Born in the island of Wan-do, South Cholla Province, in 1954, Im Chol-woo studied English Language and Literature at Chonnam University, Kwangju, and Sogang University, Seoul. He first began to write in the early 1980s, after being present at the traumatic events marking the 1980 Kwangju Democratic Uprising. This experience, and the ensuing sense of guilt at having survived while others died, combined with the pain of the enduring division of Korea and the harshness of military dictatorship, to inspire a series of novels and short stories in which the burden of pain is expressed in a variety of symbolic ways.  
His first novel, Abojiui ttang (Father's land, 1984) is centered on the desire for reunification and expresses the dramatic separation that exists between the generation of the parents, who fought the Korean War, and that of the young who are forced to endure its consequences unwillingly.  
This was followed by another seven novels of which one, Ku some kago sip'ta (I long to go to that island, 1991) was made into a widely-acclaimed film. It evokes some of the most painful memories of the Korean War, when soldiers of one side disguised themselves in the uniforms of the other, forced simple villagers to declare their allegiance, then executed those who chose the wrong side. It poses in stark terms the question of how Korea can overcome the wounds of the past.  
Inevitably, Im finds the most intense expression of such tensions in the difficulties of the father-son relationship and this is the subject of stories in his latest publication Tungdae areso huip'aram (Whistling under the lighthouse, 1994).  
The short novella published here was originally published under the title Ku pam horongpul palkhigo. It represents a particularly harsh attack on the futility of war, which is shown to be utterly meaningless. Against the background of the ruins left by the Korean War, the author stresses the value of human relationships, of simple brotherhood. Amidst intense suffering, he portrays an archetypal tale of death and rebirth.  

With Her Oil Lamp, That Night  


As the night deepened the moon rose.  
Swollen tight as if about to burst, it was the pregnant full moon of the last month of the year. With the moon it became bright in the wooded hillside. Though packed with trees whose trunks were of an arms' circumference, most of them were deciduous, and through the gaunt leafless twigs the moon cast dappled light on the ground, revealing scrubs and dried-up brambles.  
Reflecting on the snow that had fallen a couple of days before, the moonlight was also creating mystic patches of luminosity here and there. On this particular night, apart from the occasional rustling of dry oak leaves, all around was so quiet. It was almost eerie.  
Not a sound came from the foot of the hill. He laid down his gun, leaned against a rock and looked down towards it. Opposite, in the distance, he could see a bulky peak which he reckoned to be Red Cliff, and nearer, on the level ground, he could make out dimly, under the moonlight the paddies and dry fields. At the point where the fields met the bottom of the hill, there nestled in a dip the village of Chong-pungni.  
So the white ribbon that edged round the field below must be the road to Dongbokmyon. Follow it up the slope of the hill and you would be at the entrance to Chon-pungni, and from there you saw the thatched roofs coming into sight one after anther. All these now dimly seen beneath the moonlight he could see vividly with his eyes closed. The four hundred year-old zelkova tree at the entrance to the village and the stone monuments beneath it, honouring some person's virtue or another's filial piety. The thin stream that runs alongside the road and the ridge between the fields where he used to twirl a tin-full of fire on the night of the Moon Festival in the first month of the year. And past the shrine, the dyke of the reservoir, the only spot where you could fly a kite high even on a windless day. In the evening, when you came home, after working all day in the fields, as you walked past the zelkova tree and turned into the village you saw those friendly thatched cottages standing close, cheek to cheek, and from each chimney smoke rising white like tressess of cotton threads.  
In this familiar village he had been born and lived until he was nineteen. The alleyways covered in ox dung, every stone of the garden walls-there was not a corner that his eyes had not touched. Until then he had hardly been away from home except for odd market days when he had gone as far as the District Office. He could count on his fingers the number of trips he had made to the town, which was a half day's journey through the mountain paths. That was the extent to which he had been bound to his native village.  
Ah, what a state to be in - home right here in front of my nose, and yet I can't go down there...  
The more he thought about it the more helpless he grew. He felt as if he could leap down the slope and walk through the familiar brushwood gate calling "Mum!" The chilling touch of metal on his side stifled his impulse. He let out a low sigh. Then he started involuntarily as he cast a sidelong glance. Not far off, beneath a tree two of them were talking to each other about something in whispers. Their voices were too low for him to catch. He once again dropped his eyes to the foot of the hill.  
The village was as quiet as death. Under the moon the thatched roofs gathered close, globular, like the domes of graves and there was no sign of life or movement.  
It was now three months since an evacuation order had been declared within a fifty-li perimeter of Mudung Mountain. In the village, there were only empty cottages looking desolate. Most of them were burnt out and few were in their proper state. Even the common sound of barking dogs had ceased and when morning came no cock crowed. Not only at Chong-pungni - but even in the direction of the District office, near the Red Cliff, there was not a single light to be seen. The chain of hills starting from Mount Mudung lay like a huge reptile with deep creases.  
