CONTENTS


 
Father and Son  

HAN SEUNG-WON  
 

An Abandoned Temple in Winter  
 

1 
 
The snow was ankle-deep and the narrow path leading to Temple Hollow was slippery. The snow diluted the darkness, but Chu-ch'ol still stumbled and fell, sometimes tumbling off the path. Anxious and afraid, he felt as if he had left the secular world to enter a white snow world. Would he ever find a way back to the life he had lived before?  
The sky was dark and somber. The snow kept falling. Chu-ch'ol was white from head to toe, like a snowman. Why did Chu-on have to go to Temple Hollow tonight of all nights? He must be a police snitch. Why else would he brave that treacherous path in the middle of a snow storm? He was going to get Yun-gil. But why would anyone arrest his own relative? His father used to work for our family. He spent his childhood in the shadow of our roof. Would he really sell off a relative to make something of himself? Heartless scoundrel! He has no conscience. Wait till I get my hands on him.  
Chu-ch'ol slipped and fell forward. As he pulled himself up by the branch of a dwarfed pine, he tried to get his bearings, but he was lost. He had turned up the wrong valley. The snow had transformed the path into different world. As a child he had taken the path many times-grazing the ox, following his mother or grandmother to the temple. He had thought he could find it with his eyes closed. There were fox holes in the stony cliffs by Big Hollow on the way to Temple Hollow. Every summer Chu-ch'ol went there to chase foxes or start fires at the mouths of their holes. He was more familiar with Big Hollow than Temple Hollow, but now he did not know where he was. He had lost all sense of direction and stood blinking in the snow. Finally, after comparing the heights of the surrounding mountains, he set off toward the southwestern ridge.  
As he descended the slope on the other side, Chu-ch'ol slipped and tumbled into a snow-filled depression. He wasn't hurt, only a few scratches on his face and neck, but he was seized by the feeling that he was falling down, down from a towering cliff. He struggled furiously to escape the snow-filled hole. How embarrassing it all was! He despised his son. People say a newborn pup has no fear of the tiger. That was Yun-gil, all right. Chu-ch'ol owned a good-sized house and an orchard, albeit in his wife's name. Yun-gil belonged to "the haves," whether he liked it or not. But now he was trying to sell off his parents in the name of his own ideology. He pointed to them and attacked the "rotten nature of the bourgeoisie." He was ready to dedicate himself to the propertyless masses, if only to cleanse himself of his parents' crimes.  
Chu-ch'ol finally reached the entrance to Temple Hollow. He saw a light. The village had electricity now. There was a street lamp at the center of the village below the temple. A wave of foreboding swept over him. Was it the right village? Had he turned up the wrong valley? He looked around the snow-covered pine grove at the entrance of the village, searching for the spirit posts that once stood there. When he visited the temple as a child, he had always been greeted by a pair of huge stone spirit posts. Their noses were as big as a man's fist, their eyes like brass bells, their ears as long as cucumbers. One bore the inscription "Great General Under Heaven," the other "Female General Under the Earth." Where were they? Had he missed them in the snow? Had they been moved? Maybe this wasn't Temple Hollow at all.  
He looked up at the ridges surrounding the village; their outlines were clear in the diluted darkness. To the east was Sunrise Peak, piercing the sky like a hawk's beak; to the west, Moonrise Peak, its summit round as an octopus head. Temple Hollow, a small village of twenty households, stood on the slope of the ridge twisting to the southeast of the temple. The houses crouched under the weight of the snow, lights glowing in their windows. The temple never had been visible from the entrance of the village.  
The spirit posts must have been moved, he thought as he headed for the center of the village. To get to the temple, he had to pass through the village. The snow kept falling. The street lamp stood in front of the village hall, a few steps from the village spirit tree. The snowflakes fluttered gold and silver in the stream of light.  
Chu-ch'ol jerked to a halt as he stepped into the circle of light. There was a small field behind the village hall and spirit tree. Barbed wire stretched along the edge of the field, blocking the path to the temple. Silver balls of snow had formed on the barbs. The fence posts were jet black crosses. He couldn't tell if they had been painted black or scorched in a fire. Each fence post was a crucifix. They stood tall and proud, like telephone poles, their tops and northern edges outlined in cotton-white snow.  
A few paces past the village hall was a small store. A dim light shone through its glass door. Three men sat on stools next to the display window, drinking. They looked out as Chu-ch'ol passed. Conscious of their stares, he brushed the snow from his head and body.  
The path grew darker as it neared the temple. The street lamp and the light from the houses did not reach far. He walked on, groping through the diffuse darkness. The sound of televisions and radios flowed from the houses. The path wound to the right, steering away from a large forest of bare black branches that stretched eerily into the sky. It was a grove of persimmon trees. Another barbed wire fence protected it from intruders. Here too the fence posts were shaped like crosses. Three houses stood to the right of the path; beyond them was a field. Barbed wire separated the path from the field here too. He followed the black crosses another 100 meters to find a building towering before him. A single light burned above its iron gate. "Temple Hollow Church," a sign said. A cross rose above the belfry. Barbed wire wrapped around the southeastern edge of the churchyard.  
Chu-ch'ol headed in the direction of the temple. The persimmon grove, with its dark branches layered with snow, stood on the left, the church on the right. A brook, which flowed from the temple, flowed between the church and the path.  
A cement bridge led to the church across the brook, but Chu-ch'ol did not take it. Instead, he continued up the steep path along the edge of the persimmon grove. Suddenly a tall pole loomed before him like a huge black phantom. He cried out and took several steps backward. It was another cross strung with barbed wire. Why had they put it up in the middle of the path? How were you supposed to get to the temple? He examined the barbed wire. Six rows were strung at 20 centimeter intervals. There was no way to get around it, and yet he couldn't climb over it or stretch a hole wide enough to slip through. He paused and looked around. The village was surrounded by barbed wire. There was no way to get to the temple.  
"Lost in time." For some reason, the phrase popped into his head. When had he last come to the temple? He had left his hometown after the Korean War, more than thirty years ago. The temple had been burned down during the war. No one restored it, and the monks hadn't thought of returning. Since that time, the old Widow Chong had lived with her son Tal-gyun in the temple living quarters, the only building to escape the fire.  
In the intervening years, Temple Hollow, which used to work the temple land, had been transformed into a Christian village. Not only had the villagers been converted; they had blocked the path leading to the abandoned temple with barbed wire. Chu-ch'ol remembered the days when the villagers, young and old, used to clasp their hands together and bow piously whenever they met the monks. Now they seemed to have rejected the Buddha altogether. They must have removed the stone spirit posts as remnants of primitive idolatry. Chu-ch'ol recalled the pagodas in the temple courtyard. Were they safe? And what about the statue of the Maitreya Buddha on the hill behind the main hall? With no monks to look after them and the temple enclosed in barbed wire, they had probably been smashed to smithereens by now.  
Still, this was too much. How did Uncle Tal-gyun and his family get in and out? Did they have any contact with the villagers? A wall seemed to separate them. Chu-ch'ol turned back. He would ask directions at the village store.  
The men turned to look at him as he opened the glass door. They had been waiting for him to return. They looked up together, as if one of them had alerted the others. Then they averted their eyes, again as if by prior agreement.  
Chu-ch'ol sensed a barrier in their averted faces. All three men appeared to be somewhere between forty and fifty. If they were natives of the village, they should have recognized him, even if it had been thirty years. They would have attended the same elementary school, the only one on the island. Maybe they had started school late, after liberation from Japanese rule. That would put them a few grades behind him. Still, Chu-ch'ol had always been class president or weekly monitor. Of all people, they would remember him.  
"Excuse me, gentlemen" he began, immediately regretting that he had used the Seoul dialect. They would resent him for that. All three men studiously ignored him.  
"How'd I be gettin' to the temple?" he asked in the local vernacular. The men trained their eyes on the glasses in front of them, pretending not to hear. They were drinking soju. A few pieces of roasted squid and a half-empty package of shrimp-chips lay on the table.  
"How'd the temple folk be gettin' there?" he asked once more. "The road's closed."  
"How should we know? Go ask somebody else," one of them answered gruffly, without raising his head. He was a heavy-set man with stubbly sideburns.  
Chu-ch'ol felt as if he had been punched in the stomach. The men began chewing noisily, as if on the large man's cue. They gnawed eagerly on the squid legs, munched loudly on the shrimp-chips, and tossed their drinks down with exaggerated gusto. The other two men were smaller. One had a thin face, shriveled like a dried date seed; the other was even shorter with crowded features.  
"Look at that snow!" commented the short man. "When's it gonna let up?"  
"We're in for a fine barley harvest, that's for sure," the thin man replied.  
"But the rabbits'll starve to death," said the large man.  
"Let's go rabbit huntin' tomorrow, eh?" asked the thin man.  
"I hope it keeps snowin' tomorrow and the next day too, even if we don't go out huntin'," said the large man.  
"Looks like they couldn't get here 'cause of the snow, eh?" asked the thin man.  
"Assholes! Why are they makin' a fuss now? The bell's been gone for months," the short man complained.  
The conversation was solely for Chu-ch'ol's benefit.  
They've taken me for someone else, he realized. I'd better tell them who I am.  
"Don't you fellows recognize me? I'm Chu-ch'ol. I used to live in New Town across the way."  
"We know," said the short man in a haughty tone, "but that don't make no difference. You could be your great-great grandfather and we'd still have nothin' to do with you. Once we make up our minds, there's nothin' you can do."  
"I'll give you directions since your son's tried to help us. You can't get to the temple from here no more. You know where the spirit posts used to be? Head up the hill toward Sunrise Peak from there."  
Chu-ch'ol stepped closer. "How did this happen?" he asked in an irritated tone. "What's going on here?"  
"It's a long story. Why, you could write a novel about it..."  
"Go ask Tal-gyun. You'll be up the whole night with that story."  
"But you keep your nose outta our business, no matter what he says. It ain't got nothin' to do with you. No point in you gettin' on our bad side too."  
Chu-ch'ol wanted to sit down and hear the whole tangled story. He wanted them to realize that he hadn't come for that, but he didn't have the time. He had to find Chu-on. He was afraid of what might happen between Chu-on and Yun-gil. Chu-on and Tal-gyun might have ripped each other apart before Chu-on ever saw Yun-gil.  
"Let's meet again in the morning. It's not what you think. I didn't come here because of that. Please don't get me wrong."  
Chu-ch'ol pushed open the door and stepped outside. He had forgotten the cold and tingling in his toes but now the sensation returned. He was wearing regular leather shoes. He couldn't remember how many times they had slipped off, forcing him to dig through the snow with his foot.  
Chu-ch'ol returned to the spot where the spirit posts used to stand, then climbed toward Sunrise Peak. There was no sign of anyone preceding him. Perhaps he had taken the wrong path again. He was soon tripping over rocks and tumbling into drifts. His shoe slipped off, and he crashed to his knees. After fumbling for the shoe, he headed in what he thought was the direction of the temple. The living quarters sat in a small basin beyond the persimmon grove.  
Sea Cloud Temple was small; its main hall was the size of the average country house. On a hill to its right stood the shrine to the Mountain Spirit, a small structure slightly larger than the look-out sheds found in melon fields. About 200 meters from the main hall was the living quarters, shaped like a long ship. There had been only three or four monks in the best of times, but Sea Cloud Temple was well-endowed. The land on which the village stood and nearly 200 acres of dry fields and paddies belonged to the temple. The persimmon grove was temple property too, as were the mountains surrounding the village.  
It was because of this property that the temple had been burned down and the monks had failed to return. Pak Ho-nam, Chu-ch'ol's grandfather's older brother, had managed the temple's assets. He squeezed high rents from the villagers, with the full support of the head monk who belonged to a sect that permitted monks to marry. Not only was the rent income plentiful, the persimmon crop and the rice contributed by believers were abundant. It wasn't long before Ho-nam set up the young Widow Chong in the living quarters to cook for the monks. She was his concubine, of course. He spent his days in the village on the other side of the mountain, but came to her each night. Gradually he lost interest in his household in the village and spent more time at the temple, squeezing the villagers even harder.  
With liberation, the young men who had left for the city returned. Some had been tortured by the colonial police for arguing with Ho-nam about their rents. Others were returning from labor camps or forced conscription into the Japanese army.  
Under Japanese colonial rule, when a tenant objected to the rent, Ho-nam marked the house with a pine bough in the dark of night, and the next morning the police arrested the man. Ho-nam also informed on recalcitrant tenants, accusing them of refusing to worship the Japanese Shinto shrine or of engaging in socialist activities.  
Five days after Emperor Hirohito surrendered and word of the Japanese's withdrawal began to spread, the young men of Temple Hollow set fire to the temple's main hall. They dragged the monks from the living quarters and beat them before driving them, and their families, away.  
Pak Ho-nam and the Widow Chong managed to survive somehow. The living quarters had escaped the fire. The young men had surrounded it, hoping to capture Ho-nam, but he was as agile as a tiger, thanks to his many years peddling goods from market to market. He leapt over a club wielded by one of the young men, kicked him in the back, and fled into the mountains.  
The Widow Chong survived the attack thanks to the twin sons she had born in her first marriage. Ssang-do, the elder twin, had masterminded the temple fire. In the years between liberation and the Korean War, a Patricide Society was organized by the sons of Japanese collaborators and wealthy landowners. The people of Naedok Island all knew of it. Many of its members had been drafted into the Japanese army or labor gangs to save their fathers unnecessary embarrassment. Others had escaped to the big cities.  
Most of these young men joined the Committee for the Preparation of Korean Independence right after liberation and later became members of the People's Committee and the South Korean Workers' Party. Every village on the island had its own cell that secretly carried out its patricidal duties throughout the Yosu Rebellion and the Korean War.  
Pak Ho-nam died by the sword of a rebel who had fled to the island following the Yosu Rebellion in 1948. His death and the liquidation of reactionary elements around the time of the Inchon Landing in 1950 were all related to the Patricide Society. The young islanders dreamed of a social revolution that would do away with the uneven distribution of wealth, but if they wanted to make a name for themselves in the resistance community, they had to expose and eliminate the irrationalities of their own households first. Otherwise, they would never find a place among the powerful.  
Pak Ho-nam carried a shotgun with him wherever he went. To shoot pheasants, rabbits and doves on his way back and forth from the temple, he said. He dressed in riding jodhpurs, a Western-style jacket and a hunting cap. His eyes were usually bloodshot. He stood six feet tall, was immaculately shaven except for a magnificent moustache, and always glowed with health.  
Chu-ch'ol could hear his great-uncle's shotgun when he was walking home from school or out grazing the ox. Ho-nam often strode through the village with a magpie, pheasant or rabbit dangling from his ammunition belt. Sometimes he went hunting on Ch'n'gwan Mountain with the local magistrate or police chief. People said that Nakamura, the Japanese man who ran the village brewery, frequently accompanied them.  
Pak Ho-nam slept with his shotgun by his pillow. In part, he did it to protect himself from attacks from outside, but he was also afraid of his stepsons, Ssang-do and Ssang-gyun. He sensed a murderous glint in the elder boy's eyes. Ssang-do had never called him Father. Ho-nam often dreamt that his two stepsons were strangling him.  
Ultimately he died at Ssang-do's hand. Thanks to his stepfather, Ssang-do had escaped the draft, but he had secretly organized the local Patricide Society along with several other young men who shared his beliefs. Pak Tal-ho, Chu-ch'ol's father had also died because of the Society. Everyone who had been appointed local magistrate, head of the Fishery Cooperative or county clerk on the strength of Pak Ho-nam's influence was purged when the communists took over during the Yosu Rebellion and the Korean War. Chu-ch'ol's father had followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather to become head of the Fisheries Cooperative and later had little trouble entering the local government as senior commercial clerk.  
Perhaps his own son's radicalism was rooted in those events, Chu-ch'ol thought as he slid into another snowy hole.  
Chu-ch'ol's father began buying up land when he was head of the Fisheries Cooperative and clerk at the sub-county office. On a small island where arable land was scarce, an acre or two of paddy and a half-dozen acres of dry fields were impressive holdings. Ho-nam trusted his nephew Tal-ho. He called him the "heart" of the Pak clan and bragged about how Tal-ho would succeed him. Ho-nam was secretly planning to make his nephew local magistrate. He paid off the county magistrate and governor from the rents he had gathered for the temple.  
"I'm too ignorant to be magistrate, so you've got to do it for me. I'll do everything I can to help you get the job. It's about time we had a great man in the family." Ho-nam called Tal-ho to his house to encourage him. He assumed that all power in the township would fall into his hands once his nephew was named local magistrate. "Small trees may not thrive under a mighty oak, but under a great man, little people grow like bamboo shoots. If you become a great man, you can help your cousins."  
The close relationship between Ho-nam and his nephew naturally alienated his stepsons and made them even more radical. Rumor had it the twins' father had drowned in the sluiceway at the local saltflats, a victim of Ho-nam's intrigue. The police said several suspects had been questioned and set free. They all had airtight alibis, and the police had no evidence to speak of. The case of An Chong-su's death was never solved. Among the suspects were Pak Ho-nam and three men employed at his saltworks.  
Pak Ho-nam and An Chong-su had been fighting over the rights to manage the property held by Sea Cloud Temple. As they grew older, the twins came to suspect that Pak was responsible for their father's death and despised him for it.  
People said Ssang-do killed Pak Ho-nam.  
Ch'u Ch'ang-dong, a young man from Temple Hollow, and Pae Il-do, from nearby Ox Mountain, had volunteered to serve in the 14th Regiment stationed at Yosu. When they saw how easily the rebelling forces advanced through Kwangyang and Posong, they were thrilled and rushed home, confident that they could liberate their villages with the same ease.  
After a night's journey they arrived at Temple Hollow and went straight to the twins. The four young men did not bother to contact the chairman of the local People's Committee; they killed Ho-nam as he slept, set the temple on fire, then attacked the local police box. The policemen were terrified and the police box fell with just two gunshots.  
Pak Ho-nam died of stab wounds. While Ssang-gyun and Pae Il-do searched the living quarters and backyard, Ch'u Ch'ang-dong and Ssang-do crept inside without so much as a creak of the door. They had decided against a gun for fear the shot would spoil the rest of their plan. Ssang-do stabbed his stepfather through the heart with Ch'ang-dong's military sword.  
Miraculously, Chu-ch'ol's father escaped with his life. He had a dream that night. His father appeared, dressed in a long white coat. The old man told him to run and hide. Already suspicious of the twins, Tal-ho leapt from his bed and ran to hide in the bamboo grove behind his house. After a few moments, just long enough to smoke a single cigarette, he heard a dog barking, and through the trees, he saw a pair of black shadows climbing over the wall. Flashlights pierced the darkness as they tramped through the house banging doors. Tal-ho could hear his wife and children screaming.  
When the guerrilla suppression forces retook the village, Tal-ho made a point of assisting the families of the twins and their two associates. He helped the young men who had participated in the rebellion get into the local Youth Association and tried to play down their actions. Tal-ho knew it wasn't over yet, and he wanted to earn the affections of as many people as he could while he was head of the Youth Association.  
Pae Il-do and Ssang-gyun were working as farmhands in Yong-am. Tal-ho made them return to the village and surrender, and whenever Ch'u Ch'ang-dong's father or the twins' mother were taken to the police box, he coaxed the police chief into releasing them. Of course, they paid a good share of the bribes themselves by selling off land and livestock, but Tal-ho's contribution was significant.  
Confident in the power of these good deeds, Tal-ho didn't bother fleeing when the communists came into power. Pae Il-do and Ssang-gyun began working at the Security Bureau and did their best to protect him, both covertly and overtly. During the early days of communist rule, this worked, but in the end it wasn't enough.  
Ssang-do and Ch'u Ch'ang-dong, who had been hiding in a nearby cave like beasts in hibernation, returned to the village. They weren't going to let Tal-ho get away.  
Toward the end of the communist regime, he died of complications from the beating he received after the People's Tribunal.  
"I'm proud to be the grandson of a Japanese sympathizer and reactionary element," Yun-gil had once told his father. "It gives me strength to carry on the fight."  
Chu-ch'ol was especially horrified by his son's sympathy for the Patricide Society. "I'm sorry, Father, but it sounds like a good idea to me. I've been thinking about what role the Society would play today. Of course, we couldn't actually kill anyone. We have to overcome our fathers with a kind of spiritual, ideological, historical and philosophical patricide."  

