the first volume of Anatolii Rybakov's <After 1935>, a novel that had gone on sale in the Soviet Union only a month before. I had brought a copy back with me and went to meet the Russian language professor who had translated Rybakov's <Children of the Arbat>. Thanks to Gorbachev's perestroika, <After 1935> had been translated into several Western languages as soon as it was released in the Soviet Union. The novel was the first volume in the second part of Rybakov's <Children of the Arbat> series, a work that was bringing the aging author international renown. When I asked the professor to translate the 300-page manuscript in two months, he expressed reluctance, blaming the summer heat. In my rush to complete the translation before our competitors published the work, I considered getting hold of the Japanese translation and dividing it up among three or four Korean translators. However, that ran counter to my basic publishing principles. I had no choice but to convince the original translator to take on the project. Besides, I knew I could count on the accuracy of his translation. My small nine-employee publishing company had put out over 80 titles, but with no decent books in the last year, finances were tight. One reason for this was my own insistence that we not stoop to publishing sentimental works that pandered to youthful fads despite our business manager's earnest attempts to convince me otherwise. Still, our operating funds had received a big boost from the 90,000 copies of Rybakov's <Children of the Arbat> sold over a four-month period. We owed that success to the articles about the Soviet Union's democratic reforms that filled the international affairs sections of newspapers here in Korea. In fact, the main purpose of my sudden trip abroad, my first anywhere, was to take advantage of the Moscow International Book Exhibition for business talks with the Soviet Copyright Association, part of the Soviet Writers League. I also obtained the rights to Varlam Shalamov's novel <Kolyma Tales>, which depicts the forced-labor camps during the Stalinist period, now the subject of reassessment thanks to the thawing of cultural restrictions inside the Soviet Union. I spent that evening sharing supper and beer with another Russian language professor in hopes of convincing him to take on the translation of the Shalamov stories. I had told my wife of my plans when I left the house that morning, so I simply called her to say I was leaving, then boarded the night train to Taegu.  
When I arrived at East Taegu Station, the brief summer night had passed and dawn was spreading across the plaza in front of the station. My small bag in hand, I climbed into an empty taxi and asked the middle-aged driver to take me to the university hospital. There are several medical colleges in Taegu now so my simple request could have caused some confusion, but anyone who has lived in Taegu for long knows that the university hospital is the Kyongbuk University teaching hospital located in Samdok-dong downtown. The medical college and university hospital, two of the oldest Western-style brick buildings in Taegu, stand opposite each other on a large site separated by a narrow street, only a short distance from East Taegu Station.  
As I stepped from the taxi into the early dawn, the street separating the hospital and medical college was deserted. I was suddenly reminded of my middle school days when I delivered morning papers in the Samdok-dong and Tongin-dong area. The neighborhood hadn't changed a bit but I recalled the road being much wider. Every morning I gazed up at the stars as I strode along those empty streets so familiar to me. Six subscriptions went to the medical college and seven to the university hospital. After I had slipped thirteen copies through the windows of the guard boxes at either side of the gate, the bundle of newspapers was light and my work half-finished. Was it 1955? My brother would have been five since he was born during the war. Mother raised three children selling American goods at the Yankee market. We were miserably poor like all the other refugees.  
The trees in the spacious courtyard were visible over the low brick walls and as thick as always. The lush willow trees, which covered the main road like a canopy, were moist with the morning dew. My head ached as I stumbled along, and fatigue drained the energy from my body. The effects of the beer I had drunk the previous evening were gone now. It must have been the lack of sleep. Come to think of it, I'd had less than two days to recover from the seven-hour time difference between Moscow and Seoul.  
The watchman was dozing in the guard box at the hospital gate, his guard's cap nodding up and down in the feeble fluorescent light. I thought of asking where Hyon-gu's ward was located but instead I turned down a paved path through the trees toward the main building, a stout, gloomy structure built during the Japanese colonial era. The fresh morning air filled my nostrils. The prospect of seeing my brother depressed me, though. I lit a cigarette despite my headache. The shrill cry of a waking bird broke the heavy stillness.  
The ward was secluded behind the other hospital buildings next to the back wall blanketed with vines. It was as if Hyon-gu's temporary respite from prison had landed him in a mental ward. I was met by a long, dark corridor as I stepped into the single-storied building. The window in the door at the other end of the corridor was distorted like the lenses in a pair of eyeglasses. It was cold, like a prison, something my brother had come to know as well as his own home. On one side of the corridor were windows every five paces looking out onto the wooded courtyard. On the other were rows of hospital rooms facing the back wall. The building had withstood seventy or eighty years of use and now it was miserably rundown, its plaster walls and ceiling covered with soot and dust and its cement floors tattered from repeated patching. That special creosol odor of all hospitals mingled with the smell of moist mildew. I walked down the corridor. It was dark except for an occasional dim fluorescent light. The sound of my footsteps was deafening as I wandered, leaning up to each door to read the numbers in the gloom. Somewhere a patient's groans slipped out a door left ajar because of the heat. The cries sounded like a desperate appeal from the deep, and my mood darkened. Relatives of patients lay curled up sleeping uncovered on the long benches that lined the corridor. At first, I peered at their faces thinking that Mother or Tong-su's Mom might be among them, but after the second face I remembered that Hyon-gu was in a private room. There was no reason for them to sleep in the hall.  
"Oh, you've come. It's me. Mother."  
Despite the gloom, Mother recognized me from a distance. Maternal instinct, I guess. She was seated on one of the benches, body bent forward over one knee pulled up to her chest. Her face was invisible. All I heard was her hoarse voice.  
She asked how my trip was, and I responded by asking why she was sitting in the corridor. She glanced toward the door of the hospital room. "Some guy insists on staying in there so I decided to take a nap out here," she replied. That is when I realized that a guard was in Hyon-gu's room. My brother was still in custody while his case was under appeal.  
"Yun-gu, something's terribly wrong here. I don't understand this 'evaluative custody' but some hotshot from the prosecutor's office came and told us not to worry about the hospital expenses. He said the government would pay for everything. Then they did this fancy test where they lay you on a big steel plate that looks like a cross and spin you around. But the doctor won't explain what it means. They all say it's cirrhosis of the liver or sclerosis or something like that but..."  
Something seemed to catch in her throat and she couldn't go on. I could hardly ask if it was cancer. I sat down beside her. There was no reason to wake Hyon-gu. He needed his rest and I had no solution to his problem.  
"Isn't one of your high-school classmates a doctor at the university hospital?"  
"Yes. Most of my doctor friends moved to Seoul but one's still here."  
Five of my classmates from high school enrolled in Kyongbuk University's medical college after graduation. Later four moved to Seoul where they became department chiefs and later opened their own clinics. Only Ham Kun-jo had remained in Taegu at the university hospital's Clinical Pathology Department.  
"A close friend wouldn't lie to you. Go see him. And if he says... " Mother's diminutive body seemed to become even smaller. She stifled a sob. The white hair at her brow trembled slightly, reflecting the opaque light of the hallway.  
My family moved to Seoul in the fall of 1947, the year before I entered elementary school. Father brought only his immediate family with him in his search for religious freedom in the south. We left behind a small mountain village of 40 households located some 30 miles from the remote town of Huich'on in North P'yongan Province. Father had founded a frontier church there. Three years later the war broke out. Unlike most Seoul residents, we were unable to escape to the south, and Father was taken to the police station as a North Korean spy. In September 1950, the U.N. forces retook Seoul and Father was dragged northward by the retreating communists. Two children in tow and nine months pregnant, Mother followed the advancing U.N. forces in search of Father. Outside of Sariwon in Hwanghae Province, we ran into some people who had been kidnapped by the North Koreans along with Father. They were returning to Seoul after miraculously escaping their captors. One of them told us that 20 or 30 people, including the Reverend Pak, had been killed in an American air raid at the Yonch'on crossing in Kyonggi Province. Mother turned back south toward Yonch'on where she confirmed Father's death at last. It was in Yonch'on that Mother gave birth to Hyon-gu on the earthen floor of a house left empty when its inhabitants fled south. Mother was widowed at the tender age of 29 in 1950, a nightmarish year spent rushing helplessly from south to north and back again. Somehow we managed to stay alive. Years later she would say there was no way to record in words the hardships she had been forced to endure, including the second retreat of U.N. forces after the Chinese communists entered the war. For me, all that remains are my third-grader's memories of Mother taking my sister, brother and I to an unfamiliar Taegu, of the miserable cold and hunger, the endless walking and the bitter pain in my frostbit toes. The image of little Suk-yong, indefatigable and without complaint as she trudged alongside Mother, proof of the adage that women possess a strength unequaled by men, is still fresh in my mind.  
It is only now at the age of 47 that I can imagine what it was like for Mother to make a life, alone and far from home, with only her three children to sustain her. I could see the maternal concern etched in her wrinkled face as she sat dark and deep in thought. She feared that one of the children she had struggled so hard to raise might proceed her in death.  
"I shouldn't cry like this," she murmured. A distant light shone in the tears that pooled in her eyes. I wondered how this bastion of strength, built up through the years of perseverance needed to overcome the challenges of life with three children in a strange land, could be shaken to its foundation so suddenly. Good heavens, there was a time, at well over sixty, when in her zeal to free my brother from prison Mother thought nothing of donning a black armband and attending every meeting of the Democratic Family Support Group. Mother often said that fatherless Hyon-gu was the only one who shared a place in her heart, night and day, like Father did. In her heart she had prepared a prison cell for Hyon-gu, even when he was free in the outside world.  
"There's 29 years between Hyon-gu and I, so last year when we both made it through the Unlucky Nines that everyone always talks about, I figured... " Mother stared out the window across the hallway.  
She was using the traditional Korean system of calculating age. I could sense in her quiet voice, hoarse as she tried to suppress her tears, a despair that grew in proportion to her intense love for Hyon-gu. I followed Mother's gaze, unable to respond. Between the sparse branches of a Himilayasita tree a patch of sky shone above the two-story brick building across the large central courtyard. The sound of birds pierced the clear dawn sky like shafts of light. Faraway, on that distant horizon, the sun was rising, oblivious to the single flame of life flickering out in the hospital ward where we sat.  
My bag in hand, I stood up without a word. A large notice was posted on Hyon-gu's door: Unauthorized Personnel Prohibited. I entered the room. My eyes were immediately drawn to another notice hanging at the foot of the bed: Complete Bed Rest. Hyon-gu's eyes were closed; an intravenous tube was stuck in his arm. Three plastic-covered steel chairs were arranged around a table in the center of the room. The light of the lamp burning on one wall was washed away by the sunlight flooding through the window.  
A young man was sleeping on a bench, using the armrest for a pillow. He jerked upright and glared at the unexpected intruder. A pair of handcuffs and a billy club were strapped to his belt.  
"I'm Hyon-gu's brother," I whispered.  
I put my bag down on an empty chair and approached the bed. My brother was sleeping, two haggard hands folded neatly on top of the bed sheet as if they were bound together by the i.v. tube stuck in his forearm. The scattering of whiskers that dotted his face under the thatch of hair, greasy with perspiration, was pitiful somehow. His face looked as if it were made from wood, carved down to the bones. His collarbone stuck out from between the lapels of his pajamas, like a handle ready to be grasped. I felt a certain reverence at the ugly sight of him, devoid of flesh. When our family lived in a rented room in Changgwan-dong in downtown Taegu, Hyon-gu and I had attended the Cheil Church nearby. Hyon-gu was in the beginners' class and I was in the advanced class. I remember his teacher saying how remarkable it was for a shy child like Hyon-gu to recite his prayers so fervently, repeating "our mother, our mother" over and over again. Hyon-gu was unusually devoted to Mother as a child, and so he was more deeply loved by her than we two older children. It was Hyon-gu who went out at dusk and waited for Mother to come home from work. He wanted to eat dinner with her. And when she saw him, she always said, "Oh, has my youngest son waited all this time so he can eat dinner with his mama?" Then they would walk back through the gate together, Hyon-gu's hand in hers. People often say that the child-like innocence of a good person remains in their face as they age. The image of Hyon-gu as a child rose before me as I looked down on the peaceful face of my sleeping brother.  
I sat down in an empty chair. There was no reason to wake him. At some point Mother had entered the room. The crew-cut young guard with the angular face introduced himself as Mr. Ch'oe and recorded my name, address and telephone number on his roster. He asked a number of questions about this and that. I answered in the vaguest terms because he seemed to be asking out of boredom and nothing else.  
The door opened silently and a woman with a towel wrapped loosely around her hair entered the room cautiously. She was dressed in an army surplus shirt and baggy work pants and carrying a plastic water jug.  
"Oh, it's the woman from Sangju. You're here so early." Mother rose to greet the woman cheerfully.  
"Work starts at seven-thirty," the sunburnt woman answered softly. She seemed apologetic, as if she had done something wrong.  
The woman placed the jug of water in the corner. She had just brought it down from the mineral springs on the mountain behind her home, she explained. The woman looked at the sleeping Hyon-gu from a distance, then sat down carefully next to Mother. "Let us pray," she said and clasped Mother's hands in hers. Heads together, facing each other, the two women prayed for the Lord to save Hyon-gu. The woman stayed for about ten minutes, then left the room quietly. Ch'oe returned after washing his face and hands outside.  
"I think you saw the woman from Sangju at Hyon-gu's trial. The whole thing started when the wreckers came to tear down the house she was renting. Now look at all the trouble she's going to for us. She goes to work at a construction site at dawn every day so she can take care of her three kids and her crippled mother-in-law. Carrying loads of sand and bricks up three and four flights of rickety steel scaffolding." Mother placed the water jug under Hyon-gu's bed.  
It was another thirty minutes before Hyon-gu woke at the sound of footsteps in the corridor.  
"Brother, when did you get back?"  
So began a string of thorough questions. What about the democratic reform movement in the Soviet Union? Some called it the final confrontation of the twentieth century. Was that true? And what about popular support for Gorbachev? The papers were saying he might be overthrown by the Bolshevik conservatives who had been ruling for seventy years. How were the Soviet people reacting to the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the repudiation of communism by the peoples of Eastern Europe? Judging from the newspapers sitting next to the telephone and Bible on his bedside table, Hyon-gu must have read all about the situation in Eastern Europe but apparently he wanted my eyewitness account. Or perhaps he wondered how a middle-class intellectual who couldn't be categorized as progressive or conservative would react to the situation. I would have liked to say the Soviet Union was undergoing a period of bold readjustment, doing away with the ideological hegemonism of the past, and that Gorbachev was extremely popular, but I knew that would have been too hasty a conclusion. Besides, my cursory observations might sound somewhat superficial to my brother who had dedicated nearly 20 years of his life to understanding and linking issues such as those facing Eastern Europe to the situation here in South Korea. I answered vaguely, observing that socialism was in conflict, shifting away from rigid doctrinairism in order to improve its citizens' standard of living. I didn't want to discuss things like the long lines of consumers I'd seen waiting for scarce daily necessities at shops and department stores in Moscow and Leningrad because I knew that would involve a lengthy explanation of issues that had been reported in the papers-the rigid bureaucratic political structure, the apathetic attitude of the working class, the miserable quality of goods produced in a society built around state-run production completely devoid of competition and the like. My brother shook his head weakly, complaining he couldn't understand why the ruling interests in Korea refused to yield an inch when countries operating on the basis of seemingly rigid Marxist economic theory were undergoing a process of realistic self-examination. His voice was weak, but his face was bright, and he didn't seem to be in pain as he spoke. Perhaps it was because of the painkiller he was receiving through the i.v. or because liver disease has no subjective symptoms.  
"On the outskirts of Moscow there's a housing complex for the Soviet Writers League. Gorky asked Lenin to build a utopian village for writers in 1930. Rybakov, an elderly author and chairman of the Soviet P.E.N. Club, lives there. It's a kind of villa. The yard is quite large, but there are only two rooms in the old wooden house-a bedroom and a combination study, living room and kitchen, where people gather to talk. It was a simple home for such a famous writer, but I imagine the homes of all Soviet citizens are much the same. Rybakov was pleased to hear that his novels were popular in Korea. He's seventy-seven now but his voice was strong and he was filled with insights. He'd have to be to write a major work like <Children of the Arbat> at his age. He is a fervent supporter of Gorbachev like all the intellectuals. After all, Gorbachev has given all citizens the right to unrestricted travel and freedom of speech, and artists now have full freedom of expression. Rybakov couldn't have written <Children of the Arbat> otherwise. It's an indictment of Stalin's reign of terror. According to Rybakov, seventy-million people were killed or exiled during Stalin's 22-year rule. He claims the Slavs are one of the strongest peoples in the world because they managed to survive as a people despite all that, just as they survived centuries of invasions and domination by the Arabs and Mongols. For him, perestroika is the fruit of the Slavs' patience over those many decades."  
My description of the trip dragged on longer than I had intended, perhaps because I had just returned.  
"I read all three volumes of <Children of the Arbat> you sent. The scale of Russian literature is really something. It said Rybakov was sent into exile in Siberia for three years during the Stalinist period when he was a university student, but he later accepted the regime. He even received the Stalin Prize shortly before Stalin died. For the next 30 years he didn't produce any major works. He kept silent out of the instinct to protect himself, then a new era of freedom of expression dawns and he finally attacks Stalin! What's that supposed to mean? What if he had died before he wrote <Children of the Arbat>?"  
Hyon-gu was acid in his attack on Rybakov. If I had criticized Rybakov, I would be criticized as a bourgeois intellectual spouting armchair theories, but my brother had more than the necessary credentials for such an observation.  
"That's why some people say writers are the product of the age in which they live."  
Hyon-gu ignored my flimsy response and changed the subject.  
"Socialist ideology is based in moral judgment, isn't it? Right after the Bolshevik revolution, Lenin set about the task of establishing equality among the classes on the basis of an equitable distribution of property, and now Gorbachev is implementing glasnost and perestroika in an attempt to improve the Russian people's standard of living through the introduction of political and economic pluralism on the foundation of equality established by Lenin."  
"Socialist economic theory may have worked in 1917 but it's reached its limits today. They're don't even have electronic cash registers at the state-run department stores. They're still using abacuses."  
"But what is life like for the Soviet people?"  
"By capitalist standards, they are generally quite poor. The quality of goods being sold in department stores is on par with Korea's in the mid-sixties, but their social welfare policies are working and they don't seem to worry about everyday necessities. One of the advantages I see in their society is, as you said, the high ethical and moral standards. The people can't help but be honest and simple. Things might be different for high-level party members, but in general there seems to be little corruption. Lies don't work in that society."  
"That's precisely my point. The Soviet Union may be twenty or thirty years behind the West in terms of living standards, but equalization is underway, isn't it? The process may be slow but at least they're trying to achieve a higher level of equality, unlike Korea where the quality of life improves for only a few monopoly capitalists, the political powerful, and the idle rich who feed off them. Think about it! The rich live it up on windfall profits while the poor live eight or nine to a cramped basement room. I know that the socialist nations have been politically dictatorial. Their cultural life is conformist and they haven't overcome their economic backwardness. I'm simply saying that we must correct the vicious circle of poverty that is right before our eyes. Now that our society has achieved a firm developmental footing we must address the needs of the alienated poor. Economic growth and exports aren't important now. The important thing is making headway in the redistribution of wealth to the three-and-a-half million poor people in this country. And if we're going to do that, we must find the point where socialism and capitalism converge." Hyon-gu's voice had dwindled to a gasp.  
"Hyon-gu, that's enough. Give it rest. It's not good for you to get all worked up. What you're saying was recorded in the Bible 2,000 years ago. Jesus knows. He's the one who said it's easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." Mother had listened quietly until now.  
I didn't have anything more to say on the subject anyway. As we returned to reality I was little more than an idle spectator watching another man fight for his life.  
"Times are changing. Imagine my big brother going to the capital of the socialist world on his first trip abroad..." Hyon-gu's weary voice trailed off.  
Hyon-gu knew the anguish I had gone through because of him. When he was out of jail on the run, I was under police surveillance. Twice they had picked me up and beaten me in hopes of finding out where Hyon-gu was hiding.  
Hyon-gu's political involvement began when he joined the Christian Students' Federation after entering university in Taegu. Since Father was a minister, you could say all three of us were destined to be baptized as infants and attend church from childhood. Hyon-gu found his answers in liberation theology. He began participating in anti-government rallies and demonstrations in an attempt to liberate the masses from "oppression and poverty." No one who knew him, including Mother, could imagine the introverted and good-natured Hyon-gu changing so. At the risk of seeming paradoxical, one could say that it was precisely because of his introverted nature that Hyon-gu was able to change as he had. It made sense. He was wanted by the police on several occasions, and after serving a jail term, he was drafted into the military during his junior year. After completing a full term of harsh treatment at a special forces camp on the front line, he was discharged and spent the next year, 1976, the year before he was to graduate, on the run after the issue of an arrest warrant for violating Emergency Measure No. 9. He was arrested the following year at a construction site in Kyongsan where he had been working as a day laborer. He was sentenced to two years in prison and a four-years suspension of his civil rights, but he was released on a stay of execution after serving just twenty months. He then joined the labor movement in Taegu. He quit school and falsified his academic background on his resume. He started out as a trainee at Tongyang Textiles in the dye complex in Pisan-dong. Over the next few years, Hyon-gu lived a vagabond's life, working at industrial complexes around Taegu, teaching in a night school for laborers and organizing the local poor people's movement. I was fired from my job as a reporter in 1980 like so many others and had difficulty making ends meet until I started my publishing business three years later. During that period and well after, it seemed there wasn't a day that the police investigators didn't visit my home or office in Seoul. They were looking for some sign of Hyon-gu. One detective said that wherever Pak Hyon-gu went a labor dispute, strike or demonstration demanding humane living standards for the poor was sure to follow. Hyon-gu was jailed twice. Only then did the investigators' visits stop temporarily. His most recent confinement was the result of his intervention in a clash between a slum demolition team and a group of people displaced by an urban renewal project. Hyon-gu was arrested on the complaint of two members of the team assigned to the demolition of the Pisan-dong slum where Hyon-gu and his wife had devoted themselves to the poor. The men had been injured, one seriously. The authorities had fingered Hyon-gu as one of the worst offenders in the Taegu area, but I couldn't believe he had done what they claimed. I had come to see Hyon-gu as the strong but silent type, always modest and humble toward others. Whenever he spoke of the poor people's movement he emphasized self-sacrifice, devotion and love. But witnesses said they saw him grabbing one of the demolition workers' crowbars and swinging at them, and my brother had admitted it in court.  