It was snowing still. The thick, fluffy flakes thinned the darkness but Chu-ch'ol could not see. He flailed his arms like a pinwheel. The branches of bush clover, chestnut and oak trees scratched his face and neck.  
After climbing some distance up Sunrise Peak, he glimpsed a light flickering through a pine grove ahead. It must be the temple, he thought. He should have been glad, but he felt weak. His life seemed as treacherous as the snowy path he was climbing. The fateful ups and downs of three generations-his father, himself, and his son-it all seemed so pitiful, so sad.  
What was happening at the temple? His impatience caused him to slip even more.  
 

 

Chu-ch'ol paused at the end of the temple living quarters. It looked like an enormous ship. At the bow, on the northeast end, was a kitchen, followed by five rooms, all in a row. There were two lights, one in the room next to the kitchen and the other in the last room, in what would be the ship's stern. The lights faintly illuminated the courtyard, but the belfry at the far end of the courtyard was enveloped in darkness. The bell was gone. Chu-ch'ol recalled what the men at the store had said.  
"Looks like they couldn't get here 'cause of the snow, eh?" "Assholes! Why they makin' a fuss now? The bell's been gone for months."  
The living quarters were silent. Somewhere in the darkness a branch snapped under the weight of the snow. From one of the rooms came the sound of even breathing. It joined the rustle of the snow and brushed over him. Where were Uncle Tal-gyun and Chu-on? Were they here or had they managed to kill each other on the way up the hill? And where was Yun-gil?  
Chu-ch'ol cleared his throat, then lifted a snowy foot and thumped it on the stepping stone beneath the front porch. The second door creaked open.  
"Who is it?" scratched the voice of an old woman. The pungent odor of feces and rotting flesh drifted from the room. She looked like a ghost in the dim light filtering from the next room. Her hair was as white and tangled as leeks, her face wrinkled, her cheeks hollow. She leaned an ear toward him. Though nearly deaf, she wanted to hear what the stranger had to say.  
It was the Widow Chong, Pak Ho-nam's concubine and mother of Ssang-do and Ssang-gyun.  
Recalling her beauty in middle age, Chu-ch'ol stepped closer. "It's me, Chu-ch'ol," he said. His voice carried over the snow-covered courtyard.  
"Who? Ssang-do?" she asked, turning her ear to him once more. Her voice whistled like wind from a pair of bellows.  
The door to the room next to the kitchen burst open and Tal-gyun stepped onto the porch.  
"How did you get through all this snow? Come on in. Are you all right?"  
Tal-gyun sounded like he was trying, unsuccessfully, to hide his anger. As he showed Chu-ch'ol into the room, the old woman's door creaked shut. Chu-ch'ol looked up to see a younger woman standing with her back to the old woman's door. She was staring at him. It was Tal-gyun's wife. How had she managed to get the old woman back inside so quickly?  
"It's cold. Quick, come on in," Tal-gyun urged. The two men used the respectful form of speech for the uncle was younger than the nephew. Chu-ch'ol struggled to move his feet. His legs were shaking.  
"You could have waited till daylight but I know... Son of a bitch... What's he tryin' to do anyway? I can't stand this. I'm gonna have it out with him tonight, whether it kills one of us or not," Tal-gyun growled as he watched Chu-ch'ol clamber onto the porch.  
Chu-ch'ol took off his wet socks, rubbed his feet with a rag and stepped across the room to sit on the warmest part of the floor as Tal-gyun directed. Chu-on stood just inside the door, looking down at him. He seemed uneasy, as if he had done something wrong, yet his cheeks and lips puffed out in a dissatisfied expression. Chu-ch'ol looked up and, in an indifferent tone, told him to sit.  
"I'm glad you're here," Chu-on said, sitting down. "Now I can tell you how I really feel."  
Chu-ch'ol tucked his hands under his buttocks and looked around the room. A latticed window opened onto the backyard, and on the wall next to it hung a woman's skirt and sweater. A child's ragged corduroy jacket, a few pieces of underwear and some socks were scattered across the floor. Next to them lay a dark red blanket and a crumpled quilt with cotton batting poking through the seams. Two grimy pillows lay on top of the blanket. In the corner next to the door was a flat bush clover basket filled with boiled sweet potatoes. Brownish sweet potato skins and a few half-eaten pieces sat along the edge of the basket.  
Chu-ch'ol dropped his head. He remembered the taste of the boiled sweet potatoes he ate on winter nights as a child. Tal-gyun's wife and children must have been banished to the old woman's room when Chu-on and Tal-gyun arrived. Where was Yun-gil? Was he down at the stern of this unwieldy ship? Why wasn't he in here? Was Chu-on going to arrest him tomorrow? Would he really do it, just to fulfill his duty? And would Yun-gil follow him obediently to Seoul or would he run off? And what about Tal-gyun? Would he just sit by and watch? What am I supposed to do? Chu-ch'ol thought. Aren't I supposed to punch Chu-on out and rave at his cruelty?  
"Your clothes are all wet and we ain't got nothin' for you to wear! At least the room's warm ... don't have no decent blankets." Tal-gyun bit his lip at his ineffectualness.  
Chu-on sat with his head bowed and hands tucked between his thighs, waiting for a chance to speak. When Chu-ch'ol took out a cigarette and brought it to his lips, Chu-on flicked open his lighter and extended it in Chu-ch'ol's direction. Tal-gyun reached for a sooty tin can and placed it in front of Chu-ch'ol. The door opened quietly and a woman's face appeared. She looked from face to face, without the slightest embarrassment or shyness. Her eyes lingered on Chu-ch'ol, crinkling in a smile. The woman reminded him of the Hahoe bride's mask, with her half-moon eyes, long face, and guileless, yet wanton smile.  
"Get to bed, woman! What are you hangin' round here for?" Tal-gyun thundered.  
She smiled nervously, seemingly intimidated by her husband's tone. "Me? I figured our guests were hungry so I thought I'd make some supper and heat the room a bit." The sluggish drawl and pouting lips suited her shiny face and neck.  
"We don't need any food. Shut the door and go to bed!" Tal-gyun clattered, his eyes seething with anger. The woman ignored him and stood at the door, glancing back and forth between Chu-ch'ol and Chu-on. Tal-gyun jumped to his feet to push her out and slam the door. Chu-ch'ol was embarrassed, but Tal-gyun smiled awkwardly. "Her problem's she likes people too much. She's always tryin' to help out, even when I haven't asked her to..."  
The room was still except for the sound of Chu-ch'ol exhaling from his cigarette. Dishes rattled in the kitchen. A branch snapped nearby. The three men sat in silence. Then Chu-on spoke.  
"Excuse me, but I'd like to have a smoke."  
Chu-ch'ol pushed his cigarettes in Chu-on's direction, but Chu-on pulled a pack from his pocket. Tal-gyun lit up as well. A door opened and shut at the other end of the building, then they heard a man's gravelly cough. A pair of rubber shoes shuffled toward their door.  
As he drew on his cigarette, Chu-ch'ol had an eery feeling: Who was that coughing? Something told him it wasn't Yun-gil. Was there another man here?  
The door opened and Tal-gyun's wife poked her head in. A cold wind rushed through the door. Chu-ch'ol had grown accustomed to the warm room. Tal-gyun glared at his wife.  
"I told you to get your ass into Mother's room and go to sleep. Why do you keep stickin' your nose in here?"  
The woman ignored him and stepped inside. She crossed the room, placed an earthenware bowl in front of Chu-ch'ol, then sat down, her legs folded neatly to the side, and looked at him. "Our tongch'imi is famous," she beamed brightly. "We ain't got nothing but boiled sweet potatoes, so if you get hungry, have a sweet potato and drink some of this tongch'imi stock. It'll make the sweet potatoes go down better."  
When she smiled, her thick lips pulled back to reveal gums that were tinged pale green. She kept smiling and her eyes traveled slowly back and forth, the whites showing around her irises. It wasn't out of friendliness, Chu-ch'ol thought. Either she was a bit off in the head or she was a nymphomaniac who went after every strange man she met. The woman gazed shyly at him and swallowed several times. Her breathing was shallow.  
"All right, you've brought the tongch'imi, now off to bed."  
Tal-gyun gave his wife a poke and she left without protest. Then an old man's face appeared at the door. Chu-ch'ol felt goose bumps forming all over his body. Tal-gyun turned away as soon as he saw the old man and began puffing furiously on his cigarette. Chu-ch'ol and Chu-on stared at the stranger in mute bewilderment. He glanced from face to face, then tottered inside.  
Chu-ch'ol gave Tal-gyun an inquiring look, but Tal-gyun was staring at the ceiling. Chu-ch'ol had no choice but to face the old man, who by then had collapsed with his back to the door.  
"I'm afraid I don't know you, but please come over here and sit on the warm spot," Chu-ch'ol offered. The old man shook his head in irritation and looked across at him. Chu-ch'ol smelled death on the man. Suppressing a shudder, he studied the man's face. Who is he? A face leaped from the depths of his memory. Yes, it was Ssang-do, the chief of the commando unit during the communists' rule. The one who carried two swords. No, it was Ssang-gyun. A stabbing pain pierced Chu-ch'ol heart like slivers of ice.  
"You're Uncle Ssang-gyun, aren't you?" he asked hesitantly. He did not know how to act. He hadn't seen the man for decades. His father had treated Ssang-gyun and his brother well but they had repaid him with death. Actually, Ssang-gyun had gone to the Security Bureau several times to see if he could help; Ssang-do was the one who had taken Father in. Later, he went to hide on Chiri Mountain, and ultimately fled to North Korea. No one knew what happened to him after that.  
Chu-ch'ol stood and bowed deeply to the old man. Ssang-gyun took Chu-ch'ol's hands. His eyes filled with tears, his lips and cheeks trembled slightly. The old man looked like a corpse; his hair and eyebrows were half-white. His cheekbones stuck out, and his cheeks and eyes were hollow. His neck was no thicker than Chu-ch'ol's wrist, and his skin was the color of dust. Chu-ch'ol looked down at the old man's hands. They looked like gnarled rakes, as if they had been covered in artificial leather to hold the bones together.  
"Imagine seeing you before I die! The spirits must be watching over me," Ssang-gyun labored to move his lips and tongue, forcing the words out in a metallic whisper. His vocal chords were swollen. He stretched his neck, as if trying to swallow. Gasping for air, he shook Chu-ch'ol's hands. The passing years have filtered out much of the pain and sorrow that had sliced at his bones and melted his skin, Chu-ch'ol thought. I mustn't curse these people.  
"Chu-on, get down and bow. It's Uncle Ssang-gyun. You must have heard of him. He's the second son of this household." Chu-ch'ol then turned to Ssang-gyun. "This is Uncle Kae-dong's son. You know, Uncle Kae-dong, the one who used to work at the family saltworks."  
Ssang-gyun shifted to face Chu-on who rose awkwardly and made a deep bow. Ssang-gyun took Chu-on's hands as he had Chu-ch'ol's and gathered breath to speak.  
"So Dog Shit's son's all grown up! That old Dog Shit... Do you realize how he used to look up to me? He was always calling me his big brother."  
Chu-on's face hardened at Ssang-gyun's use of his father's childhood name. Kindling snapped in the kitchen and an acrid smoke seeped through a crack in the door. Tal-gyun's wife was stoking the fire that heated the ondol floor.  
"Your father's in paradise now, Chu-ch'ol. He did a lot of fine things when he was alive. I owe him my life! I tried to get them to take his name off the reactionary list, but they had me outnumbered..."  
Ssang-gyun's metallic rasp grated Chu-ch'ol's nerves like the scratch of a needle. Tal-gyun snuffed his cigarette out in the tin can and turned to Ssang-gyun. "Just shut up and get out of here. We have somethin' we need to discuss among ourselves."  
"And why should I leave?" Ssang-gyun said with a scowl. There was a mesmerizing light in his eyes. "I've got a few things to say myself. I know they came here 'cause of Yun-gil. He's my relative too, you know."  
"Keep your nose out of it. Why don't you just try to live the rest of your life in peace and repent all the terrible things you've done? You should be spendin' your final days chantin' 'Om Namo Amitabhaya Buddhaya.'" Tal-gyun snapped.  
Ssang-gyun stared at Tal-gyun, gasping for breath.  
"How many people have you killed anyway?" Tal-gyun continued. "You lived by the mercy of this world and now it's time you bent in silence and humbled yourself. How many dogs have you beat to death? That's a violation of the Buddhist law against killin', ain't it? If you want to escape the knife mountains and burnin' hell, you'd better chant till you take your last breath! Now get the hell out of here!"  
Ssang-gyun seemed mystified. His lips and cheeks quivered as he struggled to speak.  
"Can you really avoid hell by chanting?"  
"That's what Mother says, and she's goin' on one-hundred!"  
Ssang-gyun closed his eyes and lowered his head. Suddenly the door burst open and a young face with shaggy hair and a sprinkle of black stubble appeared. All eyes flew to the door. It was Yun-gil. He was dressed in a dark brown corduroy jacket with a fur-trimmed hood and a pair of baggy black pants.  
"So you've come," he remarked sullenly, without so much as a bow to his father, then sat cross-legged by the window overlooking the backyard. Avoiding their eyes, he stared at a point over the door where Ssang-gyun sat. After a few moments, he reached for the bowl of tongch'imi and took a sip, then picked up a sweet potato and began to eat.  
"I told you to stay put. Why'd you have to come in here?" Tal-gyun asked.  
Yun-gil swallowed. "Just wanted to make my own case," he answered curtly.  
Chu-on straightened up and looked at Yun-gil. "Thanks. I came here to see you. I've got to talk to you. I don't care if it takes all night."  
"Ha," snorted Tal-gyun. Frowning deeply, Chu-on took out another cigarette and lit it, this time without asking the older men's permission.  
"Don't you even think of draggin' Yun-gil to Seoul in handcuffs!" Tal-gyun warned, then he turned to Yun-gil. "He's no relative. He's a cop. He's got a pistol and he's goin' to take you in. I heard he gets one million won and a promotion if he does."  
Ssang-gyun's eyes flew to Chu-on's face. Yun-gil snorted as he munched on the sweet potato. "What's wrong with getting arrested if it helps Uncle Chu-on get a promotion?"  
Chu-on tossed his head back and laughed. Chu-ch'ol snuffed out his cigarette and straightened up. The back of his neck felt tight, his chest full, his head heavy. He felt completely helpless. He simply wanted to lie down on the floor, to forget everything and sleep.  
"You've got me all wrong!" Chu-on said, turning to Tal-gyun. "I'm telling you: I didn't come for Yun-gil. I came for Chu-man's funeral. I just wanted to talk to Yun-gil as long as I was here."  
"All right. Let's say you're tellin' the truth. You've seen him, so now what are you gonna do? Are you gonna let him go or are you gonna tell your buddies to come get him?" Tal-gyun was insistent.  
Chu-on was equally determined. "That's none of your business. I'll do as I like."  
"Fine. Just remember this. You're in the middle of the mountains here. The law's a long way off and the fists are right here. You'd better watch out or you won't get out of here in one piece. Look at my leg! Do you know how it got this way?" Tal-gyun spat out the words, then clamped his mouth shut in a stubborn scowl.  
"Why are you getting so worked up? Give him a chance to say something!" Ssang-gyun rasped. He then turned to Chu-on. "You should try to pay back the kindness your father got when he came to the Pak clan. He found a job, thanks to them, and got married and was able to raise you to what you are today."  
No one appreciated Ssang-gyun's comment. Chu-on glowered, stubborn as a mule, and Tal-gyun nudged Ssang-gyun in the shoulder, pushing him toward the door.  
"Brother, why don't you keep your nose out of our business? You've got enough problems! Just take it easy and try not to make life difficult for Mother. She's already got one foot in the grave. What did she ever do to you? How come you're always bickerin' with her?"  
Ssang-gyun did not answer. He simply struggled for breath. Chu-on snubbed out his half-smoked cigarette and turned to Ssang-gyun. "Kindness, what kindness did my father ever get from them? Don't you ever mention my father again! And quit calling him Dog Shit!" Chu-on grabbed the bowl of tongch'imi and took several gulps of the tangy stock. "To tell you the truth, I can't remember how many times I wanted to kill my father. Do you know why? I'll bet Uncle Ssang-gyun knows. My father was the most pathetic man to walk the face of this earth. He was a fucking piece of dog shit! You know why? Yun-gil's right here, but all these rich assholes who run around saying they're part of the people's movement when they've never had a single hungry day in their lives... they are no better than my dick as far as I'm concerned. And now that I've brought it up... Yun-gil, we've got things discuss tonight."  
The sound of kindling snapping and fire crackling in the firehole continued. The acrid smell of smoke filled the room. Chu-on was seething; his face was flushed and his nostrils distended. Yun-gil munched on the sweet potatoes as he listened. From time to time he took a sip of the tongch'imi stock. Ssang-gyun must have decided it was going to be a long night for he had crawled next to Chu-ch'ol and stretched out on the floor.  
"Brother, go lie down in your own room!" shouted Tal-gyun. Ssang-gyun ignored him and closed his eyes. Tal-gyun poked the older man in the side and jerked on his arm, but Ssang-gyun was immovable. Tal-gyun hurled the immobile arm to the floor.  
Chu-ch'ol thought of a large ship as he listened to Chu-on. Buried in that blizzard, the temple living quarters were like a ship, slowly moving out to sea. I must be patient, he thought, settling back on the sidelines.  
"Damn it! I may be the runt of a dog-shit beggar but I've got literary talent. I could be a first-rate writer if I put my mind to it."  
So began Chu-on's story.  
 