Last year, in mid-June I think, I went down to Taegu to attend the wedding of my sister's youngest brother-in-law. Suk-yong had called long-distance twice, begging me to come so she could save face. The fact that her older brother was living a normal life in Seoul and was actually the head of a publishing company was the only thing my sister could offer with pride to her in-laws who over the years had seen Suk-yong and their son dragged off to the police station time after time on Hyon-gu's account. I went to the wedding with Mother and then, on Mother's insistence, we set out for the hillside neighborhood behind Talsong Park in Pisan-dong where Hyon-gu worked in the poor people's movement. It was about two in the afternoon. I suggested we take a taxi but Mother said that was absurd and insisted we take the bus. I stopped at a bakery and bought a large cake for my nephew Tong-su. The entrance to Hyon-gu's neighborhood in Pisan-dong was a large street built over a stream. The sidewalks were impossible, packed with peddlers' wares spread out on the pavement. The air was thick with the cries of the peddlers, hawking every imaginable product. Some sold cheap clothes, fruit, cookies and toys; women sold vegetables; and young men peddled plastic utensils next to fortune tellers who spread their hand-reading charts out on the pavement in front of them. And there were paraplegics selling ear-cleaners and toothpicks and beggars stretching out their filthy hands with a runny-nosed kid parked beside them. In a positive sense, the scene revealed man's altruistic struggle for existence, but it was also like hearing the wails of the poor trying to eke out a living. I followed Mother into an alley. After passing a number of shops and stores bearing signs for employment offices, pharmacies, inns and beauty salons, we headed up the path that marked the entrance to the slum. The path must have climbed at a thirty-degree incline, too steep for any vehicle except a handcart pushed from behind or an A-frame back carrier. It was just wide enough for two people to pass and branched out on either side, weaving between the densely packed houses roofed in tile and corrugated cement. Garbage cans, small condiment jars and other household goods, like apple crates, were stacked in front of some of the houses. Skinny children dressed in nothing more than undershirts and underpants laughed cheerfully as they played along the path. Their grandparents sat in the shade chatting quietly. It was at that point that I first smelled what life was like for the slum dwellers. The stifling summer air was thick with a disgusting mixture of aromas-the stench of the sewer, stale urine and burnt hair. During my days as a cub reporter on the city desk, I had covered the refugee villages in Seoul's Sanggye-dong and the hillside slums in Sadang-dong, but after five or six years living in a middle-class apartment complex in Kangnam, I had forgotten all that. It was unfamiliar and alien now. The path narrowed and curved, then suddenly sloped upwardly sharply to a forty-five-degree incline. I couldn't understand how pipes made it up the crooked path, how garbage and sewage from the outhouses were deposed of, or how water made it back down.  
"Yun-gu, the people who live here are respectable folk-factory workers, plasterers, carpenters and such. More than sixty percent are day laborers, peddlers or unemployed. And you know what the rest are? Invalids who've been injured or who are too sick to work. It's like in the Bible. People suffering from physical and spiritual pain have gathered here to live, just like the sick and crippled living in that poor village in the Bible. Jesus doesn't worry about the rich; he watches over these pitiful people."  
Mother forced the words out in between puffs of air as she set one foot in front of the other. She leaned forward, placing a hand on each knee as she climbed. Then she paused and suggested we rest our legs for a moment at a community water spigot. A group of people stood in a line under the scorching sun, their water jugs arranged in a long column stretching some fifty yards along the edge of the path. They seemed more interested in the cake box I was carrying than in my own neat appearance. I looked over the slum that stretched out below. Laundry fluttered on clotheslines strung between the scab-like roofs like flags on sports day at a country elementary school. The sun sizzled overhead. Mother mopped the sweat from her forehead with a handkerchief and spoke:  
"Yun-gu, it's one thing to see people streaming down this path, lunch pails in hand, at dawn each morning, but what really brings tears to my eyes is sitting here watching the same people come home at sunset while another group sets out for the night shift... People who have enough to eat can't possibly understand the exhausted, hollow eyes of the people climbing up this path in the evening with a single package of flour or rice or maybe three or four yont'an briquettes on a string. The kids heading off for the night shift, even the bar girls with all their makeup, always step aside for the people climbing up the hill in the evening. That's their way of sawing hello."  
Mother laughed when I asked how much farther it was to Hyon-gu's house and the daycare center. "The poorest folk live closest to heaven," she said, glancing toward the top of the hill. The houses above us clustered together like crab shells. We stepped to the side to make way for a group of women perspiring heavily as they carried jugs of water up the hill in A-frame carriers, then we started up again. The houses below the water spigot appeared to be around 350-feet square, but above that point, they were much smaller with barely enough room under their eaves to leave one's shoes. According to Mother, each household measured about seven square feet and had three rooms. Sometimes the owner used two rooms and rented out the third, or the owner used one and rented out the other two. Hyon-gu was living in a rented room, of course. A cheap cupboard and a dishwashing bucket sat under the eaves on the small porch. There was no kitchen, only a flue where the yont'an was burned. Mother flung open the door as if she knew no one was home. Inside the dark room were three bags and an old chest of drawers on top of which lay some folded blankets. A small desk was the only other furniture. The only thing of value was a pile of books in the corner. Hyon-gu's household goods would have fit in the back of a cart. The room was cramped, just large enough for three adults to lie down.  
"This is how Hyon-gu's family lives. How can I help him if this is the way he chooses to live? Suk-yong told him she'd buy him a television, but he refused. He said he didn't have time to watch television. The fewer possessions he has the freer he feels. He's not like the rest of us."  
Mother closed the door and began walking to the daycare center. She was in a hurry to find Tong-su. The daycare center was at the top of the hill in the middle of a sparse grove of pine trees and bushes. At one time trash pickers had lived there in dugout mud hovels. After they moved on, it became a garbage dump. The daycare center had started in a tent two years ago when the garbage dump was filled. Today its walls were cement block and its roof corrugated metal, but it was a fine building. I could hear the chatter of children. There were two classrooms the size of the houses below and a playyard twice as large. The playyard and classrooms were crowded. There were three teachers. I had heard several students had volunteered to help Tong-su's Mom so I assumed that was who the young women were. Tong-su's Mom came out of the classroom to greet us. "Oh, and you've come too!" she exclaimed upon seeing me. The children playing in the dusty yard gathered around the cake box. Mother peeked into the classroom and found Tong-su. I handed the cake to him as Mother carried him outside in her arms. According to Tong-su's Mom, Hyon-gu had gone out early that morning to take care of a workman's compensation problem for a man who lived in the neighborhood. Two fingers on the man's left hand had been severed in a polishing machine at the Tonghyop Production Center where he worked as an apprentice. Hyon-gu wouldn't be able to attend the wedding, she explained. Suddenly I recalled a visit from Hyon-gu when he came to Seoul, sometime before national health insurance had been implemented, and asked for 300,000 won.  
"Brother, they may be poor but that doesn't mean they're all good. There are times you have to think of them as foolish children, senile old people or mental patients. Sometimes they're impervious to reason. They start fights at the drop of a hat. They lie. And on top of that they steal. They're so exhausted from life, their spirits are broken. But before you reproach them for their childishness, complaining and cruelty, you have to share their miserable lives. You have to share their pain as I have. Otherwise, you can't understand them. You can't endure a single day as their friend if you don't love them unconditionally, the way a mother loves her son even if he's a murderer. You may start out thinking you're doing it in the spirit of service to others, but as you come to understand the value of sacrifice, you finally realize the humility of love. You have to forget things like pride or self-respect. I'm always emphasizing that to my wife. This case is a little different, but a few days ago a mother came to me. She was carrying her son on her back. He was dying of bone cancer and she begged me to save him. For two days we carried him around town to eight different hospitals but they all refused to admit him because we didn't have the money for a deposit. On the evening of the second day, he died on my back. His mother and I collapsed on the sidewalk and cried with hopeless rage. That's why I've come to you. There is another family in the same situation. We have to save this child."  
As I recalled Hyon-gu's words, the clusters of children scampering around me seemed to fade in the distance and my eyes filled with tears. At a glance I could see that the task Tong-su's Mom had taken on at the daycare center was as difficult as Hyon-gu's. I looked in the open window of a makeshift building next to the classrooms. A group of about twenty women were sitting on the floor making artificial flowers. On the far side of the room another group was busy stringing beads for inexpensive necklaces. For the slum women who didn't work as day laborers, housekeepers or street peddlers, knitting sweaters, pasting envelops, making artificial flowers and stringing beads helped supplement the family budget.  
Tong-su's Mom walked into the hospital room carrying a bundle of food. Apparently she hadn't dropped Tong-su off at the daycare center until eight-thirty. Her tanned face was heavily freckled under the eyes and her straight hair was pulled back tightly and fastened with a pin. She wore a loose-fitting cotton shirt with the sleeves rolled up and, instead of the blue jeans I was accustomed to seeing her in, a pleated skirt, perhaps because it was summer.  
After asking her husband how he had slept and if he had been at all uncomfortable during the night, she turned to me to say hello.  
"We owe you so much for coming here like this. You still must be tired from your trip and I'm sure you're busy at work. And your wife, with one child graduating from middle school and the other from high school. She must be exhausted. You know they say the mothers of third-year high-school students nearly die under the strain. And her with a middle-schooler too! I feel so sorry for her."  
Tong-su's Mom must have been three or four times as busy as other women, what with taking care of Hyon-gu while he was in prison and all her work at the daycare center, and yet she always had a smile on her face and walked with a buoyant gait. Tong-su's Mom had an offhand way of saying things, without malice, of course. That irritated Mother but she attributed it to Tong-su's Mom's easygoing personality.  
"Just look at the daycare center," Mother had said last year when she visited us in Seoul. "Where are parents going to send their kids in the slum with all its germs and smells? Who's going to take care of those children when their parents are at work? Tong-su's Mom washes them, she feeds them, she teaches them to read, and she takes them to the doctor when they're sick. And that's not all. Since she runs the daycare center, she naturally plays an important role in the women's movement there. And she advises people on jobs and helps them out with their landlord problems. As far as I'm concerned, she's right up there with that nun-What's her name? Mother Teresa! But she's not made of steel. I don't know what will happen if Tong-su's Mom collapses from the strain."  
My sister-in-law met Hyon-gu when he was running a night school for laborers at Industrial Park No. 5 in Taegu's Nowon-dong. She had just graduated from high school in the country and had come to work in the General Affairs Division of a factory where they manufactured eyeglass frames. She met Hyon-gu when she started helping out at the night school after work. I guess that is how they got together despite the fact that he was nine years older than her. I remember the day they were married by the Reverend Won Hyong-sop in that slum church in Nogok-dong. I guess everyone is filled with happiness when they get married, but the smile never left the bride's face that day. Older people say a bride will be snatched away by evil spirits if she smiles on her wedding day but my sister-in-law didn't try to hide her joy as she stood beside her aging groom.  
Young Ch'oe was relieved by a guard named Hong who was in his mid-forties, then Dr. Min, Hyon-gu's consulting specialist, and a flock of interns entered the room on morning rounds. Dr. Min checked the patient's condition for a moment, then, after exchanging a few sentences of medical jargon with the interns, left the room with the interns on his heels. I followed them out the door and asked the doctor about the results of Hyon-gu's tests. Dr. Min was a clean-cut man in his mid-forties. In a pleasant voice he said that they were still analyzing the results. I asked if we could give the patient some of the thin mung bean porridge that Tong-su's Mom had brought from home, but Dr. Min said that all the necessary nutrients were included in the menu prepared by the hospital and warned me not to allow Hyon-gu to eat anything beside hospital meals and the quantities of water prescribed by his doctors. The team of physicians then moved onto the next room. A few moments later, the nurses came through on rounds and repeated Dr. Min's warning.  