 

Chu-on's memories of his father began with the moaning of reeds in late autumn, with waves roaring like a herd of wild beasts, with the milky fog that lapped over the village like a living, breathing thing. Father's hair was always as coarse and unkempt as the reeds in the mudflats along the shore. One of his eyes was cloudy, like the muddy sea peeking through a break in the fog. It was not uncommon for the men of the village to beat him like he was a dog headed for a mid-summer's stew, and for Kae-dong to writhe, worm-like, on the ground when they finished with him.  
"Those fucking bastards," Chu-on hissed whenever he thought of them.  
Chu-on didn't know his mother. He dimly remembered gazing at the reeds and mudflats and sandy beach as he sat in his father's fish basket or rode back and forth on his father's back, steeped in the sour scent of his sweat. He often felt dizzy as he bounced along on his father's back, watching the sea roll in like a herd of bulls.  
Sometimes he woke to find himself riding through the reeds. The white blossoms giggled, nodding their heads in the sunlight. Bundled in a thickly padded coat, he gazed into the air; the blue sky and white clouds swayed overhead, the lapping of the waves against the stern of the boat and the faint whisper of the sea intoxicated him. The smell of the tideflats was always with him.  
Later, when he began to understand words, his father told him the sad tale of a man who raised his son without a mother. Drunk and sobbing, Kae-dong told the same stories over and over again: how he chewed barley to make a milky solution to feed the baby, how he begged the village women to share their milk, how he carried his son everywhere in a fish basket, how the baby fell asleep sucking his father's tongue like a nipple. Chu-on felt like he remembered it all.  
He also remembered all of Kae-dong's own experiences for his drunken father had tearfully recounted each one, from his earliest childhood.  
Kae-dong grew up in the house of the Moon Cake Shaman in Changsan. His mother left him there and never returned. His father had been tortured to death by the Japanese security police. It was a cruel legacy for a small boy. Kae-dong's grandfather had died fighting in the Tonghak Rebellion of 1894. His grandmother had put out the boy's eye on purpose. She did not want him to go out and become a leader of men.  
He was named Kae-ddong, "Dog Shit." His family had given him a humble name to protect him from jealous spirits.  
He grew up with Knothead, the crippled son of the Moon Cake Shaman. Kae-dong only had one good eye but he could play the flute and the hourglass drum, gong and round drum more deftly than Knothead. He could make paper ceremonial flowers without assistance, recite all the words to the shaman's rites, and he danced well too. He learned the Ten Thousand Characters from old Mr. No, Knothead's father, a shaman himself, and could recite them backwards and forward. He also knew his figures without the help of counting sticks. He and Knothead studied side by side, but he was soon playing the role of teacher. From age of fifteen, he followed the shaman to larger rites and filled in when necessary. He understood immediately what needed to be done. He was a gong player when there was none. He was the flute player when no one else could, and he played the two-string fiddle when needed, too. He drank himself silly and, between rites, sang to the beat of the hourglass drum. People looked down on male shamans, but Kae-dong led an exciting life. And at big rites, he invariably ran into Pyol-sun, daughter of the shaman from Wolp'yong, who always threw him a shy yet meaningful glance. On his way home he looked forward to the next rite in hopes of meeting her again.  
If Kae-dong had continued to work as a shaman, Pyol-sun might have been Chu-on's mother, but one day a farmhand from Pak Yong-nam's house came for him. He followed the man back to New Town where he was forced to kneel on the front steps and listen to a lecture from Yong-nam.  
"You stupid fool! You've got Pak blood in your veins. You can't go around playing shaman with those crazy folks from Spirit Hollow! You quit this very minute and come work for us. If you keep playing around with that hocus-pocus, I'll poke out your good eye and break both your legs!"  
From that day forward, Kae-dong lived in a straw hut by the saltworks.  
One winter morning he found the body of a young woman on the edge of the flats. Passing fishermen and salt merchants spat on the body as they headed toward the pier. Some clucked in disgust. "What a terrible sight!" one man said. "If you're not gonna bury her, at least cover her with a straw mat or something!" Kae-dong found a mat to cover the body. Her skirt and blouse were ripped open by the waves, her hair was snarled like a tangled skein of hemp. He could see her pubic hair and navel, the plump mounds of her breasts and the round nipples. The body was swollen. She looked like a fat woman. No one claimed the body, and after two days Pak Yong-nam came out and ordered Kae-dong to bury it on the sandy hill above the saltflats.  
Kae-dong wrapped the corpse in the straw mat and carried it up the hill. He dug a hole in the sand, spread the mat inside, and laid the body on top of it. He tore what was left of her tattered clothes to cover her breasts, pubic hair, navel and face, then folded the mat over her. A vision of the corpse opening its eyes and rising from the grave passed before his eyes and he hurried to shovel sand over the grave. Kae-dong met several women after that. Perhaps it was because of her ghost.  
Chong-wol was the first. She was the kitchen maid at Pak Yong-nam's house. It was her job to bring Kae-dong's meals to the saltworks twice a day. Every morning she came, balancing a basket with his breakfast and lunch on her head, and in the evening she returned with supper and carried the empty dishes back again. At first she did not like Kae-dong because of his eye. Still, she was painfully shy with him. While he ate, she squatted in front of the hut, rolling the hem of her skirt as she gazed out at Black Island. People said the densely forested island was haunted. The Moon Cake Shaman went there to prepare for special rites. Whenever someone had a new boat built or the fishing boats were heading out to sea, the boat owners commissioned a rite from the shaman. And twice a year, before the first and eighth full moons, she went to the island to prepare for the village tutelary rites. Sometimes families hired her to conduct three-day services to the spirits in hopes of protecting family members or curing illnesses. Some rites lasted ten days. Kae-dong had been to the island several times with the Moon Cake Shaman.  
"Wanna watch her perform a rite sometime? Unclean women ain't supposed to go, you know." Kae-dong often teased her as he handed her the empty food basket. Chong-wol smiled bashfully and ran off, skirts flapping.  
One day he heard Chong-wol was being forced into the Japanese Comfort Women Corps. Man-su, who worked at the saltworks with Kae-dong, said it was too bad, because she could avoid that fate if only she had someone to marry her.  
"I hear they're gonna ship'em out by boat. All you have to do is go up to the officer and tell him you two are engaged. What do you got to lose? Tell'em you already did it and she might be in a family way."  
Early the next morning five girls, one from each of the nearby villages, were marched past the saltflats, accompanied by their respective village heads, and a policeman with a sword hanging from his belt. Kae-dong approached Pak Tal-ho, the head of his village.  
"Chong-wol and me... She... she might as well be my wife," he whimpered.  
Tal-ho, the son of Pak Yong-nam, seemed confused for a moment, then he shook his head. "That policeman's not going to believe you."  
Kae-dong went to the policeman and repeated what he had said to Tal-ho. The policeman was Korean. His face flushed, then he began to bellow. "You idiot! Throwing salt on this sacred mission! I ought to kill you!" He slapped Kae-dong across the face and beat him with his sheathed sword. When Kae-dong dropped to his knees, the man booted him in the head. When he collapsed on his side, the policeman kicked him in the ribs. Kae-dong was still writhing in the sand as the policeman loaded the young women onto a boat and left.  
Later Kae-dong learned that Tal-ho could have made the policeman leave Chong-wol behind, but he had his own reason for volunteering the family kitchen maid for service in the Comfort Women Corps: his father had been sleeping with the girl for some time. Tal-ho was afraid word would get out and had taken this opportunity to banish her from the village.  
Man-su had seen Chong-wol being loaded onto the boat.  
"She kept wiping her eyes and looking back at you lyin' there in the sand."  
Times were hard. Young men were conscripted into the Japanese military and labor camps, and the colonial authorities demanded regular quotas of brass, sappy pine, grain and cotton seedlings. Kae-dong did not have to worry about being drafted. Shit, he thought, I wish I could go. He envied the young men going off to war, surrounded by well-wishers, dashing heroes in their blood-red headbands and sashes emblazoned with the words "Victory in Battle!" But what could he do with only one eye? He just carried load after load of grain and sappy pine and cotton seedlings to the dock at Hoeryong.  
After liberation, Ssang-do came to Kae-dong's hut and asked him to do some errands. "When the good times come, I'll make sure you get the saltworks," he promised, grasping Kae-dong's hand. "But don't tell anybody I was here, no matter what. You and me-we got nothing. Our fathers left this world bitter men. One slip of the tongue and the good times'll never come."  
It was Kae-dong's job to go from village to village, summoning Tok-ch'il, Tong-man, Song-gon and Pu-ch'il to secret meetings. Ssang-gyun and Pu-ch'il came to the saltworks to paint slogans on pasteboard signs. Long Live Field Marshal Kim Il Sung! Punish Japanese Collaborators and Evil Landlords! Long Live the People's Republic! Down with American Imperialism! Under the cover of darkness, Kae-dong posted the signs around the village, on the Spirit Tree and the walls of the mill, on the gates facing the alleys. They buried the paintbrush, ink stone and leftover pasteboard under a pile of straw mats in the salt warehouse.  
One night the mimeograph machine was stolen from Taeri Elementary School. Song-gon and P'an-gil, two young men from Taeri, were responsible. After bringing it to the saltworks, they disappeared like the wind. Kae-dong hid it among some old straw bags behind the warehouse. Three days later Ssang-gyun and Pu-ch'il made flyers, and the following night Kae-dong went through the village, throwing them over the walls of rich pro-Japanese villagers' homes and pasting them on the Spirit Tree and mill walls. The flyers demanded that the landlords and pro-Japanese profiteers wake up and return what they and the Japanese imperialists had stolen.  
Then the Yosu Rebellion broke out, Sea Cloud Temple burned down and Pak Ho-nam was murdered. The young men connected to the murder fled, and their underlings were arrested, to be beaten until their backsides were bloody. Fortunately no one revealed that the saltworks was their secret meeting place. The anti-guerilla forces streamed over the island like a swarm of wasps, but nothing happened to the saltworks, Man-su or Kae-dong.  
One afternoon in late autumn Kae-dong ran into Pyol-sun on his way back from delivering a load of salt to the dock in Hoeryong. To his great surprise she was dressed in a ceremonial green blouse and red skirt. Her face was powdered, she had circles of rouge on her forehead and cheeks, and on top of her head was a bride's crown. She was getting married, and Knothead, the son of the Moon Cake Shaman, was to be her groom.  
Shaman No, Knothead's father, was delighted to see Kae-dong and asked him to let them use the salt skiff to cross the harbor. It seemed the ferry was being repaired and they needed someone to carry the bride's procession.  
A northwesterly wind was roaring with the force of a raging fire. The villagers believed that the wind god stirred the wind to sweep away the layer of yellow sand that settled over the mountains and sea at that time of year.  
Since he had to return to the saltflats anyway, Kae-dong rowed the bride and her guests across. His heart pounded the whole way. If he had stayed at the shaman's house, Pyol-sun might have been his bride, not Knothead's. He felt sad, depressed, angry. He despised Pak Yong-nam for dragging him to that dilapidated hut by the saltworks.  
Knothead and his mother were waiting at the ferry landing. A shaman's wedding rarely had many well-wishers. Only a handful of old women from Spirit Hollow accompanied the groom's party.  
As Kae-dong touched the bow of the skiff to the broad black rock that marked the ferry landing, waves crashed against the stern and the skiff bobbed violently. The guests scrambled onto the rock, trembling with fear. Soon everyone was hollering for someone to bring the bride ashore, but no one volunteered.  
"Hey, Bridegroom! Why don't you carry her over on your back?" someone quipped. Considering Knothead's crippled leg, it was clear they had only meant to tease him. Kae-dong stood on shore, clutching the bow rope, but the skiff kept banging against the rock. It would splinter apart if they waited for the bride to jump ashore herself. Pyol-sun shivered in the stern, her face pale with fright. Kae-dong jumped into the skiff and swept the bride into his arms. As he leapt back to shore he caught a whiff of the camellia oil in her hair and the fresh powder that covered her face and neck. That scent would torture him for years to come.  
"Kae-dong, leave the skiff here and help carry the bride's palanquin. We found someone to lend us a palanquin but there's no one to carry it," the bridegroom's father explained as Kae-dong set the bride down on the black rock.  
Kae-dong was drunk on her fragrance. Unable to tell them he needed to get back to the saltflats, he consented.  
He threw the anchor into the waves and lifted the palanquin to his shoulder. A bachelor still, he was setting aside his business to carry the bridal palanquin of a shaman family everyone looked down on.  
That was how he met the beggar woman. As he carried the palanquin up the hill, a young woman, clutching a white bundle of clothes, followed him. She picked some wild chrysanthemums and asters along the edge of the road and stuck them in her hair and at the bodice of her dress. When Kae-dong, dripping in sweat, finally set the palanquin down in the shaman's yard, the beggar woman handed him a bunch of flowers. In the confusion of the moment, he accepted it and someone called out, "Come on you two! Why don't you get married today?"  
"Yeah, why not?" laughed the others. "Looks like you were made for each other!" Kae-dong felt the blood rushing to his face. It was hot, as if someone had poured burning coals over him. He threw the flowers to the ground and returned to the ferry landing. The woman followed him at several paces. He drew in the stern line and pulled the skiff to the rock. Just as he was about to climb in, the woman hopped past him and settled into the seat at the bow. He ordered her out, but she just wrinkled her nose and shrugged. He had no choice but to row back to the saltworks with her.  
When he reached the edge of the saltflats, he shooed the woman onto the dike, anchored the skiff and went into his hut. The woman followed him, still clutching the bundle of clothes in her arms. The scent of Pyol-sun, now Knothead's wife, lingered in his nostrils. Her weight and warmth remained in his arms and chest, her pale features blooming in his mind like a magnolia.  
"You miserable hag! Get out of here before I beat the shit out of you!" Kae-dong snarled, shoving the woman away. She did not want to leave, though, and when she turned to him, whimpering, he slapped her on the shoulder. He struck her in the head and shoved her out the door. She sniveled noiselessly and turned reluctantly toward the village. That night she returned with a large bowl of rice she had gotten begging in the village. He sent her away once more and went to Pak Yong-nam's house for supper. Chong-wol had not returned after liberation. A widow, well over forty, had taken her place in the Pak kitchen, but she was not as spry as Chong-wol and never had time to deliver his meals to the saltworks.  
The next morning he woke to find the beggar woman lying beside him. He beat her once more and sent her on her way. She was clearly half crazy. She grinned foolishly and devoured her food as if she were starving. She followed him around like an obedient wife. When he beat her, she shrunk back in sadness, as if her feelings were hurt. Who was this woman? She had to be someone's daughter-in-law, someone's daughter. How had she ended up like this?  
After beating her and sending her off to the village, Kae-dong set to work, scooping water from the saltflats, and waited for Man-su to come with his breakfast. The woman returned with another bowl of rice from the village. She watched him carefully as she settled down to eat in a patch of sun by the corner of the hut. He debated whether to beat her again, but decided to ignore her.  
"Come on, Kae-dong, why don't you just shack up with her and be done with it?" Man-su joked when he arrived. As Kae-dong wolfed down his bowl of barley, Man-su packed his pipe with dried radish leaves. "From what I hear, she's a real sad case. They say she's the daughter-in-law of that Nok-dong granny across the way, but the family got wiped out in the troubles. I know they were in cahoots with the Japs and everything, but I feel sorry for her. She was the only one to survive. Her husband and parents-in-law were all shot and burned."  
Kae-dong looked at the woman. She wasn't bad-looking. She wouldn't have given him a second glance if she hadn't been crazy.  
"I'm serious! Why don't you sleep with her tonight? You know, people say one night with a man can make a crazy woman snap back to normal."  
Kae-dong fumed at the suggestion. Man-su looked down on him because he had only one eye and no family.  
"You sleep with her! I'll stay in the village tonight. I'd rather slam my dick in a door than sleep with that crazy bitch!"  
In the middle of the night, Kae-dong was dragged off to the police station and beaten. They took Man-su too. Song-gon had been implicated in the theft of the mimeograph machine, and in the process of torturing him, the police had learned of the involvement of the saltwork boys. Now the police wanted to know who had used the mimeograph machine. They were trying to uproot the secret circle like a vine of sweet potatoes. They tortured the boys with leg-screws, beat them with sticks, pinned them to the floor and poured water spiked with red pepper powder up their noses. Kae-dong and Man-su had to talk, but they only gave the names of men who had already fled.  
The police then told them to name anyone who had ever visited the saltworks, for any reason. Illicit sales of salt were exposed, and everyone who had ever stopped for a smoke or a joke on their way fishing got a taste of the policemen's sticks. Kae-dong and Man-su were released after three days, thanks to the good graces of Pak Tal-ho, but they couldn't walk. Man-su's family and a servant from Tal-ho's house had to carry them home. When Kae-dong returned to his hut on the back of Tal-ho's servant, the beggar woman hugged him and wept.  
Abandoned in his hut like an old mop, Kae-dong lay groaning when Pak Tal-ho arrived with some medicine for the oozing sores on his buttocks. He gave it to the woman, who squatted whimpering by the door, then explained how to make a medicinal brew of fresh seaweed and dog droppings. A servant brought a basket of food from the house every day, and the woman set about gathering dog droppings. Five or six times a day she pressed a chipped bowl of the pungent liquid upon him, and each time he would rise on his knees like an animal and drink it. When he finished, she would giggle with delight. She sounded like a baby in swaddling clothes, gurgling at its mother when she clicked her tongue or nodded in fun. The woman helped him eat and go to the outhouse, she washed his face and hands and neck with a wet towel, and was always careful not to provoke his anger.  
When the wounds healed and the pain began to recede, Kae-dong went back to work at the saltworks, scooping water from the flats, sweeping salt into piles, and carrying heavy bags. The night after his first day back at work, he slept with the woman. It was his first time and she clutched his shoulders and wept from start to finish.  
The next day the woman went begging to the village and returned with enough rice for two people. She asked him to eat with her since the servant from Pak's house was late that day.  
The rumor spread through the village.  
The beggar woman went from house to house asking for food. "Can I please have another spoonful?" she pleaded. "I'm gonna share it with my husband. And how about a little more kimchi?"  
"Who is your husband?" the village women asked. "Dog Shit," she replied with a shy smile.  
Sometimes the village women were naughty. "What do you do with your husband at night?" they asked. "Which part does he like best?"  
The beggar woman answered frankly. She even lifted her skirt to reveal her white belly and proclaim, "I've got a baby."  
She really was pregnant. Kae-dong had to act the part of her husband. He started by preventing her from going to the village to beg. He shared the food from Pak's house or smuggled a bowl of rice after eating in the village. It didn't work as he planned, though. As her stomach grew, she wanted more: meat and eggplant, cucumbers, melons and persimmons. If she heard someone was making red bean porridge, she went to ask for a bowl. When a family was holding ancestral rituals, she begged for rice cakes, and if a household was hiring temporary farmhands, she asked for a bite of the sour watercress they served with the workers' lunch. She would have eaten even more, like a pig with its snout to the ground, if people had not teased her. "Your baby'll die if you eat that," they said, and she spat out whatever was in her mouth. She even tried to make herself vomit. The kids enjoyed watching her and often gave her a piece of rice cake or sweet potato, only to tell her they had put rat poison in it just as she was about to finish. She clenched her teeth and rolled her eyes and shook her fist as if she were going to beat the teasing brats to death, then she stuck her finger down her throat and vomited.  
In early spring, the year the Korean War broke out, the woman gave birth on a straw mat laid on the floor of the hut. She lost consciousness for a while, and when she awoke, she seemed quite normal. She clutched the bloody bundle of a baby in her skirts and wept with uncontrollable sorrow. When Kae-dong asked her to eat the seaweed soup he had made in a pot hanging over a fire at the opening to the hut, she startled awake and began grinning like a crazy person again.  
She slipped back and forth between reason and madness after that. When she was feeling normal, she clutched the baby to her breast and cried. Then she shuddered and started to grin as if she had never been crying.  
Man-su's wife brought an old baby blanket and rags to use as diapers, and Pak Tal-ho sent some baby clothes his wife had packed away. The beggar woman wandered through the village with the baby on her back. She flitted over the hills, across the fields, in and out of the alleys like a butterfly.  

My baby, what a baby, kanggang sullaeyeee.  
My baby, a diamond plucked from the sky, kanggang sullaeyeee.  
My baby's a divine peach, kanggang sullaeyeee.  
Like the sun, like the moon, kanggang sullaeyeee.  
His eyes are bright stars, kanggang sullaeyeee.  
His mouth is a red cherry, kanggang sullaeyeee.  

The song never left her lips.  
"Oh, what a pretty baby!"  
"Kae-ddong sure has a fine son!"  
"His face is as bright as a full moon!"  
The village women heaped their praises on the child whenever they ran into her on their way to the well or in the alleys around the village. And each time, she shifted the child from her back to look at him, as if to confirm what they said. She remembered the women who praised her child and later offered them the rice cakes, sweet potatoes and persimmons she collected on her rounds through the village. Sometimes she would even sneak some salt from the saltworks and give it to the women.  
There was a long dry spell that year, and the saltworks were particularly busy. One day in early summer she lay the baby down in the hut, made a torch of an old straw mat, and began igniting fires in the corners of the hut. The storage building next door, where dried fish and anchovies were kept, was infested with mice, and their lice had invaded the hut. The baby was covered with red bites that were fast developing into oozing sores. He cried constantly. After getting the fretful child to sleep, she decided to get rid of the lice once and for all.  
She was thrilled to think she could burn the villains that had been torturing her son. The walls of the hut were covered with clay, and the roof was made of straw thatch draped over rafters and held down by a few thick ropes. The end of one of these ropes ignited. She didn't realize that the fire had spread to the roof and continued touching the torch to the walls and piles of straw bags.  
"You horrible lice! Leave my baby alone!" she shouted. The hut filled with smoke. The baby cried fitfully. Red balls of fire leapt from the white smoke. The woman was surrounded by flames. She shrieked and fumbled around the floor. Finding the baby, she dashed out the door.  
"Oh, my poor baby! You almost got burnt! Who set our house on fire? They deserve to die!"  
Clutching the baby she ran toward the sluice gate. Her skirt was on fire but she didn't know it. The flames gradually crept up her body. She screamed, never thinking to extinguish them. "Why's this fire followin' me?" she cried. "What am I gonna do with my baby! Oh my poor baby!"  
She collapsed and rolled in a ball of fire, the bundle in her arms still. It was not her baby, though. It was the wooden pillow her husband used in the summertime.  
Kae-dong was pedaling the water wheel, like a squirrel on a treadmill, the sweat dripping from every pore. He had moved more than half of the water from one flat to the next when he noticed a cloud of milky smoke rising from the hut. A red tongue of fire lapped through the smoke, and at the same time he heard the baby's terrified screams.  
He leapt from the water wheel and ran toward the hut. That was when the woman emerged from the smoke. Her skirt was on fire.  
"You stupid woman, jump in the water," he shouted.  
She did not seem to hear him. She ran around in circles, as if she had been stung by a bee. She was holding something in her arms, but Kae-dong could tell it wasn't the baby. It was too small. She had reached the middle of the bank between the saltflats but he still heard the baby shrieking from the other direction. When he reached the hut, the roof was on fire and the baby's crying had stopped. The corner where the baby usually slept was empty except for the thick white smoke. He groped through the straw on the floor and found the grimy blanket. The baby was laying on it, but he wasn't breathing. Kae-dong wrapped the lifeless body in the blanket and rushed outside. As he stepped through the door, the roof crashed to the ground. The flames lapped even more fiercely now. Kae-dong ran for the bank, shaking the baby, slapping his cheeks and buttocks, sucking his nose.  
He buried the woman on the sandy hill above the saltflats as he had done with the woman's corpse that had floated in on the tide. He lived alone after that, raising the son he had somehow managed to revive.  
The communists came into power. The People's Army arrived in the village and everyone was ordered to assemble on the beach. Ssang-do and Ssang-gyun were there along with Pu-ch'il, Song-gon, Tong-man and Tok-ch'il. Pu-ch'il strapped a red arm band on Kae-dong who stood holding the baby. Kae-dong was confused. "The saltworks are yours now," Pu-ch'il explained. "The time has come for the propertyless masses to live with dignity. Ssang-do and Ssang-gyun are going to head up the security bureau and local people's committee. I'll tell them to assign the saltworks to you and Man-su."  
That night, when he returned home, Kae-dong danced a jig with the baby in his arms. If he and Man-su split the salt harvest, he would be a rich man in no time. He could buy a house, give his son a good education, and live like a king. Knothead had been dead for a year by then. Now that the communists were in control, shamans were no longer untouchable so he could take Pyol-sun as his wife. The waves splashed against the bank in front of the saltworks. There wasn't a cloud in the sky. The stars blinked blue, yellow and red, like tiny eyes. No, like flowers or tiny bells. They seemed to laugh, shaking their petals and ringing in celebration of Kae-dong's overnight success.  
It turned out to be nothing more than a dream, though. The People's Committee, Security Bureau and local party committee all took a share of the harvest, and when the right-wing police came back into power, Kae-dong was nearly shot for trying to take over the saltworks and diverting profits from the sale of the salt to the communists.  
The police chief jailed the communist sympathizers in a warehouse. Rightists, who had been persecuted by the communists or who had somehow managed to avoid the earlier purge, sat in the jury's box and named the rebels one by one.  
"What shall we do with this bastard Kim? As vice chairman of the People's Committee, he had Hwang Sang-su murdered for reactionary behavior."  
Tribunal rules allowed the suspension of executions on the word of a single juror, but when the jurors remained silent, the police chief nodded to the door and the accused was taken to the killing field. Kae-dong was saved on the word of Pak Sang-ho from Shinsang. Pak said Kae-dong had testified on Pak Tal-ho's behalf when he was brought before the People's Tribunal and had been rebuked by an officer from the People's Security Bureau for his loyalty. Kae-dong was thus spared, but he could not work at the saltworks anymore. He built a shack at the entrance to the village and eked out a living fishing from the quay, trolling with an old wreck of a boat and helping with the farm work at Chu-ch'ol's place.  
That was the end of the saltworks. The real owner was Chu-hong, Pak Ho-nam's eldest grandson. He had been a captain in the Korean War and made quite a name for himself, but then he was wounded during the January 1951 retreat and discharged. He sold everything-the house, the land and the saltworks-and left for the city. The new owner of the saltworks rented the land out to tenant farmers.  
Kae-dong lived in his shack and did odd jobs around the village. He emptied outhouses, embalmed corpses, dug graves, gathered old bones when a grave was moved, buried the bodies of wandering lepers that no one else would touch, killed dogs for summer stews, and slaughtered pigs and oxen, all with the baby on his back.  
He was often the victim of terrible and undeserved beatings. When someone snuck into a young widow's bedroom, her relatives swarmed over Kae-dong's shack and beat him to a pulp. From that day forward, he kept his eyes to the ground wherever he went. He feared what might happen if he looked at a woman carrying a water buckets or fish basket through the village.  
He was nearly killed one summer three years later. Chu-on was six at the time. The seaweed harvest had failed three years in a row, and the villagers decided to stage an extra large Sea Spirit Ritual. The rite was held every year on the Harvest Moon, but this year was going to be special. They selected the widowed shaman Pyol-sun to perform the rite. The villagers took her a large bag of rice and asked her to go to Black Island and offer a sacrifice to the Sea Spirit.  
Kae-dong couldn't sleep the first night. This was a golden opportunity to make Pyol-sun his own. But no, he thought, shaking his head as he rocked Chu-on in his arms. He couldn't violate a shaman while she was offering a sacrifice. Still his heart fluttered at the thought of her alone on the island. All he needed to do was row across. She was sure to accept him. The scent of Pyol-sun on her wedding day stirred in his nostrils and his nerves seemed to tingle. That night he dreamt of a woman beckoning him into a nearby forest. She was wearing the winged robes and red skirt of a shaman. It was the beggar woman. No, it wasn't. He looked again: It was the corpse that had drifted into the salt flats. He took a closer look and it was Chong-wol. No, it was Pyol-sun. He followed her. She walked across the water to Black Island. He tried to follow her and sank. Gasping for air, he woke.  
The next night he rowed his old boat to Black Island but was caught by a band of villagers guarding the island. He hadn't realized that the ceremonial masters of the village rite were standing guard, lest anyone interfere with the shaman's preparations. When the sacrifice to the Sea Spirit was over, a village assembly was called and Kae-dong was beaten. He told them he had gone to the island to check his nets, but it was no use. For the rest of his life he suffered from headaches and pains in the chest and ribs because of that beating.  
Pyol-sun decided to live on Black island after the rite was completed. She set up a tent on the southern shore. The Moon Cake Shaman, her mother-in-law, tried to coax her back, but Pyol-sun refused. When she wasn't offering sacrifices to the Sea Spirit, she dug clams and gathered seaweed, which she cooked in a pot balanced between two stones. People said she had been possessed by the Dragon King while preparing for the rite to the Sea Spirit. The villagers sometimes took her a bag or two of rice in hopes of a good catch.  
Kae-dong went out fishing with Chu-on every night, except in winter. He moored the boat between Naedok Island and Black Island. When Chu-on awoke in the middle of the night, his father would be smoking in the stern, lonely and quiet as a ghost. In the early morning, he woke to find the boat anchored at one end of the island and his father climbing back in, smelling of the island grass.  
Kae-dong did not go near the island before the annual sacrifice to the Sea Spirit. At those times Chu-on jerked awake at the sound of an enormous fish and a sudden listing of the boat, only to find his father climbing over the gunwale, panting from the long swim. Kae-dong would collapse in the bottom of the boat and start bailing the water that had collected while he was gone. The shaman's candle flickered on Black Island. Kae-dong swam to meet her in order to avoid the prying eyes of the ceremonial masters guarding the front of the island.  
Pyol-sun died that winter. She had contracted bronchitis after spending so many nights in the cold damp woods, and she was weakened by her pregnancy.  
When the villagers learned Kae-dong was responsible for the child in her belly, they threatened to kill him for violating the sacred island and seducing Pyol-sun. When the seaweed crop failed, they got drunk and beat him again. He never left the village, though. After the beating he had a few drinks and cried, little Chu-on clutched in his arms.  
From time to time, Kae-dong would pause from his chores in the village and look down at Black Island. "Listen, Chu-on," he would say. "You've got to make somethin' of yourself. Then you buy a piece of land overlookin' Black Island and bury me there."  
It was a modest wish, and yet his longing was palpable. Chu-on had heard the wish so many times his ears ached. His father had repeated the words every time he had a drink.  
 

 