"Mother, you have to eat breakfast. Why don't we go out and get something?"  
Mother refused, however. She had giving up breakfast long before. I decided to skip a meal as well since I would have to leave the hospital grounds to find a restaurant that served breakfast.  
Instead, I went to the Clinical Pathology lab to meet my high-school classmate Ham Kun-jo. The lab was in another building next to the main hospital structure.  
"Well, if it isn't Pak Yun-gu! What brings you here so early in the morning? Without even a phone call! Have you been ignoring me because I'm stuck in this country hospital? How's the publishing business? Are you selling a lot of books?"  
Kun-jo was happy to see me. It had been more than two years since we had last met. We went to the snack bar attached to the main building and sat down, talking of our old classmates as he drank ginger tea and I drank milk. Our high school was famous for its "T-K" connections and many of our classmates had gone on to successful careers in politics and finance. I had no close friends among them since I had stopped attending class reunions in Seoul after I was fired from my newspaper job, but Kun-jo was up-to-date on the exploits of all our successful classmates in Seoul. Many former reporters had gotten their jobs back or had been hired by the newspapers that were starting up around the country, he teased. Why was I wasting my time with a puny publishing company? I recalled him saying the same thing last time we had met with some classmates in Taegu when I was in town because of Hyon-gu. A lot of banned reporters had hooked up with political parties or the opposition movement, he said. A "T-K" graduate like me could hardly join the opposition movement, but I had majored in sociology. "Why don't you try working with the government party?" he said. "You must have lots of friends who can help you if only you asked." I simply smiled. He would have taken me for a complete innocent, blind to the realities of the world, if I said there was more to life than fame and fortune.  
Mother left Taegu and came to live with us in Seoul while I was attending meetings of banned reporters and staying out all night for sit-ins. There wasn't a day that went by without her pleading with me to stop. "You're the oldest son. Please don't go off looking for trouble. Think of Hyon-gu and what he's doing. Think of me! Think of what we've been through! All I have is you kids.  
"Don't you remember when you entered university and promised me that if Korea was unified in my lifetime, you'd carry your old mother back to our hometown to see the azaleas bloom in spring? I don't care if you make a lot of money or if you become a high-ranking person who can order other people around. I just pray to God that your family leads a happy life, that you're healthy and you take care of your children."  
Mother went to all-night prayer sessions, she even fasted so her eldest son would lead a stable home life. It was hard for me, caught between my mother and the realities of life at that time. I don't handle liquor well, but I drank a lot of soju during that period. Sometime just after the launching of the Fifth Republic, Hyon-gu came to me about publishing a manuscript on the labor movement in the Taegu region. I refused, not so much because it was unseemly for an elder brother's publishing company to carry a younger brother's book but because I was sure the authorities would not look kindly on anything edited by the Taegu Democratic Labor Union. The bulk of the manuscript dealt with changes in the regional economy around Taegu, the local industrial structure, the manufacturing situation and the conditions of the working class there. The rest documented the pathetic struggle of laborers earning low wages under miserable working conditions. The authorities had prevented most labor unions from organizing so workers formed social clubs arrayed against the employers. These clubs provided journal-like case studies on each of the factories.  
When faced with the government's scheme to abolish and merge newspapers around the country, I had in effect chosen to follow my conscience and give up journalism rather than join the opposition against government policy. Considering this background, it was only natural that my publishing company had put out a dozen or more progressive social science books and had come to be known as one of the firms that would handle such works. Still, I was in no position to recommend a publisher to Hyon-gu. As soon as I mentioned the suppressive political situation and urged him to postpone publication, Hyon-gu flashed his shy smile and took his manuscript, apologizing for wasting my valuable time. He never did reveal exactly how he felt about what I said. Three months later, the manuscript came out in book form and Hyon-gu sent me a copy. The book was confiscated by the authorities as I had expected, and Hyon-gu was detained for two weeks along with the editor and the president of the publishing company.  
"Yun-gu, did you hear about Yi Chin-so? That fat fellow who ran the construction business? He died! A heart attack from overwork," Kun-jo said.  
Yi Chin-so was a classmate during our senior year in high school. I never expected him to die like that. Suddenly February 28th, 1960 came to mind. The government was afraid high-school students would try to attend a campaign rally organized by the Democratic Party, so the school administration encouraged us to come to school that Sunday, baiting us with the promise of a movie. We protested the directive and thus became the first high school to stage a street demonstration. At five past one in the afternoon, the seniors led several hundred students out the school gate and marched, arms around each other's shoulders, along the main street in Panwoldang. Protect the rights of students! Revive democracy! Stop political meddling in our school! We will not surrender! we shouted. At the time, I was preoccupied with preparations for the university entrance examination so I was not a leader in the movement. Still, I was filled with righteous indignation against the undemocratic practices of the Syngman Rhee regime, which conspired to impose protracted one-man rule on the Korean people. We students united as one, abandoning our individuality in support of the whole. We raced through Chungang-dong toward the plaza in front of the provincial capital building, shouting slogans all the way. It was Chin-so's shoulders that I held onto that day. Kun-jo was there too, of course. More than three years had passed since I had seen Chin-so. As he entered his forties, Chin-so put on weight, as one would expect a housing contractor, and peppered every conversation with complaints about how busy he was. He spent all day at his construction sites and evenings out drinking to relieve the stress. He was practically a boarder in his own house, he said. The housing market was good and his multi-unit row houses sold well, but he didn't look after his health.  
"I don't know why I have to run around like this just to make a couple extra bucks. It's not like I can't feed my family. I've become a snob. Yun-gu, it was good back then, wasn't it? I mean when we marched up to the provincial capital building. We really got a thrashing when they took us down to police headquarters. But look at us now! I sell houses and you sell books. You're lucky. People think you're an intellectual. That's more than I can say for myself. We ignited the April 19th revolution, but look at us now. Some of us are sweeping streets while others are driving around in fancy cars. I guess it just goes to show you. There's no telling what life will bring. Well, drink up. Eating and drinking are all we have left, right?"  
The unpleasant image of Chin-so rattling on with a beer in his hand rose before me. As a member of the April 19th Generation, I had marched with my classmates to Police Headquarters in Seoul when I was a freshman in university, but the true significance of April 19th gradually faded under prolonged military rule. We hoped for a revival of real democracy in Korea and leaped to the fore, armed with nothing more than our simple sense of justice. In the end, the souls of 185 students shot down by the government were sealed in a monument at Suyu-ri. Some student activists who had played a leading role in the "Unfinished Revolution" were all too happy to hook up with the new regime and move up in the world, besmirching the name of the April 19th Generation again and again. In the end, however, most of the participants had no choice but to return to their old lives. It had been a spontaneous revolution. It all depended on the righteous indignation of a mass of innocent and honest young people, but we lacked any centralized strategy. I went on to marry and lead a peaceful family life, living off my salary as a reporter and never making any particular effort to carry on the spirit of April 19th. I blamed it on the subordination of political development in a backward country and was forever disillusioned at my own selling-out of the Revolution. To that day I had never stood up and claimed to be a member of the April 19th Generation.  
Kun-jo noted that the death rate for Korean men in their forties was the highest in the world, then went on to assail the Korean people's excessive drive for success, their self-centered pursuit of material wealth, and the recklessness and impatience that resulted from these idiosyncrasies.  
"Think about it. Dying in your forties at the height of your productivity. And what about our kids? They're getting to the age when they really cost a bundle, and it goes on until we marry them off. That's how Chin-so died, rushing around like a maniac, thinking he had all the time in the world. I don't get it. In the old days, people were satisfied if they had three meals a day, but look at us now! We finally have enough to get by and look at how we're acting. All the rich people do is stuff themselves, scratching after all the money and land they can get. And look at the students and laborers on the other side. Do they expect the fat cats to come out waving a white flag and offer up a share of the pie just because they resort to violence at every turn in the road? Violence just causes confusion and it wrecks the economy. Labor strikes and gets a little raise, but the government's so busy worrying about it that they let prices go up and hurt everybody. Don't the working people understand that? Why can't they wait until the per capita GNP hits $10,000?"  
Kun-jo's illogical grumbling stretched on and on. He returned to the subject of Chin-so's death, then told of his own daughter, a senior in high school, who was taking private piano lessons from a famous music professor in Seoul in order to improve her chances of getting into a music college there. Twice a week she flew round-trip to Seoul for a two-hour session with the professor. It cost Kun-jo one million won a month at the very least.  
Kun-jo then took on the educational system. "It's like pouring water into a bottomless jug," he complained. If an upper-class Philistine like Kun-jo was a member of the April 19th Generation, then the term had truly been reduced to little more than an empty slogan. Nevertheless, the fact that he had remained in Taegu and hadn't taken advantage of his "T-K" connection to make a place for himself in Seoul like so many of our other classmates was fascinating. Perhaps his griping was a way of venting his anger at never having joined the ranks of those in Seoul. Satisfied that I had listened long enough, I turned the conversation to my reason for visiting.  
"You know about my brother, don't you? Hyon-gu's been hospitalized here."  
"That brother with all the problems?" Kun-jo asked warily. He said he had seen a picture of Hyon-gu's trial in the local paper at some point. It must have been the preliminary trial when the people displaced by the urban renewal project in Pisan-dong had caused such an uproar.  
"I knew he was in custody. What's wrong with him?"  
I described Hyon-gu's case history. I told Kun-jo that it looked like the test results were in and I wondered if he could find out how serious Hyon-gu's condition was and what the doctors planned to do. He paused for a moment, then said he would try.  
"Let's have lunch together. I'll meet you at your brother's room."  
I understood that to mean that he would let me know the results at that time.  
When I returned to Hyon-gu's ward, five women were seated in chairs or squatting on the floor in the corridor discussing something with Tong-su's Mom. Their faces were downcast.  
"Did you meet your friend?" Tong-su's Mom asked.  
"He said he'd stop by at lunch time. He'll have some news by then."  
"Well, then I'll call you here around that time. If you go out, please leave a message with Mother."  
Tong-su's Mom stepped back into Hyon-gu's room for a moment, then emerged to bustle off with the women. She chided them for coming to the hospital when they should have been out making a living. One woman with a towel wrapped around her hair glanced into Hyon-gu's room. "Mr. Pak'd better recover soon and return to the village," she murmured. The woman then turned to leave, wiping her eyes with the back of a rough hand. The five women were obviously mothers with children at the daycare center. Their faces were furrowed and tanned by the sun. They wore baggy pants and dusty workshirts like the woman from Sangju, so I assumed they too worked as day-laborers on construction sites.  