"I came home for winter vacation my second year in middle school and Father was drunk. He grabbed hold of me and started crying again. As I sat there in his arms, I wished he were dead. For no reason. Well, I pitied him, that's all. From that night forward, whenever I ran into one of the people who had beaten him when I was little, I imagined myself killing them. That's why I became a government spy after high school. I wasn't going to get into a reputable university after graduating from a high school in the boondocks. Besides, I had hardly studied. So I entered a second-rate community college and became a spy. I bought a backpack and books with the money they gave me. I got a fake student I.D. and started attending K. University. I was supposed to incite demonstrations. I'd get things started, then sneak out the back and point out the student leaders. I'd also report when and where the next demonstration was planned. I studied Marxism and Kim Il Sung's Juche thought, and made friends with the students. We'd start the demonstrations together, then I'd report on them when the time was right. I was like a vine: I was going to grow up the string that controlled me. I wanted to become bigger and more powerful than the people I wanted so much to kill. That's how I became what I am today."  
Chu-on chain-smoked as he talked. Ssang-gyun lay on the floor, eyes closed, silent as a dead man. Chu-ch'ol was listening, though he had to struggle to keep from collapsing from exhaustion. Tal-gyun leaned against the wall, his hand to his forehead. Yun-gil sat with his eyes to the corner, chewing on a sweet potato. From time to time, the sound of snapping kindling drifted in from the kitchen. It was still snowing. They could hear branches breaking under the weight of the snow. Chu-on exhaled a puff of smoke and continued.  
"Actually, I'm grateful to my grandfather and father and that beggar woman and Pyol-sun, the shaman. They're the ones who made me what I am today. I'm grateful to the villagers who were so cruel to my father too. They gave me a taste for blood. They're the reason I'm a rightist."  
Chu-on snickered and Yun-gil chuckled along with him as he munched a piece of radish from the tongch'imi. Tal-gyun glanced from Chu-on to Yun-gil. They seemed to have come to some kind of understanding.  
"You could say I'm from the most basic class, " Chu-on continued. "By birth, I should be leading the people's movement. But I wouldn't do it. I know the far left is all a sham. When I was in high school there was a gang. The sons of the local minister and police chief and the school principal all belonged. Whenever there was trouble, those boys were always in the middle of it. They were the ones who stabbed boys from other gangs, they were the ones who gang-raped girls out on dates in the park, they were the ones who put on masks and robbed their own houses. You know why? Because they had a complex about not belonging to the basic class. They were afraid that they would be isolated and ignored by the other boys if they didn't take the lead and cause trouble. Their fear made them act even more brutally. I came up here through all this snow because I wanted to talk to Yun-gil. Heart-to-heart. He's leaning dangerously close to left-wing adventurism and I want to talk to him. I want us to open up and be frank with each other."  
"It looks like that complex applies to you, too, Uncle," Yun-gil said, taking a sip of the tongch'imi stock.  
The room was too warm. The floor had gotten so hot they could barely sit on it. Chu-on mopped his forehead with his handkerchief, then looked down, reflecting on what Yun-gil had said. He reached for the tongch'imi. Ssang-gyun lay in silence.  
"Hey, we're burnin' up in here," Tal-gyun yelled in the direction of the kitchen. "Stop feedin' that fire!"  
The sound of the snapping kindling had stopped some time earlier. The door opened silently and Tal-gyun's wife appeared. The woman created a strange mood as she stood in the shadow of the paper door, beyond the warm pool of light streaming from the room. She was outlined by the bluish cast of the snow and looked strangely sly and seductive. She was smiling, a shy, innocent smile that had a way of mesmerizing men. Perhaps she cared for nothing but the sensual pleasures of men and women. Was Yun-gil safe with her?  
"Why did you stoke the fire like that? Shut the door and get to bed! Right now!" Tal-gyun bellowed, rising to pull the door shut. His wife seemed accustomed to such treatment for she looked deliberately from face to face before closing the door silently. She won't sleep as long as she hears our voices, Chu-ch'ol thought. She'll toss and turn, her heart pounding over the smell and sound of the two strange men. She's like an animal, he thought. A wild beast living in a pristine forest, a red-blooded female animal.  
"As far as I'm concerned," Yun-gil continued, "Uncle Chu-on is no more than a hunting dog for the far right. No matter how well you perform on the job, they'll always distrust you for your roots. That's why you've taken the front line, manipulating people in the student movement and arresting them at all costs. You don't want to be accused of favoritism toward your family, so you've decided to go after me, to prove your loyalty. You said you wanted to be frank. How about being frank with yourself?"  
"I didn't come here to catch you. You've got to believe that. I swear, I came for Chu-man's funeral," Chu-on said in a plaintive, yet firm tone. "There's something I want to tell you. The democratic movement is good in the purest sense, but you have to avoid violence. Look what happened at the U.S. Information Service demonstration. You were there. Why throw Molotov cocktails at a cultural center? There's no excuse for an armed attack on innocent civilians. A man was killed and two more were injured. They were just using the library! You can try to glorify your anti-Americanism and anti-imperialism, but that was murder. This isn't Iran, or the Philippines, or Japan, or France. We're a divided nation. Ideals are fine, but wait until Korea's unified. Ask your father. He'll agree with me, and I think Uncle Tal-gyun will too."  
Chu-on did not bother to include Ssang-gyun. Yun-gil chewed more slowly now, as if he were getting full. His lips curled into a smirk. Chu-ch'ol rolled a cigarette back and forth between his fingers.  
"Well, I'm too ignorant for any of this," Tal-gyun said gruffly, staring at the door. "But after listenin' to Yun-gil, I can't help thinkin' he's right. If we're gonna unify this country and live together in a real democracy, we've got to get rid of the blue-eyed foreigners who back the dictatorship and treat us like slaves."  
Chu-on snorted in reply. "You can blame whoever you like, but Korea isn't going to be unified. The U.S. and Japan are on this side, and the U.S.S.R and Red China are on the other. They'll never let us unify. What's in it for them? No, all we can do is try to prevent another war, increase our GNP and exports, and live a good life. Look! We've built all these factories and the whole world's in awe of our exports. What's the point of all this talk about anti-Americanism and anti-imperialism and unconditional unification? Do you want Vietnam-style unification, where they throw out everyone who's got enough to eat? If the United States turns its back on us, our factories will collapse. If they withdraw their troops and nuclear weapons, there'll be another Korean War and the whole country will go communist. A lot of people will die, and everyone else will have to start over from nothing. You can't just whine about nationalism; you've got to be realistic. As long as Korea's divided, we've got to accommodate the Americans. That's what I wanted to discuss with Yun-gil."  
"Do you know what I feel when I hear you? Despair. That's the most serious problem facing our young people today. We have to rise up against that despair. Uncle Chu-on, how can you be so thoroughly corrupt? Why did they bring nuclear weapons to our country? It wasn't to protect us. They want to use our country as a bridgehead to take over the world.  
"They're always saying North Korea has more weapons than South Korea. 'They have more soldiers. They're moving troops to the front line. They've bought dozens of MIGs from the Soviet Union.' The American newspapers make a big fuss, then they sell their own expensive airplanes and rockets to our government. Soon American products will be flooding in without tariffs and Korea will turn into another American state. Our culture will deteriorate, and all that will be left is American culture. Don't tell us that there'll be another Korean War and Korea will go communist if the U.S. turns its back on us. Don't tell us that our GNP is higher than North Korea's. The North Koreans don't want a war. It's true! They don't live as well as us, but that's because of Kim Il Sung's self-reliance ideology. They eat less, they have fewer clothes, they don't enjoy themselves as much, but at least they haven't sold out to the super powers. Do you really think the North Koreans would prostitute themselves to the Chinese and Soviets? Do you think they do everything the Chinese and Soviets tell them to do? They don't. That's why their development has been a little slower than ours. They aren't slaves to China and Russia, politically, economically or culturally. They can meet the South Koreans and discuss unification any time they want. They don't have to ask the Chinese or Soviets. South Korea's the problem. The South Koreans have to go to the U.S. for everything. Even the president needs their approval. That's why every young man with a conscience wants the Americans out. We want the Americans to take their nuclear weapons and get out of our country. We want Koreans to sit down with Koreans and discuss unification. Get rid of the masks and arms. And if we can't achieve this with words, we'll have to resort to violence."  
Yun-gil paused to moisten his lips.  
"Uncle Chu-on, why don't you take off that cloak of lies? Who are you playing the hunting dog for? Don't tarnish your grandfather's reputation. He gave his life for true human liberation. If he knew what you were doing now, I'm sure he'd turn over in his grave."  
Chu-on lit a cigarette and grinned. You know what they say, the newborn pup has no fear of the tiger. Don't be a fool. Take my advice. Besides, I've got you in my noose already. You think you're pretty hot stuff but there's nothing you can do about the power that rules this land. Chu-on's face betrayed both confidence and arrogance.  
"Listen up 'cause I'm going to be frank with you. Some time ago we had this discussion down at the office. I can't tell you who was there, but we were talking about people like you, people with corrupt thoughts. We were trying to figure out how many there really were. How many people can you really call anti-establishment? We estimated there are about ten thousand of them nationwide. Include their families and that makes about thirty-five thousand. Of course, there's no telling for sure.  
"So we were wondering what we should do with these people. Should we clear off an island and stick them there? You know, intern them. But what law could we use? The Social Stability Law. Put simply, we'd be sweeping out the bad.  
"Yun-gil, I'm just asking you not to waste your life. You're like an egg throwing itself against a rock. It doesn't bother the rock. The egg's the one that breaks. Ten thousand eggs can break but the Korean people will live on. You guys talk about getting rid of the Americans and the imperialists and all the conservatives and holding a constitutional assembly to establish a unified nation, but wake up! Don't you realize who's got the knife by the handle?"  
Chu-on was getting excited. His words turned violent. He seemed to imply that he was only telling Yun-gil this because they were related. He puffed his chest out confidently for he believed that Chu-ch'ol and Tal-gyun shared his feelings.  
"I've listened to you two long enough. Now it's my turn," Chu-ch'ol said. "Let's say a beggar boy came into a tearoom but the waitress sent him packing. What if he grew up to be a prosecutor? He might demand a heavy sentence for any defendant who happened to work in a tearoom. What if he became a general? He might be cruel and punish his subordinates unnecessarily. What if he became the president of a big company? He might misuse his wealth. He might put out a contract on someone or try to buy political power. Just think what the world would be like if we were all bent on revenge. Revenge is the most dangerous thing in the world. And Chu-on, you seem to be filled with it. Your life is governed by your determination to revenge your grandfather and father. You would have attached yourself to the ruling hierarchy even if it were socialist or communist. Let's be frank, Chu-on."  
Chu-on looked up and burst out laughing. Tal-gyun nodded. "You're right," he said.  
Ssang-gyun's breathing grew raspier. His eyelids, sunken and blue, quivered. He was listening to everything that was being said. Yun-gil was looking at the window, his back to his father. He knew where Chu-ch'ol was headed. Now that he had finished with right-wing Chu-on, he would push Yun-gil to the far left and launch his attack. His father was conservative, rightist, nihilistic, opportunistic and revisionist. He pretended to be pure but he never acted on his conscience. Men pure in thought and passive in conscience stood by and watched the right-wing fascists take power. His father had taken the middle-of-the-road approach, fluttering back and forth between the right and the left like a bat. Yun-gil knew why. His father had seen so many deaths in the turbulent course of history. Yun-gil believed that a handful of rightists were able to run the country because the middle-of-the-roaders had been rendered powerless by nihilism and defeatism.  
Chu-ch'ol cleared his throat and continued.  
"I can't blame you for doing your job. After all, you're supposed to be arresting the so-called anti-establishment element. I just wish you'd act out of goodness instead of revenge. Why do you have to play handmaiden to people like that? Can't you find another way to make a living? Can't you change your direction? I feel sorry for you. You need to wake up too. What do you mean: intern ten thousand people on an island? Are you nuts?"  
Chu-ch'ol's voice trailed off in despair. It was impossible to enlighten simpletons like Chu-on to the merciful love of the Buddha or Jesus, he thought. The realization sent him tumbling into a dim sense of discouragement. Chu-on simply smiled into space, his features as blank and emotionless as an ox. Chu-ch'ol struggled for the energy to continue.  
"The world operates on the law of opposites. If there's a radical right, then a radical left naturally develops to counteract it. The right came into power on the coattails of the Americans who came here after dropping their nuclear bombs on Japan. Once they'd consolidated their power, the right had to persecute their opponents with ever greater intensity in order to stay in power, and the resistance grew in proportion to the persecution. Finally, the far left decides all conservatives, starting with the far right, have to be wiped out. Good people on both sides suffer as a result. Frankly, I'm on the right. I believe that we need gradual improvement, not radical reform. Yun-gil always criticizes me for my 'cancerous' bourgeois thoughts but I can't help thinking the recent wave of democratization started with people like me, invisible people who advocate gradual improvement."  
"Now we have to be careful of a reactionary backlash against democratization. If the surge for gradual improvement is a dynamic force moving our society, then the radical theories of the far right and far left, and the call for unconditional anti-Americanism and anti-imperialism and unconditional unification are all reactionary forces. The problem is we have to decide what is gradual improvement. What is the best path to democracy? It's clearly not communism or socialism..."  
Chu-ch'ol faltered. He felt a wave of helplessness spread through him. He couldn't tell if that was what made him hesitate or vice versa. He was speaking without conviction. He was afraid of what Yun-gil might say. "Why should you align yourself with the haves, Father? What do you have? A house? An orchard? A monthly salary of one million won from your job as an editor at that best-seller factory? Is that what makes you afraid to stand with the masses? That's peanuts... Are you really afraid of losing it?" Chu-ch'ol wiped the sweat from his face with his handkerchief.  