I sat down on a chair in the corridor and smoked. As I wiped the sweat clinging to the back of my neck with my handkerchief, my sister approached, folding her parasol. Suk-yong met her future husband, Mr. Kim, a country boy attending pharmacy college in Taegu, when she was in junior college. Thanks perhaps to her pleasant looks and generous disposition, the two married immediately after graduation. They had three children and ran a pharmacy in a suburban apartment complex. Mother spent two or three months a year at my house in Seoul and the rest of the time at Suk-yong's in Taegu. Each day she climbed the hill to Hyon-gu's place with bundles of food as if she were out hiking for exercise, despite her advanced age. After two weeks or so at my house in Seoul, Mother invariably complained that apartment life was like living in a chicken coop. Like prison, she said. And then without fail, Suk-yong would call long-distance, saying it was about time for me to send Mother back to Taegu. Since my sister often had to look after the pharmacy, which was located just a block from their house, she needed Mother to feed the kids after school and take care of things around the house. And, of course, after nearly 30 years working in the market in Taegu, the hard-working "North Korean lady" had grown fond of the city, though it was not her hometown. She still had many friends at Kyo-dong Market, the old Yankee market, and Hyon-gu's precarious existence always weighed heavily on her mind. So she would hurry to leave Seoul, lamenting her predicament, of course, and insisting a widowed mother should live with her eldest son. Still, when I dropped her off at the bus terminal on my way to work, her diminutive frame fairly bounced as she headed toward the gate. Since Hyon-gu's most recent detention, however, she had settled in Taegu for good. She played an important role in caring for Hyon-gu when he was in prison.  
"Brother, my husband looked up a doctor he knows here. He said Hyon-gu's condition didn't look good but he avoided giving any detailed answers." Suk-yong snapped her parasol closed. There were no shadows in her voice, which was as bright as her personality.  
"Considering they've finally authorized a transfer for medical evaluation, we have to assume his condition is pretty bad. If you get branded for a political crime, your life isn't worth a plug nickel these days."  
"You know about liver disease, don't you? Once you have cirrhosis of the liver, there's nothing Western medicine can do for you. Just a good diet and plenty of rest... Stomach and kidney functions can deteriorate too, so it's hard to digest anything and urination is difficult..."  
As the wife of a pharmacist, she sold a lot of liver medicine, but her knowledge of liver disease was similar to my own. When I didn't respond, Suk-yong asked if Mother was inside and turned to enter Hyon-gu's room. I called her back.  
"Thanks for helping out last time."  
I pulled a folded envelope from my wallet.  
"What are you talking about?"  
"Hyon-gu's lawyer 's fees."  
"What? You're trying to pay me back for that? It's not like we're strangers."  
Suk-yong pushed my hand away with a stern look. For an instant, my chest tightened at the thought of the unique bond of sibling love we shared.  
I had already left for the Soviet Union when Hyon-gu was released on bail. I had left 900,000 won for my wife to use for household expenses but she was not able to come up with the one million won in cash needed to pay the lawyer from her own bank account. While she waited for Miss Ch'oe in the Accounts Department at work to transfer some funds, it seems my sister in Taegu had paid the bill. Suk-yong even called my wife to tell her not to worry about the money since she knew how difficult it was for publishing companies these days. But it was not Suk-yong's responsibility, though. That's why I had brought a check with me.  
Suk-yong insisted that she would not take the money. She said she had never distinguished between her in-laws and her own family and would readily do the same for her in-laws if necessary. After squabbling for a moment, I stuffed the envelope into the linen handbag hooked on her arm and stepped into Hyon-gu's room.  
Ham Kun-jo came a little after noon, dressed in his street clothes. He didn't mention the problem I was wondering about and instead led me off explaining how he knew a good restaurant to celebrate our reunion. Mother said she would eat in the room with Suk-yong because the rice and mung bean porridge that Tong-su's Mom had brought would go bad if they were not eaten soon. It was humid in the building but when we stepped out into the blazing sun, perspiration gushed from every pore. The sun scorched down on the top of my head. The dog days of summer were over but it was a blazing hot Taegu day.  
"You eat dog meat, don't you?" Kun-jo asked as he started his car. When I replied yes, he steered the car along a suburban highway in the direction of Kyongsan. High-rise apartment complexes stretched all the way to the edge of the city. It may have been simply because of the midday heat, but the traffic seemed light, unlike Seoul where there was little difference between inner city congestion and traffic in the suburbs. Kun-jo boasted of the benefits of dog meat for middle-aged men, how it was not a tonic to be reserved for the summer months. He criticized the elitism of Westerners who treated Koreans like barbarians just because they ate dog meat and argued that every people's basic right to enjoy their distinct national customs and tastes should be respected. Kun-jo said he was one of the officers in the "Bow-wow Club," a group of doctors in their forties who went out for dog meat on a regular basis.  
There were many large restaurants specializing in dog and goat stew in the wooded foothills between Taegu and Kyongsan. Private cars packed the parking lots, and dog meat connoisseurs in their forties worked their chopsticks zealously around tables indoors and out, their neckties loosened and sweat pouring. We found a table on the corner of an outdoor platform covered by a reed canopy, and in a knowledgeable tone Kun-jo ordered three portions of "neck meat" stew.  
"What did the people in Internal Medicine say?" I asked as the vegetables and meat simmered in the pan on our table.  
"It's hard to tell. They say he has serious sclerosis of the liver, but they're all very hush-hush about it. It isn't a simple assault case, you know, and on top of that, the appeal is pending..." Kun-jo paused. "I grilled one of the younger doctors. Everyone knows what sclerosis of the liver means. I said they'd have to send him off for long-term treatment since they could hardly imprison him again. And then this young guy says it looks like they'll recommend surgery if the family consents."  
"And..."I asked breathlessly.  
"We have to assume it's cancer. He said something about the tumor being four centimeters across already..."  
Hyon-gu had cancer? I knew modern medical science had no cure for liver cancer and it was rare for patients to live for more than a year after being diagnosed. They were usually discharged from the hospital and cared for at home, and it was all over in three or four months. Often they died from complications during surgery or immediately thereafter. Whenever I got a phone call about the death of a friend my age, it was usually a car accident or liver disease. At wakes, I had heard many stories about the progression from hepatitis to death. To listen to these clinical descriptions you would think liver disease was the dagger of a vicious criminal sneaking up in the dead of night, not an ailment generally affecting Korean men in their late forties. The liver does not register pain so the disease lies hidden without noticeable symptoms until one day, out of the blue, you're told you have chronic sclerosis of the liver. For a man in the prime of life, completely unprepared for death, it was tantamount to a death sentence. I had come to see liver disease as an elite troop of warriors who destroyed not only the liver but all the surrounding organs in a single swoop. Its deadly poison didn't discriminate. It made a home for itself in the liver, then proliferated until, at the decisive moment, it exploded to spread throughout the body and shut it down.  
"And if they perform surgery?"  
Kun-jo answered casually as he wiped his face with a moist washcloth.  
"There's a chance. The success rate is a lot better when the cancer is discovered in the early stages, of course, but I've heard of people holding out for three or four years after surgery. Some go on to live perfectly normal lives. You know, the liver is the biggest organ in the human body. It weighs three pounds and can regenerate on its own. A patient can lead a normal life even if his liver only functions at one-third its full capacity."  
"So does Hyon-gu have to have surgery?"  
"If he doesn't go under the knife, dietary therapy and rest are the only alternatives."  
"Do you mean his condition is serious enough to require surgery?" I stammered, fully aware my questions were useless. I watched myself struggle to hold onto hope like a man clinging desperately to a flimsy tree branch. All I could do was knead my sweaty palms together.  
"It looks to me like they can't come to a final decision because your brother's case is under appeal. Liver disease can be cured completely if it's discovered early, but it was already too late by the time they brought him to the hospital. Still, you can't necessarily blame that on the prison authorities. People often come in for a routine check-up and discover they have liver disease. A perfectly healthy person might feel a little tired from overwork so he comes into the hospital for a check-up and finds out he has cirrhosis of the liver. Then in three or four months, maybe a year at the longest, he's gone..."  
I didn't hear what Kun-jo was saying. Energy drained from my mind and body like wax from a burning candle, and everything around me receded in a blur. The image of the other diners savoring the scalding stew in the belief that heat beats heat, as if the secret to long life lies simply in eating such tonics, the sound of their chatter, none of it registered with my senses. All I could see was Hyon- gu, his haggard face, so thin and honest, smiling self-consciously as he lay in bed. For him, death was someone else's problem. But in his face I recalled a scene from his childhood that I realized was not completely unrelated to his present condition.  
During the winter of 1950-51, when the four of us trudged southward from Tongduch'on through Seoul to Ch'onan and Osan, malnutrition had reduced Suk-yong and I to skin and bones. Hardly a scrap of food ever made it to Mother's mouth. She had survived Hyon-gu's birth without so much as a midwife's help, but now her milk had dried up and her breasts were little more than empty pouches. The newborn Hyon-gu sucked until her mulberry-like nipples were red with blood blisters, but there was no milk to be had. While my sister and I staved off hunger by gathering withered cabbage leaves from the frozen fields and cooking them over a fire built of dead branches, Mother carried Hyon-gu from family to family among the refugees fleeing south, this time from the Chinese communist offensive, begging for something to feed her baby. They never gave her mother's milk; it was always gruel, and when she couldn't get that, Mother kept Hyon-gu alive on the dried dregs of another family's gruel pot. He had a relentless will to live. Sometimes as we walked twenty or thirty miles at a stretch, Mother would stop and ask me to check inside the blanket because she couldn't feel his warmth against her back. There he would be, a single flame clinging precariously to life. Hyon-gu made it all the way to Taegu, stuck to Mother's back like some kind of growth. We spent the winter in a refugee camp, then moved to the steep slopes of Shinam-dong where we built a straw shack. Soon after, Mother began hawking foreign cigarettes, American soap and the like in the Yankee market. I returned to school at the tent school for refugee children and my sister began her education there. Everyday after school I had to stand in line for a bag of dried milk or corn flour at a relief center run by an American. Those bags of relief food kept Hyon-gu alive although there were days when I came home empty-handed despite a three- or four-hour wait. My brother's strange symptoms began when he was three. Mother had stopped peddling on foot by that time and took Hyon-gu with her to the Yankee market where she spread a tarpaulin on the ground and sold her wares. Mother couldn't hold him by the hand all day so when she was selling something or turned her attention elsewhere, Hyon-gu often disappeared. In the blink of an eye, he waddled off to the neighborhood trash can. During the summer, he stuffed himself with every watermelon and musk melon rind he could find. It was as if he were trying to make up for the hunger of his infancy. Once he nearly choked on a peach pit as he sucked off the last starchy dregs of fruit. I guess we shouldn't have been surprised when his belly swelled up taut like a tadpole's, mottled with sinewy blue tendons. It was only then that Mother took him to the public health hospital. There was nothing they could do except give him a few santonin tablets and recommend a liquid diet and regular meals. As soon as Hyon-gu took the santonin, a flood of worms came out in the form of diarrhea. Mother said when she wiped him, the paper was black with thread worms. His belly began to shrink gradually after that. And the color returned to his yellowed face. But as I read somewhere, one's health as an infant lasts into one's eighties. Hyon-gu was clearly destined to poor health as a result of the hunger he experienced in his infancy.  
Kun-jo ordered a bottle of <soju> flavored with shredded cucumbers. He said you had to rinse your pallet with a strong drink when eating dog meat stew, although he wasn't in favor of drinking at midday. Kun-jo loosened his tie and dug into the stew, picking out pieces of meat with his chopsticks and plunging them in a dish of sauce. "You know, protein is the best thing for liver disease. Dog meat is pure unsaturated protein. The problem is that once you have cirrhosis and the liver begins to harden, you can't digest meat," Kun-jo explained as he used his teeth and tongue to suck the soft meat from a bone he had plucked from the pot.  
I had missed breakfast but a bitter taste filled my mouth and the food didn't appeal to me. I felt guilty about Hyon-gu and his liver problems as I sat listening to someone tell me how to preserve my own presumably normal liver with high-protein foods. I too am not in the habit of drinking during the day but I downed three glasses of <soju> with only a few bites of meat and soup on the side.  