"Enough of this fightin'! It all sounds good to me. When Yun-gil talks, he makes sense. When Chu-on talks, he makes sense, and now that I hear what Chu-ch'ol has to say, he makes sense too... That's why the world's such a mess: everyone thinks they're right. I just don't like fightin'. And since I came back here to live, that's all there's been. Fightin' and more fightin'. The people from Temple Hollow are tryin' to beat the life out of me." Tal-gyun complained as he lit another cigarette.  
Chu-ch'ol thought of the barbed wire and black crosses he had seen on his way to the temple, the men he had encountered at the store. Ssang-gyun burst out in a fit of coughing. Chu-on took a sip from the tongch'imi bowl. Yun-gil kept gazing at the window, his back to the room.  
"People just want what other people have. That's what it all comes down to." The door opened silently as Tal-gyun spoke. His wife peered in, her mask-like face outlined in the bluish light of the snow. She was holding a tray of food. The rasping voice of the old woman called from behind her.  
"You stupid whore! Why don't you get to sleep? One whiff of those men and you're back there like a bitch in heat! Get in here!"  
"Who asked you to bring this? Why are you makin' such a fuss?" Tal-gyun snapped.  
The woman ignored him and studied each face in the room. The smell of make-up wafted through the door. No, it was the smell of her body. Tal-gyun limped to the door, grabbed the tray and slammed the door in her face. She had sliced some radishes and sweet potatoes. Beside them were a handful of wooden matches to pick them up with. Tal-gyun set the tray in the middle of the room and went on with his story.  
 

 

Tal-gyun longed to go home. He was exhausted. He made his living junk-collecting: pushing a cart around town, clanking a huge pair of scissors to announce his arrival. He carried a large bag of popcorn to reimburse people for what they gave him. No one had ever taught him how to use the scissors, but he played them well, making them sing like a gong in one of the farmers' bands that he had heard as a child. And when he clanked the scissors, he felt happy. His step grew lighter and his shoulders danced to the rhythm. Soon his cart was piled high with old newspapers, iron boiler pipes, door frames, broken tape recorders, cartons, empty bottles and plastic containers. He exchanged these for cash, which he used to buy a comforting drink of soju.  
When he first left Temple Hollow, he had planned to return as soon as he had saved enough to purchase an acre of paddy land. But money wasn't easy to come by. With the sky his only roof, he wandered the country until he was over forty, but he still didn't have enough money to buy a single patch of land. He didn't have a wife either. It looked like he would end up a nameless corpse in a public crematorium.  
So what if I don't have any money? he thought. I can farm the fields by the temple, tend the persimmon trees, and in winter I can go down to Shinsang and hire myself out for the seaweed harvest. I shouldn't be so greedy. What's so great about being rich? I'll go back when I find a woman who's willing to live with a poor man. I'll go back to my poor old mother. She's been waiting so long.  
No sooner had he made up his mind than he began to hear the iron bell at night. As a child, he had heard it every day, morning and evening, but at the time he left the village, the bell at Sea Cloud Temple was silent.  
There was no one to ring the bell now. The monks had not rebuilt the temple. They had not returned to live in the temple. I'll go back and ring the bell myself, he thought.  
I'll go as soon as I find a woman. But who'd want to live in that poor village? As he pushed his cart through the streets, he looked into the faces of the women passing by but none of them seemed right.  
Then one sweltering summer day he parked his cart in a shady corner of the junk yard and took a nap. He was bowing before the Buddha in the Main Hall when someone came up and took his wrist. The hand was as cold as ice. He looked up and saw a woman. Her face was painted gold. "I am the Bodhisattva of Compassion," she said with a smile. "Let's go to your village together. I will be your wife." Tal-gyun was afraid, overwhelmed, and jerked from his sleep. It had been a dream, but a woman was looking down at him. It was O Ch'un-ja, the woman who later became his wife. She was eating a piece of corn. She broke it in half and thrust one half at him. The smile never left her face; it reminded him of the Hahoe bride's mask. She was wearing a purple blouse and a white slip-on skirt. When he saw her smile, his throat tightened. That night he slept with her in a cheap inn nearby. Even now, he didn't know where she came from or what she had been doing before she met him. She wouldn't say. He had named her O Ch'un-ja, the spring child. He watched her carefully, but she seemed to care for nothing but eating, sleeping with her husband, and flirting with other men. Sometimes he wondered if Ch'un-ja was simply dreaming a long dream. That frightened him. What if she woke up one day and left him to return to her old life? I'd end up a rooster crowing at the sky, just like the lonely woodcutter who lost his fairy wife, he thought. His mother used to say that the fairy was able to leave the woodcutter because she had only two children to carry. If there had been three, she wouldn't have been able to carry them into the sky. Tal-gyun wanted to have three children as soon as possible, but it didn't work out. They had two children in the first two years, but there were no more after that. A family planning worker came from the local health center and tried to persuade him to have a vasectomy or Ch'un-ja to have a tubal ligation. He felt like he was going crazy.  
When he returned to the village, the bell was still there. The problem was the villagers wouldn't let him ring it.  
He couldn't believe how the world had changed. Before he left Temple Hollow, everyone revered the Buddha. They went to the Buddha for everything: for babies, for good harvests, for cures to their ills. They even went to the Buddha when their oxen and pigs gave birth. The first rice of the harvest was offered to the Buddha, and the first persimmons, chestnuts, sesame seeds, melons and watermelons were placed on an altar before him.  
But now the path to the temple was blocked with barbed wire. They used scorched wooden crosses as fence posts. They built a church with a spire that pierced the sky on the path between the village and the temple, and they took down the two stone spirit posts that used to stand by the entrance to the village. They chiseled off the Buddhas carved in relief on the rocks behind the village and spray-painted a red cross in their place. The Maitreya Buddha on Sunrise Peak had been destroyed as had the Buddha by the signal tower, and the villagers knocked down the pagodas that once stood in the temple courtyard.  
Then they broke Tal-gyun's leg for ringing the bell.  
One stormy night soon after that, a gang of thieves broke into the living quarters, tied Tal-gyun's family up, and stole off with the bell. They wore masks and wouldn't let anyone turn on the lights. They never spoke a word and disappeared like a puff of wind. Tal-gyun couldn't tell if they were from Temple Hollow or if they had been called in from a nearby village.  
The next day Tal-gyun reported the robbery to the police. According to the police, the bell was a valuable cultural artifact. Investigators were sent from the local police station, the national police and the Office of Cultural Properties. The strange thing was Sea Cloud Temple was not listed with the Office of Cultural Properties. Nor was the bell. The people from the Office of Cultural Properties, afraid they would be accused of carelessness, told the police that the bell had no cultural value, and the police hastened to close the case, declaring it the work of second-hand dealers. Later, the owner of the bell appeared asking the police to reopen the investigation, but it never was resumed.  
The bell was owned by the foundation that ran the Buddha's Light High School in town. The people of Temple Hollow hated that foundation.  
When the monks failed to return after the temple burned down, the villagers suddenly felt rich. There was no one to collect the rents on the land or fruit trees. The Pak clan wanted nothing to do with temple finances after Ho-nam's death. The land belonged to the tenants now. Some people farmed an acre, others three acres or more. Some people cared for just one or two persimmon trees, others ten or twenty. When the persimmon harvest was good for several years in a row, people said they wouldn't exchange their trees for paddy land. There was no need for fertilizer or pesticides with persimmon trees, no transplanting or weeding or spreading compost. Tending a persimmon tree was like shooting fish in a barrel. It required none of the fuss of farming. The people of Temple Hollow paid no rent for several years. They attributed their good fortune to the Buddhas and Maitreyas carved in the surrounding mountains. The Buddha in the temple's Main Hall was gone, but the villagers found their own Buddhas in the mountains and made regular offerings with great care and respect.  
Tal-gyun's family, on the other hand, grew poorer with each passing day. They had eaten well when the monks were collecting rents and watching over temple affairs, and the villagers were making generous offerings of food to the Buddha. But now that Pak Ho-nam was dead and the temple abandoned, they had nothing. It was this poverty that had driven Tal-gyun to leave.  
A year after he left, two men from the Buddha's Light High School Foundation came. They went around the village with a list of the temple's property, checking who worked which land and demanding rents from that year's harvest. They even charged rent on the chestnut and persimmon trees. The former head monk had donated all temple property to the school foundation when the school was established. The villagers agreed to pay the rents at first but then they held a town meeting.  
"It's not fair. How could they turn over the temple's assets to the school foundation without letting us know? After all, the temple was already abandoned. The rents we paid over the years more than cover the price of those fields. We can't just sit back and watch!" said Ko Ch'ang-sok. He had been village head for three years after his discharge as a sergeant from the army.  
"We've got to stick together. Let's tell them we won't pay, even if it means we can't work the land," said Pae Tong-jun. A chaplain's assistant while in the army, he had failed in an attempt at seaweed farming in Shinsang and had returned to the village to tend an acre and a half of paddy land and ten persimmon trees.  
"Let's just say we won't work the land if they charge rent. Who'd come all the way up here to work this land?" added the current village head, Song Chae-dong. A heavy-set man, Song had graduated from agricultural high school and made a good income growing black mushrooms.  
These three young men formed the nucleus of village resistance to the foundation's demands. Pae brought his friend, the Reverend Kim Mok-ho, to the village. They built a church in the field next to the path leading to the temple. The field belonged to the temple, of course. Pae told the villagers that every paddy and field, every persimmon and chestnut tree belonged to God. If they wanted to tend God's possessions they had to become God's children, and in order to become God's children, they had to renounce idol worship.  
Once they had built the church and started destroying the stone spirit posts and the Buddhist statues in the mountains, the people of Temple Hollow came to despise Tal-gyun's family for living in the temple. The villagers had abandoned the Buddha and turned to God for the sole purpose of taking over the temple land and trees.  
With the bell gone, Tal-gyun lost his taste for life. He could still hear it, reverberating across the fields to echo off of Sunrise Peak before floating into the sky. He was determined to find it. He went to the village and asked around; he snuck down to the village store at night and eavesdropped on the people drinking inside.  
One day Tal-gyun noticed that the villagers were all carrying iron candlesticks as they left the church. He nearly shouted when he saw them. The next day he went to the police. What if the villagers took the temple bell to a foundry and melted it down to make candlesticks? he asked. The policemen just laughed.  
Maybe they buried it, he thought. He dug in the mountains and fields and, thanks to a recent dry spell, was able to search nearby ponds and reservoirs.  
But then, beginning two years ago, Tal-gyun was faced with a more serious problem. His wife had started roaming around the village at night while he slept. At least, he first became aware of it two years ago. For all he knew she could have been doing it for years.  
Ch'un-ja grew restless at the sound of men laughing, talking or singing in the mountains and fields. One night as she stole from the house, Tal-gyun pretended to be asleep, then followed her at a distance. She peered into the dark church and stood outside the store watching the men drink and talk. Then she went inside and smiled coquettishly at them, moistening her lips and batting her eyelids. When they offered her a drink, she accepted it gratefully. When they took her hand, she wriggled bashfully but never pushed them away.  
One day Ko Ch'ang-sok's wife came running into the temple courtyard. "I hear you're letting your wife run wild on purpose! People say you let her run around like a bitch in heat because you can't get it up!"  
When Tal-gyun asked what she meant, the woman told him what everyone in the village knew. "They say if a man hasn't done it with Tal-gyun's wife, he must not have any balls."  
Tal-gyun sent the woman on her way and confronted his wife. He grabbed her by the hair and threatened her with a knife, demanding to know who she had met and what they had done. She rubbed her hands together, begging him for mercy and promising never to do it again, but that very night he caught her sneaking out. He beat her, and she rubbed her hands together and begged for forgiveness. He beat her every time he caught her, but there was no use scolding her. She simply begged for forgiveness, and in the next instant forgot everything. She didn't understand that what she was doing was wrong. She didn't understand that it was immoral to have sex with other men. Once he realized that, he simply tried to keep her from going out. He didn't beat or scold her when she managed to escape his watchful eye.  
Instead, he did everything he could to find the lost bell. He decided to join forces with the school foundation. They were happy for his cooperation and sent an official letter to the police, urging them to reopen the case. They even slipped some money to the detectives handling the investigation. The detectives delved into the origins of the candlesticks, but they couldn't find the bell. The very idea that someone stole the bell and melted it down into candlesticks was the stuff of fiction, and the investigation ran into a brick wall once more.  
The school foundation had hoped for an easy solution to the problem of its recalcitrant tenants in the investigation of the stolen bell. Failing that, they took the matter to court. The school won hands-down, of course. Late the previous autumn the villagers were ordered to pay regular rents to the foundation.  
The people of Temple Hollow did not appeal the verdict, but they did not pay the rents either. Fearful of what might happen, the school foundation refrained from sending a bailiff to settle the matter with force. Instead, they tried to reach an agreement with the villagers, offering a cut in rents and an extension of the due date. The tenants snorted in disgust and sent notification that they would not pay a single cent. As far as they were concerned, the rents they had paid over the years more than covered the price of the land. The land should be turned over to them free of charge. They even threatened the use of force if their demands were not met.  
 