When I returned to Hyon-gu's ward, eight young people were lined up two abreast in the scorching sun by the entrance. I couldn't tell if they were students or factory workers but there was a woman among them. One of the young men led the others in a musical shout. Their clenched fists pierced the air with each slogan.  
"Save Pak Hyon-gu!"  
"Save him, save him!"  
"Free Pak Hyon-gu immediately!"  
"Free him, free him!"  
"Provide for displaced homeless people!"  
"Help the homeless! Help the homeless!"  
I paused, perspiring, to watch with the other spectators. Was this bravery or arrogance? Seeing Hyon-gu's youthful compatriots I was suddenly overcome by a strange feeling. Was I that brave during the April 19 Revolution?  
When I tried to enter the corridor, I was stopped by three riot police. An officer carrying a walkie-talkie asked to see my identification. I showed him my resident's registration card and told him I was Pak Hyon-gu's brother. He let me through, then made a call on his walkie-talkie. Two more riot police stood guard in front of Hyon-gu's room.  
Inside, the ceiling fan rotated noisily. The guard named Hong, menacing compared to young Ch'oe who looked like a harmless noncom, was staring out the open window with a bored expression on his face. He turned to glare at me as I entered the room. An overweight fellow with short hair, dressed in navy blue pants and a white shirt open at the collar sat in a chair with his legs crossed, reading a newspaper.  
"Who are you?" he asked in the gruff tone of an investigator.  
"I'm Hyon-gu's older brother."  
He returned to his newspaper without a word.  
Mother and Suk-yong were huddled at Hyon-gu's bedside with a balding man in a worn short-sleeved summer jacket. The man was praying in a quiet voice.  
"As the Lord said, we are the children of God and He will protect us. He will cleanse us and give us eternal life where there is no grief or lamenting. Lord, cleanse our brothers of this pain and suffering. Rid us of evil and help the good and powerless be born anew just as you made all creation new again."  
"Amen," Mother prayed. Her bible was open in her hands.  
The man in the frayed jacket with a few wisps of scraggly hair swept across his broad crown was the Reverend Won Hyong-sop. He was the one who got Hyon-gu involved in the slum church and had presided over his wedding. Reverend Won had since opened a church in the shanty town in Nogok-dong. The first time I met him he was sitting next to Hyon- gu at the defendant's table in court. The preacher and three members of the Christian Students' Federation were sentenced to a two-year suspended sentence for possession of seditious materials. At the time, I was known as a capable, if somewhat impudent, reporter. I had an opportunity to speak with Reverend Won in a coffee shop after the trial. My wife and I never miss church on Sunday, but I can't say I am a true believer. And back then I was hardly a dedicated churchgoer. I asked him, "Do you believe in the resurrection of Christ?" I was always at a loss for words when someone asked me a presumptuous question like that, but Reverend Won answered with ease.  
"If I didn't believe in Christ's resurrection, how could I devote my life to this profession? Jesus Christ rose from his tomb four days after he died on the cross. His disciples saw him, but Thomas said he wouldn't believe it until he had seen Jesus with his own eyes and touched the wounds in Jesus' hands. People today are like Thomas. They place hardheaded reason and science above belief. In the end, Jesus appeared before Thomas and showed him his blood-drenched hands. I don't live in Thomas' time, of course, so I can't see Jesus' wounds with my own eyes, but..."  
It was what he said next that most astounded me.  
"But in the cries of the poor, in their tears and pain, I see his wounds. Jesus Christ was resurrected amidst the anguished here on earth. He was reborn in the image of the poor to show us, just as he showed Thomas, that he died for our sins. He's asking what we can do for him..."  
Their prayer finished, the four of them looked up and saw me. As always, Reverend Won greeted me with his unique handshake, embracing my hand instead of shaking it. As usual, Reverend Won was dressed liked a laborer or coolie. That day he was wearing a pair of wrinkled pants and cheap tennis shoes.  
"Dr. Min asked to see the patient's family. I told him we'd go to his office together when you came back. What did your friend say?" Mother blinked the tears from her wrinkled eyes.  
"He's not sure either... I'll explain later."  
I turned to Hyon-gu. They said they had drained fluid from his abdomen, but under the sheet his belly still bulged above his gaunt frame. He smiled when our eyes met. Beads of perspiration stood on his face and neck, despite the fan turning overhead. I wiped his forehead and neck with a moist towel I found on the bedside table.  
"How do you feel?"  
"The nosebleeds I had before I came to the hospital have stopped, but my back still hurts."  
"Do you want me to rub it for you?"  
"Mom already did."  
The shouting outside grew louder. It drowned out the buzzing of the cicadas. The overweight fellow sputtered a string of obscenities and rushed out the door.  
"I wish I could go out and send those kids home, but they say I can't leave the room without permission," Hyon-gu said.  
"There was a big commotion a little while ago," explained the Reverend. "Two students and a factory worker knocked on the door asking to see Hyon-gu. That guard refused and locked the door from the inside. Then he phoned someone and a bunch of riot police showed up. The students called their guys together and..."  
"All this trouble because of me. I have to get better soon. And if they say there's no hope, I'll just have to accept it. I realize that now. I've worked hard. I have no regrets. I'd do the same thing all over again if I were born in Korea and nothing had changed. I wouldn't want to do anything differently."  
It sounded like he was uttering his last words. My chest ached. I suddenly realized that he had lived his entire life with a special prison cell readied in his heart. A life without regrets was a beautiful thing, but in Hyon-gu's case, frustration overshadowed beauty.  
"Oh, stop talking like that," Mother said. "You're going to outlast me by 29 years. You see, you were born with a long lifeline. The older kids probably don't remember since they were so young at the time, but when Hyon-gu was baptized, Reverend Yi at the Cheil Church said the Lord had taken your father to heaven and given us this new life in his place. He said Hyon-gu would live to do his father's work here on earth, just like one of the children of Abraham. I remember what he said word for word. Years later I went to visit Reverend Yi at his home in Yonch'on. He was over eighty at the time and quite ill. I repeated what he said at Hyon-gu's baptism and he laughed at my remarkable memory."  
I had heard the story of Hyon-gu's baptism many times. Mother believed that story so completely it seemed to have an almost hypnotic power over her, and as she repeated it now, her voice was charged with a certain conviction. Her belief that no one could take Hyon-gu from her was like a religion, unshakable in its absolutism. Her tenacity and strength had been unrivaled, when her son was in prison or wanted by the police and when she was at Democratic Family Support Group meetings. And in the end, her son had always been returned to her.  
"Well, Mother, let's go see Dr. Min."  
No sooner had I spoken than Hyon-gu shifted as if he wanted to get out of bed.  
"Brother, I need to piss."  
I helped Hyon-gu up and carried his i.v. bottle as I supported him as he shuffled to the bathroom connected to his room. He opened the fly of his hospital pajamas with his free hand and pulled out his withered penis. "I feel the urge but it never comes," he muttered, then he stood for a moment, legs trembling. His swollen belly heaved as he gasped for breath. It was several minutes before a few drops of cloudy urine, or pus perhaps, fell into the toilet. They must have been using a diuretic. Why didn't it help his kidney function? My slim hopes for a surgical cure crumbled. While I lacked Mother's unshakable faith, I couldn't believe Hyon-gu would bid farewell to life like this. He had always held body and soul together despite everything he had been through. And he had so much to offer the world compared to other people.  
After the Seoul Olympics, he had left the labor movement to focus his energy on the poor peoples' movement.  
"Industrial workers are lucky. At least they can form unions. Most poor people are day laborers with no regular income. How can they form a union? And if you look at the composition of poor households, you'll find that practically every family has a couple of handicapped or elderly members. The mentally and physically handicapped are concentrated among the poor, so I've decided to dedicate my life to them from now on."  
As Hyon-gu said, there was no question God would recognize the value of his "Love the Poor Movement." Hyon-gu had found his calling.  
After helping him back to bed, I left Hyon-gu in the care of Suk-yong and Reverend Won and went to see Dr. Min with Mother.  
As we emerged from the long corridor, we encountered two elderly men arguing with the riot police at the entrance to the ward. The dispute was over whether the men would enter or not. One of the old men wore a straw hat and mustache. He recognized Mother and said, "Sister Mun, how are you?" Mother answered him by name and bowed. The two men appeared to be residents of the Pisan-dong slum like everyone Hyon-gu knew.  
"They say Mr. Pak can't have any visitors. I can understand why they won't let the young people in, but how come they're preventing us old folks from paying our respects? Is his condition really that serious?"  
"If these people say no visitors, what can I do? But that talk about Hyon-gu being in critical condition is a lie. He's not in critical condition," Mother replied emphatically.  
"Let's go, Mother."  
I pulled Mother along by the arm. The shouting had stopped, and when we stepped outside, the students were seated in the scorching sun, their clothes drenched in perspiration. It was a silent protest I guess, but the sight of them sitting there, soaked in sweat, without a sound, reminded me of Buddhist monks meditating.  
"Some of you look like students," the fat investigator cautioned. "If you're really intellectuals, don't you think you should give the other patients a little consideration? What do you think this is, a public market? Besides, Hyon-gu's condition is extremely serious. They're not allowing any visitors except the immediate family. How's he going to get any rest with all your shouting? If there's any more yelling, we're going to take every last one of you down to the station! Understand?" The investigator turned on his heel and walked into the ward.  
It was on our way to the main building that I was finally able to tell Mother what Kun-jo had said. Since her religious belief and faith in Hyon-gu had such a firm hold over her, it seemed best to tell her the truth now in order to ease the shock she might experience later. When I said they had found a tumor in addition to the sclerosis, Mother let out a gasp, "Oh my God." Then she clamped her bruised lips together and said no more. Her expression was calm, as if she were thinking carefully, so I couldn't say anything else. She walked briskly but the toes of her rubber shoes trembled with each step.  
I asked for Dr. Min at the reception desk in the Internal Medicine Department. The nurse told us to go to Internal Medicine III. The doctor was out, they said, but he was somewhere in the hospital, so we waited in his private office on the other side of the examining room. The air conditioner was on and the small room was cool. It was twenty minutes before Dr. Min showed up. He gave a detailed explanation of the difficulties in curing liver disease, whether to console us or prepare us for the hardships ahead. He didn't refer to Hyon-gu specifically, but the frequency with which he used the term "fatal" was ominous. Mother brought up the subject of cancer, but Dr. Min circumvented the question tactfully, saying they had discovered a tumor the size of a bean on one of the hardened walls of Hyon-gu's liver.  
"Our preliminary consensus is that surgery should be performed in conjunction with radiation therapy. Of course, this approach offers a fifty-fifty chance of recovery. If the patient or family is opposed to surgery, we'll have to rely on insulin and dietary therapy, but..."  
"Does radiation therapy mean the cancer has spread to other organs?" I broke in.  
"If his condition were that serious, we would recommend discharge from the hospital rather than surgery."  
"Has the hospital informed the prosecution of its plan?"  
"We simply advised them that this was the course of action we would take in view of the test results."  
 The doctor was business-like, yet he seemed relaxed and his voice was calm. I looked at Mother. She was staring at the doctor. A few strands of white hair fluttered against her wrinkled brow in the breeze of the air conditioner.  
"There won't be any surgery. You will not put a knife to Hyon-gu's body. I'd rather cure him by the laying-on of hands than let you put a knife to him. God is on our side no matter what anyone says!" Mother leapt from her chair. Her tiny frame seemed to totter and I reached out to steady her.  
"Dr. Min, we'd better contact the lawyer first. Is Hyon-gu's condition really so serious that it requires immediate surgery? If that's the case, it's their fault for failing to transfer him for medical evaluation sooner," I blurted as I stepped out into the examining room, my arm wrapped around Mother's waist. There was no response from inside the doctor's office. On purpose, perhaps, the first step in helping the next-of-kin deal with their grief.  
As we walked back to Hyon-gu's ward, Mother asked what I thought about taking Hyon-gu to a religious retreat center in the mountains. She said she had heard of a minister who had cured terminal cancer patients by the laying-on of hands. That evening a woman from church familiar with the treatment of liver disease was bringing a bottle of worm soup to the hospital. Mother was certain that, with the help of God, we could cure Hyon-gu by taking him to the mountains and feeding him natural remedies. She fully understood the seriousness of liver disease, but her voice was surprisingly clear and her step confident. I knew her lack of tears meant she hadn't given up hope, and this was soon confirmed.  
"You must be busy after your trip. Don't waste time hanging around here. Go back to Seoul and take care of your own business. I'll call you if anything urgent happens. It only takes four hours to get here from Seoul, right? Tong-su's Mom and I took care of Hyon-gu when he was in prison. We got them to move him to a hospital so they can't stop us from taking him home or to a religious retreat center. I'll go see the lawyer, Mr. Chu. He's a deacon at our church and he always listens to what I say."  
Mother worried about me too. I told her I would meet the lawyer, but I knew he couldn't tell us what to do about the surgery. I wasn't sure what Tong-su's Mom, the one closest to Hyon-gu, thought, but I myself was inclined against surgery. It was a last resort. Still, I couldn't trust my own common sense, so I decided to return to Seoul on the night train and seek the advice of a classmate specializing in internal medicine there.  
I went to the lawyer's office near the Taegu Regional Court. Chu yong-jun was a human rights lawyer around Hyon-gu's age who handled a lot of political offenses. I explained the results of Hyon-gu's tests and asked what he thought about moving Hyon-gu to Seoul National University Hospital, which was known for its success in liver treatment. I thought Hyon- gu could be tested there one more time and then we could decide about surgery.  
"The way I see it, they're grasping at straws with this surgery thing," he said. "And the prosecution has the audacity to think they can stall for time if the patient's family refuses to allow surgery. I'll submit a request for a change in the place of detention--to Seoul National University Hospital and to his residence in Pisan-dong. I don't know about the hospital but I'm sure the prosecution won't allow him to return to Pisan-dong. The slum community and the factories in that area are where Hyon- gu's been most active. They have nothing to gain by sending him back there. The more his problems are publicized, the more trouble they're going to have." Chu promised to submit the request the following morning.  
I returned to the hospital. The sun was already dropping toward the horizon, the end of a long summer day. The students were gone, but the riot police remained in front of the ward and at Hyon-gu's room, ready, it seemed, to work round-the-clock from now on, just in case something else happened.  
The crew-cut young Ch'oe had returned to stand guard inside Hyon-gu's room, but the overweight investigator was gone. Suk-yong and Reverend Won had returned home, and my sister-in-law had brought Tong-su to see his father. Tong-su's Mom stood on the far side of the bed, pummeling Hyon-gu's lower back with her fists as he lay on his side. Tong-su was perched on the edge of the bed, and father and son were engaged in an affectionate conversation. Tong-su's Mom smiled as she listened.  
"When I grow up, I'm going to be a doctor so I can make Daddy better," four-year-old Tong-su explained.  
"That's good but there are a lot of sick people in our neighborhood. You have to make them better too."  
"Right, right! Yes, I'm going to be a doctor! Daddy, if you're too sick to walk, can we take a taxi home? Not a bus. You see, I've never ridden in a taxi. I'll show you the picture I drew at the daycare center."  
Mother looked up from her Bible and peered at Tong-su over the top of her reading glasses. "Little rascal," she murmured. There was no shadow of death in that room. How could Hyon-gu die, leaving behind that young wife and child? There I was, nearly fifty years-old, and I felt a lump of emotion filling my throat. It was only then that I remembered the gifts I had brought from the Soviet Union: knitted wool shawls for Mother, Suk-yong and my sister-in-law and two toy cars made of tin for Tong-su. I pressed the two cars, a fire engine and an ambulance, into Tong-su's hands.  
"Neat! I have to show these to the kids tomorrow. Thank you, Uncle Yun-gu."  
Tong-su strutted around the room waving the two cars over his head. Happiness filled his face.  
I went out into the corridor to smoke. Darkness spread across the courtyard outside. The orange sky glowed between the leaves rustling in the breeze. Patients in wheelchairs rolled leisurely around the spacious courtyard, enjoying the evening cool. But I heard whispering nearby. I leaned against the window frame and saw four elderly men seated in the shadows below. I recognized two of them as the old men Mother and I had met on our way to meet Dr. Min.  
"You remember when they were tearing down the shanties in our neighborhood? I've never seen Mr. Pak so angry. He's always been as gentle as a lamb, but he stood there blocking the door of om's place with his arms spread out. He asked for just one hour so he could help that old sick grandmother out of there. But did that ignorant bunch on the demolition team pay any attention? They said they had to execute their official duties. They didn't give a damn about what was happening to those people. They shoved Mr. Pak out of the way and started tearing down the shack with their hammers and crowbars. Then all of a sudden there was a scream from inside and the woman from Sangju came running out the side door with a baby in her arms. She screamed for them to wait a minute because her mother-in-law was still inside, but the demolition team acted like they didn't hear. And then a piece of roofing flew off and hit the Sangju woman's baby right in the forehead. The blood came pouring out. That's when Mr. Pak got angry. His eyes blazed like they were on fire. I thought, 'Uh-oh, now there's going to be trouble,' and sure enough, Mr. Pak ran up to one of the demolition workers and grabbed his crowbar and started swinging it all over the place. He was crying like a crazy person and flailing at them, screaming "You aren't human, are you?"  
"If I'd been there, I would have done the same thing. Those bloodless bastards."  
"Reverend Won was there too, and he said something really strange after Mr. Pak was arrested. How did he put it? Ah, right. He said it was like seeing the Lord Jesus overturn the chairs of the moneychangers and drive the peddlers from the temple of God."  
"We're losing a precious human being. Nearly twenty years in prison, in the labor movement and then the poor peoples' movement, and when did he ever get three square meals a day? My daughter told me he went on plenty of hunger strikes when he was in prison. No wonder his liver's withered away."  
"There are plenty of hungry people whose livers are just fine. Why does a young guy like him have such bad luck?"  
"People are saying they aren't going to sit still for it if something happens to him. The workers over at Songan Dye and the women working at Korea Light Electronics--they say they've started a fund-raising campaign to pay his hospital expenses."  
I listened to the old men for a while, then stubbed out my cigarette and returned to Hyon-gu's room. The lights had come on. I called Tong-su's Mom out into the corridor and told her what Dr. Min had said about surgery. She already knew Hyon-gu had cancer on top of the cirrhosis. As I had expected, she was opposed to immediate surgery. She said she'd wait a few days and see how he reacted to the hospital treatment, since we couldn't very well move a prisoner on bail without permission from the court.  
"I've been asking around," she said calmly. "We'll have to decide something by Sunday. That's three days from now. I've heard there's a new treatment for small tumors. They wrap the tumor in a thin plastic membrane, like cellophane, to prevent it from spreading. Will you look into that when you're up in Seoul? It would be a good idea to reserve a room at Seoul National University Hospital. I'll go to court tomorrow with the lawyer."  
Tong-su's Mom's face was grim. She bit down on her chapped lips. She seemed to have prepared herself for the worse. I couldn't help thinking how fortunate it was that she was handling this crisis so rationally.  
"Tong-su's Mom, is that you?" One of the old men stuck his head in the window at the sound of her voice. "If they won't let us see Mr. Pak, why don't you come out here? We have something to tell you."  
"Are you still here? I'll be right out," she said.  
I left East Taegu Station around midnight. I intended to return to Taegu in four days after arranging things at work so the business could run without me for a while.  
The following day was hectic as I rushed around taking care of company business and Hyon-gu's affairs. I called Hyon-gu's hospital room and Suk-yong's pharmacy to see how things were going in Taegu. They said Hyon-gu's symptoms were much the same although he couldn't urinate and his back pain had worsened. It was nearly midnight when I finally made it home and fell into bed without even bothering to wash. That was the first real sleep I'd had in over two weeks.  
It was the following afternoon around one-thirty that I received an urgent long-distance phone call from Suk-yong. I'd just returned from Seoul National University Hospital.  
"Brother, what should we do? Hyon-gu's in a coma. You have to come right away. This morning at dawn he complained about the pain, that he couldn't stand it. He slipped in and out of consciousness, but now..."  
I could hear Suk-yong's sobs clearly but somehow they rang like a distant echo in my ears. Suddenly all energy drained from my body. The inevitable had finally happened, but what was I supposed to do? I threw down the receiver and sat at my desk in a daze. Miss Ch'oe in accounting asked if it was bad news, but I could only sigh, my eyes closed for a moment.  
"Go over to the Housing Bank and withdraw everything in my account," I instructed. "Five-hundred thousand won in cash and the rest in checks."  
Then I called home. I told my wife about Hyon-gu and said I was going straight to Taegu. She said she would ask her mother in Ch'ongju to come up right away and watch the kids so she could go down to Taegu.  
"Don't take the car. You mustn't drive when you're upset like this. Understand?" She insisted and then hung up.  
I hadn't thought of that, but I guess women can be a lot more perceptive than men.  
I decided to take the train since Seoul Station was closer to my office than the Kangnam Express Bus Terminal. The fields and mountains rose hazily outside my window as the train passed out of Yongdungp'o. The green foliage soaked up the hot sun, flaunting its verdure. If only a dying man could be revived as easily with water and sweet sunshine, I thought. Hyon-gu's gaunt, yellowed face rose before me, his body pickled in sweat, oscillating between life and death like a child on a swing. Summer is always hell on the sick, but this steambath heat was surely rotting Hyon-gu's innards. It was just like when the electricity goes out, no, when the voltage is low and the inside of the refrigerator gets warm, and the contents, locked in the airtight space, rot. If I applied that metaphor to Hyon-gu's body, the cord was being pulled out and pushed back in again, and the contents of his body--his liver, of course, and his kidneys and intestines and lungs--were rotting. It was too horrible to think about. No, it would be better to recall Hyon-gu at another time, another place. That tiny flame clinging to Mother's back hadn't gone out that winter when our family made this same journey southward. What was the difference between his survival then and his death now 38 years later? Was it that he was leaving behind a son, a new generation? Or had God wanted to see what beautiful things he would do when he grew up? Was God saying "Come to me now that your work is finished?" I didn't understand divine providence, and besides, cold-hearted reality had nothing to do with the providence of gods. I went to the dining car and drank two bottles of beer for lunch.  
It was six-ten and the sun was just dipping behind the provincial capital building when the train pulled into East Taegu Station. I rushed to the university hospital by taxi. The front gate was closed tight, and two armored buses used to transport riot police were waiting next to it. Several policemen were guarding the side gate which stood slightly ajar. People were waiting in line to show their resident's registration cards and tell the riot police where they were going before entering. I took my place at the end of the line. Instinct told me this all had something to do with Hyon-gu. When it was my turn, I gave Hyon-gu's room number.  