 

"I don't understand how they can be so stubborn," Tal-gyun sighed as he turned to Chu-ch'ol. Clenching his teeth in a grimace, he drew a deep breath. He looked like he would do anything to get back at the villagers.  
"I'm not askin' for much. My dream's simple enough. I just want to live in a peaceful village where the sound of the temple bell fills the fields and mountains and sky. I wanted to make Temple Hollow into that kind of village. Where people offer fresh grain and fruit to the Buddha, where people share the rice cakes they make for family ancestral rites with their neighbors, where the clear sound of the chantin' and the wooden clapper never rests. But it ain't easy. I feel like I've run into a brick wall. I don't like fightin', not with anyone. But I had to fight for the bell. You just wait. I'm gonna find it. I'm gonna get rid of those thieves and make this a quiet, beautiful village. I'm gonna do it, if only for my own innocent little children."  
Tal-gyun sighed and lit a cigarette.  
"Huh?" Ssang-gyun snorted. "What's so simple about that dream?"  
Tal-gyun looked down at him in loathing. Chu-ch'ol and Chu-on turned to the old man too. Yun-gil was still facing the window.  
"It's none of your business anyway. Why don't you go sleep in your own room?" Tal-gyun spat.  
"Dreaming of a quiet, peaceful village is the most frightening thing in the world," Ssang-gyun murmured. "Your ambition is what's frightening. Hitler wanted to make Germany peaceful for his own people so he started a war and killed the Jews. And the Communists insist on class struggle to create their own ideal society."  
"What?" asked Tal-gyun.  
Tal-gyun is being swept up in a kind of religious war, Chu-ch'ol thought. There is nothing more sinister. When a believer becomes a fanatic, he ceases to think. He's trained to believe his god like a hunting dog, to attack people of other religions on command. Ssang-gyun may have been right: Tal-gyun's dream could get him into a religious war.  
"You fool, you don't have a house, much less a temple. This house belongs to the temple and the Buddha's Light High School Foundation got deed to it without you ever knowing. You stupid oaf, don't you realize they could come here tomorrow and throw you out on your ear?" Ssang-gyun paused to catch his breath.  
"What a crock of nonsense!" Tal-gyun snorted. "Why should they throw me out when I'm doin' exactly as they say? My mother's dedicated her life to this temple. She cooked for the monks. Why would they throw her son out?"  
"That's why I called you a fool. Don't you realize why the villagers are standing up to the foundation? They want to break free from the slavery that they've lived under for so long! If they're successful, the paddy land you're working will be yours. You won't have to pay rent. It'll be yours outright."  
"I know that! I just don't like the idea of takin' someone else's property. It's just like the communists. Why are they tryin' to take it by force, instead of earnin' money and buyin' it, fair and square? It's highway robbery, no two ways about it. It's unthinkable under the Korean system of private property." Tal-gyun's voice rose in irritation. "Look at this! We're fightin' right now! Fight, fight, I'm so sick of it! That's enough! I only told you about my problems with the people in Temple Hollow 'cause I was hopin' at least our family could live in peace."  
"How can you be so stupid? Don't you understand? If you figure in all the rent the villagers have paid over the years, they have a right to the land!" Ssang-gyun wheezed.  
"Since when? A tenant pays rent for ten or fifteen years and he has a right to the land? Whose law is that? North Korea's? The Soviet Union's? China's?"  
"The temple's burned down and there ain't no monks, so what's wrong with it?"  
Tal-gyun looked up and laughed in frustration. "Brother, you sound like those Jesus freaks in the village."  
Tal-gyun paused for a moment, then seemed to remember something. "Ah, I get it. You're the one who convinced the villagers to have it out with the foundation."  
"Huh? Like I got nothing better to do! What's wrong with you? Don't you realize why I came in here tonight? I'm as good as dead but I came in here 'cause I had something to say."  
Ssang-gyun wanted to save Yun-gil. They had talked a lot during Yun-gil's stay at the temple. They both agreed that wealth had to be redistributed and the foreign powers had to be driven out before Korea could be unified. Their biggest difference lay in the question: What could be done now? He thought the situation was hopeless, but Yun-gil was optimistic. Yun-gil spoke of revolution.  
"Somewhere I heard about the Patricide Society. You know, patricide began with Oedipus. It's rooted deep in the human subconscious. I think it could accelerate the passage of history, push it in the right direction. Killing one's father is an act of revolution. Compromising with one's father means compliance and stagnation. History begins when sons kill their fathers. It's the same principle as dialectic materialism: an eternal struggle between father and son. That's why our generation is in such agony today."  
Ssang-gyun's life and the society in which he lived had been ruined by radical ideas like that.  
Ssang-gyun had achieved nothing. Everything in his life had ended in failure. Like Yun-gil, he had dreamed of social reform based on the logic of the Patricide Society, but he realized it was nothing more than a fantasy. After hiding in the mountains for a while, he turned himself in and changed his way of thinking. He tried his hand at all kinds of jobs. He strapped a wire cage on the back of a bike and traveled around buying dogs, which he then sold to dog soup restaurants. It wasn't long before he tired of shouting, "Dogs, dogs, sell your dogs," and settled down on the outskirts of Kwangju to raise them himself. If his mother had known what he was doing, she would have been died of shock for she had spent her life in a Buddhist temple. At any rate, he made lots of money and soon bought extra cages to raise more puppies. A neighbor who was in the same business helped him rupture the puppies' eardrums with a wire so they wouldn't bark. It was an expensive venture raising the dogs to maturity. He was forced to take out some high-interest loans, but he figured dog prices would soar come summer and his earnings would pay off the loans and then some.  
However, the dog soup business was wiped out in a single day. The television news reported that dog meat had been found to contain bacteria that destroyed the human liver. The following day officials from the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs began inspecting dog soup restaurants. It was just like the time people stopped eating raw fish because it was said to contain vibrio bacteria. Everyone quit eating dog.  
It all began when a foreign animal rights group threatened to boycott the Seoul Olympics if Koreans kept eating dog meat. Fearful of what might happen, government officials lied to the public, hiring an unprincipled scholar to testify to the presence of the bacteria.  
No one confronted the Ministry, though. The bottom fell out of the dog market overnight, and suppliers and restauranteurs went bankrupt.  
Ssang-gyun's wife died of a broken heart. His son, a relief driver, was hit by a truck and killed. Ssang-gyun had them cremated and drowned his sorrows in drink. Then one day his throat began to hurt. It was swollen. He could not swallow and his voice grew husky, as if he had been shouting. His tonsils swelled and then his lymph glands. There was a lump on his glands the size of a ping-pong ball. His body felt heavy. It was hard to move. Lumps developed in his armpits and groin. The local pharmacist told him it looked like cancer of the larynx and urged him to go to a hospital. My life's not worth the price of a hospital room, he thought. It was all a matter of karma. Weighed down by that tremendous fate, Ssang-gyun returned to his mother. She threw her arms around him and cried. "Where have you been all this time? Did you marry? Do you have any children?" She mistook him for Ssang-do who had escaped to North Korea. Mother lived to see Ssang-do again, and Ssang-gyun struggled to suppress his urge to kill her.  
The previous morning Ssang-gyun had seen his mother devouring the pork that Yun-gil had brought from Chu-man's funeral. He couldn't stand it any longer. She had always been such a devout Buddhist. She wouldn't even speak of meat. But her spirit had left her body already. There was nothing left, only the spirit of an animal or evil spirit. Ssang-gyun was returning from the outhouse when he saw her. A broken roof tile lay on the ground before him. He picked it up and hurled it at her. "Why don't you just drop dead?" he shouted.  
When he opened his eyes, he was lying in his room. Yun-gil was looking down at him. He had collapsed after throwing the tile.  
"Everyone has their own share of life. Why did you try to take your mother's away?"  
He was lucky to meet Yun-gil now, as he waited to die. Yun-gil showed him something he hadn't seen before. As he listened to the young man, he felt as if his body was growing lighter and starting to float.  
"Attachment can make you sick, but it can also make you well. If you want to escape the physical and spiritual pain that you see as your fate, perhaps you should shift your attachment to something larger, something beyond yourself."  
Yun-gil felt an obligation to liberate Grandmother Chong and Uncle Tal-gyun from their lifetime of slavery. Ssang-gyun just closed his eyes and listened.  
"I've been meeting with the people in Temple Hollow. I know you're sick, so just rest and wish me luck in my efforts."  
Ssang-gyun took Yun-gil's advice and began to focus his mind on the confrontation between the villagers and the school foundation. He lay in the middle of the room, still as a corpse, but the more he thought, the more he felt as if he were leading the villagers in their struggle. He forgot his own pain.  
When he heard that Chu-on had come to the temple, he couldn't stay in his room. He had heard about Chu-on from Yun-gil. Yun-gil was waiting for Chu-on. He knew that Chu-on would show up on some pretext sooner or later.  
Ssang-gyun opened his eyes and glowered at Chu-on. His eyeballs looked as if they were made of glass.  
"Even the blackest magpie knows how to be grateful, and a snake never harms the man who saves him. You lay a hand on Yun-gil and the gods will punish you. Don't you realize your father owes them? A son has to pay his father's debts. That's the way it should be."  
Ssang-gyun was holding Chu-on's hand. Chu-on nodded as he looked into the black pits of Ssang-gyun's eyes.  
"He's studied a lot," Ssang-gyun explained, "but he's still young. You've got to protect him. Please. It's my final wish."  
Chu-on nodded again. Tal-gyun snorted in disgust.  
"You might as well pray to the wildcat not to eat the family chicken." He trusted no one.  
The door opened quietly again. It was the woman. She was holding a small table. She had made ramen noodles. Tal-gyun snapped at her in anger but took the table and placed it in the middle of the room. The woman stood at the doorway studying the men one by one. Her grinning face resembled a phantom waiting to bewitch them.  
Chu-ch'ol avoided her gaze. Moistening his lips, he thought of Yun-gil. The boy caused trouble wherever he went. I'll have to get him out of here first thing in the morning. If the villagers kept refusing to pay the rents, the police would come to investigate and Yun-gil might be caught. They may have already started investigating the villagers. In the bluish light of the snow behind the woman he sensed a dark conspiracy. It seemed as if a wave of people were silently sweeping down on the temple. Yun-gil was a carrot: the promise of a cash reward and a special promotion.  
"Yeah, now I understand. People are always sayin' never trust the human animal, and they're right," Tal-gyun's features had hardened. They were full of the pain of betrayal as he scooped the noodles into the bowls stacked on the table. He had done so much for Yun-gil. He had slaughtered him a chicken at least once a week, he had dug him a shelter in the hill behind the temple, he had bought him new bedding. He did all he could for Yun-gil. Everyone knew the boy was brilliant. But now... How could Yun-gil betray him like that? How could he conspire with the villagers he hated so, the villagers who had caused him so much pain?  
"I know you're young and inexperienced but how could you do somethin' like that? I can't believe it!" Tal-gyun cried, after he had finished serving the noodles. He looked into the air and sighed.  
Chu-ch'ol felt Yun-gil was wrong too, although he knew the boy had acted out of some kind of conviction. Obviously Yun-gil would disagree. He had thoroughly rejected the concept of family loyalty. So why had he come down here and stayed so long? Why did he have to hurt this innocent man? Chu-ch'ol hated his son's cold-blooded selfishness. If he'd known Yun-gil was going to end up like this he wouldn't have educated him so much.  
"Please don't be angry with me. I know you're upset but try to be patient. You won't regret it, I'm sure." Yun-gil turned to look Tal-gyun straight in the eyes. His face was filled with arrogance. He was so self-righteous. As long as he was convinced that he was doing something for the people, there would be no compromise, no yielding. He looked down and continued.  
"Please try to understand. I'd never betray anyone. Sakyamuni Buddha never hated or betrayed anything in his long struggle to serve the masses, and it's the same with those of us working for the people today. Sometimes it might look like we're betraying the reactionary forces, but that's just temporary. In the end, everyone will benefit."  
"I know I'm ignorant but don't try to trick me with your fancy talk. I ain't gonna give in 'cause a bunch of talk. Anyway, I understand what you're sayin'. You have your ideas and I have mine. I ain't gonna let it get to me. Let's have it out, just you and me. Imagine an old man and his smart-ass nephew fightin'-what a pretty sight that would be!" Tal-gyun chuckled bitterly.  
Yun-gil is like a cancer cell, Chu-on thought. This peaceful village is covered with a black cloud because of him. The villagers are the ones who will be hurt by the fight Yun-gil is stirring. Chu-on was trying to convince himself that he needn't feel guilty about arresting Yun-gil. Better to get him now, for his own sake and to prevent his father from feeling any more pain. With cancer, early detection and removal of the cancerous cells were best for the patient.  
 

 

In the depths of sleep, Song Chae-dong, the village head, heard branches snapping under the weight of the snow. His sleeping wife in his arms, he thought of Pae Tong-jun. That night as he returned from the store, he began to suspect Pae and the minister, Kim Mok-ho. Maybe they had conspired to get rid of the bell. Who else would do it?  
The people of Temple Hollow were puppets in their conspiracy, he thought. They had abandoned the Buddha and replaced him with God and Jesus. They had done it for the rents, no other reason. The people from the school foundation had shown up, completely out of the blue, and demanded the back rent. They had even levied rents on the persimmon and chestnut trees. And now Pae and Kim were using the villagers for their own purposes.  
The younger people submitted to them easily but the older villagers said they couldn't give up the Buddha. The young people held meeting after meeting. They decided that each person had to take responsibility for his own parents. They told them that they had to serve Jesus if they wanted the land that they had worked so hard over the years. It was only right. They had to believe in Jesus if they wanted a better life. Some of the older villagers accepted their sons' arguments immediately, but others refused. They said they would be punished if they abandoned the Buddha for a few measly pieces of land. Religious quarrels broke out in several families.  
Despite the elders' objections, there was no turning back. The young men managed to overcome their parents and each claimed a plot of land. Some took up knives and threatened to kill the whole family when a parent was particularly obstinate. Others begged their parents to simply pretend to believe in Jesus, while still serving the Buddha in their hearts. That was what bothered Song Chae-dong. For nearly a year he had been fighting with his old mother. Finally he told her, "I can't live in this village if you're going to be so stubborn. I'm leaving. Have a good life with your Buddha," and packed his belongings. Only then did his mother give in. It was with such tactics that the young people convinced their parents to forsake the Buddha.  
Thinking back, Song felt as if he had been pushed by some great force. He released his wife from his arms and turned on his back. Her body hadn't changed, but somehow it felt colder and harder that night. He thought of Tal-gyun's wife, her eyes half-closed in pleasure.  
A few days earlier he had run into her in a field of dry reeds at sunset. He was climbing the main ridge to Sunrise Peak to check on the oak boughs he had cut for mushroom frames when he spotted her. She must have seen him first for she was already smiling that droopy-eyed smile of hers. As he drew nearer, he saw three oak boughs lying on the ground beside her. You miserable thief! He stopped and glowered down at her. Sensing his anger, she began rubbing her hands together, begging for mercy. Suddenly the sight of her long face, the droopy eyes, the long, thin grasshopper eyebrows, the full, pouting lips, the skin, white as the inside of a gourd, sparked a fire in him. He recalled what the men in the village had said: Just push her down and she'll put out right then and there. They said her flesh was warmer and softer than anything they'd ever felt before. The women called her the village pisshole. He had teased Ko Ch'ang-sok and Pae Tong-jun for sleeping with her. "I'll lend you my dog next time she's in heat," he said. In the past, he had always ignored the woman.  
But when he saw her alone in that deserted field, his manhood was awakened. She smelled of dry grass, like a wild animal. She seemed part of a wild, virgin forest.  
He squatted down and the woman's body went limp like a centipede that had been stung. As a child, he had stolen sweet potatoes from other people's fields, frantically digging up the long vines, yanking the sweet potatoes out one by one, like so many wild rabbits. He ripped open her clothes with the same intensity, his heart racing as her hidden parts were revealed. He felt dizzy. She lay on her back, blinking lazily like a copulating sow. As he plunged into her, she cried out, like a doe caught in a snare.  
He couldn't get the incident out of his mind. It was like the secret taste of tart berries picked on a desolate mountain in winter. It was as if he were a wild dove that had soared high in the sky and returned to the wintry forest. No, it was a dream. He sucked her tongue and lips. She was no ordinary woman. She was like the woman from the legend, the one who put the cintamani in the school boy's mouth. She had changed Temple Hollow into a fantasy world, an unfathomable bewitching swamp.  
He didn't say anything about her to others. He wanted to find a way to meet her again, alone.  
He turned in bed once more. Outside he heard someone walking in the snow. He held his breath. Was it Tal-gyun's wife? People said that she gave meaningful looks to the men she had slept with. She even visited their houses. It must be true. His wife did not stir. I'd better go out and get rid of her before the wife wakes up, he thought. I'll take her to the shed and satisfy her. No, I'd better ignore her. Let the wife get rid of her if she wakes up.  
The footsteps drew nearer. It was more than one person. He bolted upright. Suddenly he remembered the bell. He had heard the police were going to reopen the case. Then he remembered Pak Yun-gil. Chu-ch'ol's genius son was staying at the temple. They must have reopened the investigation because of him.  
The bell was only an excuse; the police were clearly more interested in getting the villagers to pay their rent. When the school foundation sent a man around offering a cut in the rents and an extension in the pay period, Song had suggested they go along with it, on the condition they write off the overdue rent. Almost everyone, except Ko Ch'ang-sok and Pae Tong-jun, agreed, but then Yun-gil intervened. He encouraged the villagers to fight for the land. Thanks to Yun-gil, Ko and Pae were able to get the others to confront the head of the foundation with their demands.  
"Song! Hey, Song Chae-dong!" a familiar voice called from the gate. It was Constable Chi from the local police box. As he stepped outside he saw two plainclothes officers standing beside the constable. One was as large as Song; the other was stocky and of medium height. They smelled of sweat and liquor. They must have had a drink before venturing into the heavy snow.  
"Sorry to wake you, but we need a guide," Constable Chi whispered. He did not introduce the other men by name but said, "These gentlemen came about the bell. They have conclusive evidence that Pak Tal-gyun conspired with some outsiders to sneak the bell out of the temple."  
Baffled, Song stared at the constable. As far as he was concerned, Tal-gyun was honest and naive to the point of stupidity. How could he do such a thing and pretend he didn't know what had happened? Song couldn't believe it and was immediately suspicious of the constable.  
"Take us to him," the large man rumbled.  
As Song led them through the snow, Constable Chi drew closer and whispered, "A college student named Pak Yun-gil has been staying at Tal-gyun's house for some time, hasn't he? He helped Tal-gyun smuggle the bell out. I heard he's hiding in a cave behind the temple. You know all about it, don't you?"  
Song looked into the sky. It had stopped snowing. Would Yun-gil do something like that? The boy was always saying he had dedicated his mind and body to the masses. Why would he go sneaking behind their backs like that? Song shook his head. Something was wrong.  
From the very beginning he hadn't approved of the way Yun-gil, an outsider, had tried to interfere in their affairs. He had shouted at him, telling him to mind his own business. City folks and poor country folks are different, he had said. He had even thought of asking the police to run a check on Yun-gil. He suspected the boy's motives. Still, he couldn't believe that Yun-gil and Tal-gyun would steal the bell, though he could hardly argue with the police about it.  
Song knew it wouldn't be right to lead them straight to the temple. The boy was probably fast asleep. I have to stall them, Song thought. You have to protect the animals that take refuge in your house. As they left the village and climbed the main ridge to Sunrise Peak, Song deliberately stumbled and slipped.  
"How come you blocked off a perfectly good road with barbed wire and make people take this long way around?" Constable Chi complained after taking an especially painful fall himself.  
 

 

Ssang-gyun lay on the floor wheezing. Tal-gyun sat cross-legged, looking back and forth between Chu-on and Yun-gil. Chu-on was waiting. He was exhausted. For two months he had been plotting to meet Yun-gil face to face. He had used up his patience. Now all he had to do was make sure he didn't miss his chance. It was time to quietly reap his reward.  
Where are those guys? he wondered. What's taking them so long? He sucked peevishly on his cigarette.  
"What did you plan on doing with me once you got here?" Yun-gil sounded as if he were trying to start a quarrel.  
Chu-on exhaled and turned to Yun-gil with a frown. What a pathetic pup, he thought. Right, just keep playing the fool.  
"What do you mean? You got me all wrong. I didn't come to get you. I just wanted to make you realize that what you've done is wrong. You're not helping our society or our people."  
"Thanks, but you've come a long way for nothing," Yun-gil replied in a disdainful tone.  
"Come on! Let's talk this out. What do you think is going on in our society? What is reality for you? People can't live drunken on ideals."  
"If you want my respect, quit acting so haughty. You're the one who said you're a member of the basic class so take off that mask and start living the truth. Devote yourself to the common people, the people of your own class. Life's too short! Why do you insist on living such a despicable existence?" Yun-gil demanded.  
Chu-on tossed back his head and guffawed.  
"I may be jumpin' the gun but I'd like to tell you somethin'," Tal-gyun intervened. "You boys can say what you like, but make sure it ends in talk. I don't want nothin' bad happenin' here. Understand?"  
Chu-on and Yun-gil did not answer.  
Chu-ch'ol went outside to urinate. It's no use talking to Chu-on, he thought. That filthy piece of scum! Still, Chu-ch'ol hoped that Chu-on could open Yun-gil's eyes. He knew Chu-on wouldn't be able to turn the boy around completely; he simply hoped that Chu-on could make the boy a little less radical.  
His shoes were gone from the stepping stone beneath the porch. All that was left was a pair of men's white rubber shoes. He slipped them on and headed for the outhouse. As he passed the kitchen, he paused.  
A dim electric light burned inside. Tal-gyun's wife was crouched by the firehole, doing something. She looked up and smiled. The coals burned red in the firehole. Her face appeared flushed in the reddish glow of the light bulb. Is she roasting sweet potatoes? He was about to move on when he saw what she was doing.  
Several pairs of shoes were lined up on the hearth. That's where his shoes had gone! She was drying them. They were all men's shoes. He felt something hot shoot up his spine. It wasn't because she was sacrificing her sleep to dry the guests' shoes. It was because of the reddish light, the gaping black firehole, the glowing coals. Strangely, it made him think of a wild creature's womb. How often did you find a primitive woman drying the shoes of her male visitors, with an idiotic smile on her face? The temple was a mysterious swamp, he thought.  
He hurried to the outhouse, but urinated outside, on the white snow. As he headed back to the room, he sensed someone coming, and hid around the corner of the outhouse. Four dark figures were moving through the snow. One went around the back of the living quarters, another to the front courtyard. A large man approached the outhouse. He must have seen Chu-ch'ol. Chu-ch'ol felt the blood rushing to his head. They must be part of Chu-on's gang, he thought. Yun-gil would be arrested now. He had to do something. He had to get word to Yun-gil. Should he call out, "Run, Yun-gil!" or demand to know who they were. He stepped out of the shadows and approached the large black figure.  
"You're from the police, aren't you? You've come for Pak Yun-gil. I'm his father. My relatives are trying to get him to surrender. Please don't make any hasty decisions. Yun-gil is almost ready to surrender," he lied.  
However, before the black figure could answer, something happened.  
"Pak Tal-gyun, I want to talk to you," Song Chae-dong called from the front courtyard.  
"Ssang-do, run! They've come to get you!" came the Widow Chong's raspy voice.  
The light went out in Tal-gyun's room, then they heard the sound of the door being kicked open.  
"Who is that?" hollered Tal-gyun. A shriek rang through the darkness, then something tumbled and crashed to the ground. Chu-ch'ol felt dizzy. Chu-on and the plainclothesmen must be beating Yun-gil and putting him in handcuffs. The large man next to him drew a pistol and dashed toward the living quarters. As he stepped onto the porch, a shadow sprang from the darkened room and darted across the courtyard. The man with the pistol called out, "Stop!" and fired two shots. The fleeing shadow headed toward Sunrise Peak. The church bell in the village rang through the darkness. It was time for early morning services.  
Chu-ch'ol let out a sigh of relief as he watched the shadow disappear into the snowy forest.  
"Ssang-do! Hurry!" The Widow Chong's voice was drowned out by the bell.  
Yun-gil was barefoot. The snow reached his calves as he trudged across the ridges and valleys. His toes and the soles of his feet stung. They felt as if they were being cut to pieces by the sharp stones and branches. I can't let them catch me. I've got to think of the others. They're depending on me. That's my duty. It's more important than my life. Anyone who was caught, even if he had no choice, had to submit to self-criticism. It was your duty not to be caught. And if you were, you must never give the names of your comrades, even if they threatened to kill you. If someone was exposed, everyone believed that it was the fault of the one who had been arrested. Sell out your friends to escape torture and you were sure to receive severe criticism when you got out of prison. If you wanted to avoid that criticism, you had to do your best not to be caught.  
Yun-gil felt like laughing out loud. Thanks to his uncles and the t'aekwondo skills he had so painfully acquired in the military, he had managed to escape Chu-on's noose.  
Ssang-gyun had grabbed Chu-on's ankle the minute he heard his mother's cries and the voices outside. Tal-gyun turned off the light, and in the confusion, Yun-gil kicked down the man climbing onto the porch and fled, fists flying, out of the courtyard.  
He wanted to laugh but couldn't. He had nowhere to go. He limped through the snow like a wounded leopard, leaving a clear trail of footprints behind him. As he stumbled up the mountain, he longed for the room that Tal-gyun's wife had kept so warm. Where do I go? Where do I go now?  
Chu-ch'ol followed the footprints up the ridge, Yun-gil's sneakers in hand. His own shoes, so carefully dried by Tal-gyun's wife, were soaking after a few meters. He slipped and tumbled in the snow drifts. He rolled into the ravines more than once, and each time, he was overcome by a ponderous feeling of despair. He refused to surrender to it, grinding the despair between his teeth and scrambling after his son like a wild beast. Their footprints twisted dizzily through the snow. For Chu-ch'ol, the footprints were evidence of the destiny they shared as father and son. He felt his son's warmth radiating from them. He wanted to cry out, he wanted to vomit blood. When the red glow of the morning sun ignited over the distant sea, Yun-gil's footprints were filled with bloody shadows.  
(to be continued)  
 



Translated by Julie Pickering and Yu Young-nan.