"What is your relationship to the patient?" the policeman asked as he looked at my identification card.  
"I'm his older brother. I just arrived from Seoul."  
"Let him through," said a man standing in front of the guard's station. It was the overweight investigator I had seen in Hyon-gu's room two days earlier.  
I dashed through the gate. As I rounded the corner of the main building, a chorus of song splashed across my sweaty face. The sound of clapping kept time with the music.  
<Look at the pine trees in the wild  
There is no one to care for them.  
Whether it storms or snows  
All the whole world is green and fresh...>  
An extraordinary scene was unfolding in the courtyard in front of Hyon- gu's ward. A squad of riot police in full battle dress stood in a circle around a group of about fifty people--students, laborers and women from the slum village--who sat in rows clapping and singing. Two robust middle-aged men who looked like officers stood next to an armored jeep holding walkie-talkies. Tong-su's Mom was talking to them, gesturing vigorously with her hands, but they stood in silence, eyes riveted on the demonstrators. At the back of the crowd, I caught a glimpse of a banner held by two women wearing towels wrapped around their heads. The woman from Sangju was one of them.  
<Long live Pak Hyon-gu, Beacon of the poor!>  
It was no time to stand watching this confrontation. I nodded to Reverend Won who sat among the singing protesters, then turned to enter the building. I identified myself to the riot police at the front door and at Hyon-gu's room and hurried inside. Everyone in the room turned to look at me, but I didn't stop to say hello as I rushed to the bed where Mother stood.  
He didn't answer. It was as if he were mired in a deep sleep. His skin was already different. It was no longer that of a living person. A pea-green tinge had spread across his entire face. He wrinkled his brow intermittently and let out a deep sigh as if he were having a bad dream. His belly was noticeably more distended than three days before; it reminded me of a pregnant woman ready to give birth. The uremia was in his bloodstream and spreading throughout his body. I took my brother's thin hand. It was cool and moist. Something dripped from my face onto the bedsheet. Was it sweat or tears? I struggled to hold back the sobs.  
"I guess there isn't a thread of hope. They say it will all be over tonight, that no one can save him now. I can't believe I have to accept what the doctor said," Mother sobbed as she wiped Hyon-gu's face with a moist towel. "The Lord took your father and I guess He needs to take Hyon-gu now. And this old mother is left behind. I know I have to accept the Lord's will... but why does it have to be like this?"  
As she watched Hyon-gu lying in a coma, Mother no longer insisted he was alive within her. She pulled the bedsheet down to his waist and undid the buttons on his pajamas. Perspiration hung like drops of dew on his bony ribs. His chest was dark yellow, the color of clay. She wiped the perspiration methodically with a towel.  
"Is he finally going to meet the father he's never seen? The father he always longed for. I wonder what your father looks like now. Do you think he looks the same as he did when he died? He was only thirty-three."  
The ceiling fan rotated noisily but not a single strand of Hyon-gu's sweat-drenched hair moved in its breeze. Perspiration flooded from every pore as if his body were disgorging all its moisture. His shallow breathing faltered, then quickened again with an explosive snort of his nose. It seemed he might suddenly open his eyes and sit up with that shy smile on his lips. But then his breathing slowed once more. A tear gathered in the corner of his eye and trickled down the side of his face.  
"When did he go into a coma?" I asked Mother.  
"Several hours ago. He hasn't come out of it since. They refused to release him so now we can't even try laying on hands at the religious retreat center. I pleaded with them. I would have carried him on my own back, barefoot, all the way to the retreat center on Kumho Mountain just like I did when we fled from the war, but... Oh, Lord, look at him. Don't you see he's trying to take on all the worries and hardships of the poor people of this world? Don't you see him crying?"  
I stepped back from Hyon-gu's bed. Only then did I look around the room to see Suk-yong sobbing, a handkerchief to her eyes, as she sat with Tong-su on her lap. Tong-su glanced at me sideways with frightened, bloodshot eyes, the toy cars clutched in either hand. The older guard, Hong, and the middle-aged investigator-type watched my movements in silence.  
 Outside, shouts were flying.  
"Free the prisoner of conscience, Pak Hyon-gu!"  
"Free him now, free him now!"  
"Send the prisoner of conscience Pak Hyon-gu back to us!"  
"Send him back, send him back!"  
As I stood there dazed, the guard Hong looked out the window, shaking an angry finger and muttering.  
"Look what those good-for-nothing bastards are up to now. They're coming over the wall."  
I turned to the open window and saw several young men, either university students or workers, climbing over the vine-covered courtyard wall. The investigator rushed out of the room.  
Outside it was noisy with shouts and the buzzing of cicadas, but inside I felt like I was suffocating from the oppressive heat and ponderous silence. I couldn't even look toward the bed where Mother leaned over Hyon-gu murmuring something over and over again. I escaped into the corridor, lit a cigarette and stared blearily out into the courtyard.  
"If you don't disperse by seven-thirty, we're going to take you all down to the police station. You have twenty minutes to disperse!"  
One of the middle-aged police officers by the jeep was using an electric megaphone to address the crowd. The protesters responded with a chorus of boos and resumed their singing. This time they were accompanied not only by clapping but by drums as well.  
Tong-su's Mom walked briskly out from behind the building where the riot police had formed a barricade. Three young men followed her. She entered the ward, leaving the young men outside. The shadows were already long and the corridor dark.  
"They say he can't set foot out of here before he dies," Tong-su's Mom said as she stopped in front of me. "Not that I expected them to. The people from the village wanted to take him home for a people's funeral, but it's impossible. It's as if the authorities expect some kind of riot if they grant our simple request. Who knows? Maybe they'll never give us the body. Maybe they'll just cremate him."  
It was clear she had already accepted the hopelessness of Hyon-gu's condition.  
"Oh, would they really do that? I'll discuss the burial arrangements with Suk-yong's husband."  
With that remark, I finally accepted the inevitability of Hyon-gu's death and felt a deep sadness as I mechanically ticked off the things to be done before the funeral.  
Tong-su's Mom paused for a moment, deep in thought, then looked up and glanced around us.  
"Actually," she whispered with a determined expression on her face. "We're going to try to take Tong-su's Dad home to die, no matter what they say. We already decided this afternoon."  
I stared at her blankly, unable to comprehend the meaning of her words. She turned and hurried into Hyon-gu's room.  
Moments later, the crowd of protesters outside swelled to sixty or more, and a new chorus of slogans began.  
"Release Pak Hyon-gu before he dies!"  
"Release him now! Release him now!"  
"Permit Pak Hyon-gu to go home for a people's funeral!"  
"Permit him to go home! Permit him to go home!"  
One of the young men who had been with Tong-su's Mom a few moments earlier was leading the shouts. His slogans were emphatic and had the ring of a tacit understanding with Tong-su's Mom. Suddenly I grasped what she had meant. The young man's shouts must have excited the crowd because the protesters rose to their feet, thrusting their fists in the air with each slogan. "Is he really going to die?" "How can this be?" "Is it really that serious?" Whispers filtered through the crowd. The protesters' confusion was plain.  
The shouts quickened.  
"The authorities must take responsibility for Pak Hyon-gu's death!"  
"Take responsibility! Take responsibility!"  
The young people in the front row surged forward, their arms locked around each other's shoulders. Soon the whole group was clasped together and moving forward like a great wave, ready to pierce the thick wall of riot police. The police held firm, however, their shields braced before them.  
"If you do not disperse, we're going to take you all in!"  
A molotov cocktail flew in the direction of the jeep where the officer was shouting breathlessly over his megaphone. Pong! it exploded. A triumphant cheer rose from the crowd. They pressed forward, determined to break through the wall of police.  
"You mustn't use violence. Violence won't solve anything!"  
Although I couldn't see him, I knew that voice belonged to Reverend Won.  
Pong, pong! More molotov cocktails exploded. This is a hospital, not the streets! Reverend Won's voice was lost in the roar of the crowd. Pok, pok! Tear gas canisters began to explode as if to say there was a limit to the police's patience, hospital or not.  
"Take them in! All of them!" commanded the officer over the megaphone.  
The riot police pushed their way into the crowd and began arresting protesters. Screams and shouts pierced the air as pandemonium swept the courtyard. The riot police who had been guarding Hyon-gu's door clattered down the corridor and out into the courtyard.  
The stench of tear gas reached my nose. My eyes brimmed with tears and I began to sneeze. I dashed into Hyon-gu's room. It was then. A young man carrying a two-by-four jumped through the back window. No, not just one young man, but several, all wearing masks. They rushed to surround Hong, the guard, threatening him with their clubs. His face blanched with fear and his mouth dropped open as he raised his hands in surrender.  
"Mrs. Pak, let's go. Hurry! We have a van waiting at the back gate." A young man dressed in work clothes shouted to Tong-su's Mom.  
"Hey, boys! What is this? Where do you think you're going?" Mother stammered, shielding Hyon-gu with her outstretched arms as if she were about to sweep him up in her embrace.  
"Mother, I want to let Tong-su's Dad die in our room in Pisan-dong. He's not a criminal. I can't let him die here, locked up under guard!" Tong-su's Mom cried as she grabbed the foot of the bed. Her eyes glimmered with tears as she looked down at Hyon-gu breathing feebly.  
"You're right. You're right. Come on, Tong-su. We'll lead the way."  
Her daughter-in-law's words seemed to have brought Mother to her senses. Mother grabbed Tong-su from Suk-yong and boosted him onto her back.  
"Grandma, is Daddy really going home?" Tong-su asked brightly.  
"Yes, he's going home. You're going to be the daddy from now on. You're going to do all the things Hyon-gu couldn't finish. You're Grandma's baby boy now," Mother cried out like a woman possessed.  
Mother flung the door open, taking the lead with Tong-su on her stooped back just as she had carried Hyon-gu that winter we escaped to the south.  
"Brother, should we be doing this?" Suk-yong asked with a bewildered expression on her face.  
"What else can we do? Come on, let's go." Overwhelmed myself, I pushed Suk-yong ahead of me.  
"We can't go out the front. Quick, the back way!" exclaimed Suk-yong with new conviction as she followed Mother.  
The corridor was dark and already clogged with tear gas. Outside, confusion raged as dense smoke filled the courtyard.  
The young men pulled the bed along by the sides and pushed from the rear. I couldn't see Hyon-gu's face in the twilight of the corridor. I was anxious. And then suddenly something surged through my brain like an electric current. It was the realization that Hyon-gu was beginning to build a prison cell for himself inside each of our hearts. I finally understood that I couldn't let Hyon-gu die in captivity. I knew the charges against him might remain unsettled forever, but I understood now that, like the symbolism of the incident with the demolition team so clearly revealed, it was my responsibility to carry him to freedom while he was still alive, even if I couldn't take him all the way back to his room in Pisan-dong. I grasped hold of the bed alongside Tong-su's Mom. The bed raced down the smoky corridor. Suk-yong and Mother scurried ahead toward the rear door, my sister's arm encircling Tong-su on Mother's back. It was at that moment that the young men waiting there flung open the door. The closed passage was open and filled with light like an exit to freedom. We pressed ahead pushing the bed through the tear-gas like it were cannon smoke, just as we three children had made our way south that winter with Mother. It was only then that I finally felt a rekindling of the overwhelming excitement we students shared as we marched shoulder to shoulder toward Police Headquarters that April 19th so many years before.  

Translated by Julie Pickering