A rustle.  
At an unexpected sound behind him, his neck automatically twisted. Something slipped swiftly into a heap of dry grass - probably a squirrel.  
Bloody creature! It frightened me to death.  
A little way off, Choi subang grumbled as he squatted down again and the boy also rubbed his chest with relief as he sat down. The moon was now much higher.  
Again he looked down at the village. Then his roaming gaze became fixed, unaware of himself, on a single spot. There was a grove of bamboo at the northern end of the village. Shortly before you reached it there was a particularly low cottage set apart from the rest. You could just distinguish its outline, with paddies and vegetable patches in front and behind, nearly hidden in the shadow of the hill.  
Ah, mother!  
Involuntarily he clenched his fists as his body trembled. He felt a smarting in the bridge of his nose.  
It was his home. It was where his navel cord had been cut, the one-roomed hut where he had lived alone with his mother, through his childhood, the crusty scabs on his head attracting blue bottles, and snuffling yellow snot in and out of his nose, till the time when the hair beneath it began to turn dark.  
He was silent as he watched it. Familiar scenes from inside it began to float before him. The ivy-covered stone walls and the platform of sauce-jars; the persimmon and the date trees that used to yield not ungenerous amounts of fruit in autumn; and the treadmill in the vegetable plot in the backyard. There should also be the pig-sty that he had made himself - was it two years ago? On the earthen wall behind the house would be hanging tools such as the plough, the pick, the sickle, and the ropes, every one of them steeped with his sweat - they must be still waiting for their master's return.  
What would have become of mother? Is it possible that she...  
He shook his head as he tried to rid himself of evil premonitions. But as he looked down on the village gloomy like a cemetery, or the fields with no sign of human activity, ominous thoughts continually tugged at the back of his mind.  
He tried to work out how long it was since he had come into the hills. Paddies with advanced rice plants had begun to turn yellowish, so it must be roughly four months. On the morning when the news came that the Police had entered the town, he had run away, in confusion, to the hills with the Communist members of the Youth Defence Force who had straggled behind at the District Office. The retreat of the Northern Army had been rather a hasty affair, and they had hardly expected the advance of the Southern Police to be so rapid. So they retreated in a rush but the escape routes had all been cut off.  
In the meantime autumn came. The mountain ridges were white with reeds in flower in abundance. Now snow was piling up on them, and it was already the middle of the last month of the year.  
Since they had dug holes in the hills and started to live like moles, their situation had undergone great changes. At first there were forty-five of them who had come up through the hills behind Chong-pungni. Within a few days, the number increased to over seventy for stragglers from other villages as far as Damyang had joined with them. They were a disorderly rabble, more than a half of them people who had eked out a living by digging the soil. Only twenty-two of them had rifles. The rest had to cut spears from bamboo. Each time they went down the hill to get food, the captain repeatedly stressed that a bullet was to be used only in exchange for their life. Pillage started and the buildings in the town such as the police station, district offices and village offices were burnt down. And the number of the force had dwindled to just over forty.  
Somebody approached. It was Choi subang.  
"Is everything OK here?"  
"Yes. It's all quiet."  
He looked out, behind Choi's back, for the other man. He was still where he had been and was having a pee. He was said to be a native of Nam-myon and they had become acquainted. He was about the same age as Choi subang. Choi came over and squatted beside him as he lay on his stomach.  
"Poor boy. Hungry, eh?"  
To avoid the whiff of bad breath from Choi's mouth, he stealthily turned away and gave a wry smile. Come to think of it all he had had was a lump of rice mixed with soya bean at about mid-day.  
"Young ones like you, what crime have you committed? You and me, it's all because we were born in the wrong world."  
"Hush, uncle. Somebody might hear you."  
He cast a quick glance over his shoulder with an embarrassed look. The man pissing pulled up his trousers as he settled down where he was.  
"I don't care, they can't do anything worse then kill me."  
The young one uneasily scanned the side of his face. Under the moonlight it was somewhat puffy and the colour of lead. His beard, not shaved for a long time, was bushy around his jaw.  
He noticed that Choi was also staring down in the direction of the village, probably looking for his house. Maybe he was listening for the thump of the machinery in the rice-mill. He had an unusually shy wife and a daughter. It seemed only a couple of days ago that he had seen him with his wife in the courtyard of the rich man, Hwang's mill-house, their heads covered in white powder as they worked on the harvest grains.  
As if by agreement the two of them abstractedly fixed their eyes in the direction of the village. Below the cliff face, through the gaunt branches of a mixture of scrubs, Chong-pungni came into view. At the entrance, he was sure, the unsightly remainder of a burnt out roof must be the mill where Choi had worked. The clear moonlight distinctly showed up the buildings and the square front yard.  
"Thump, thump!"  
Momentarily he fancied that he was hearing the familiar sound creeping up through the valley. Every year, in spring and autumn the thumping of the refinery machines used to flow through the alleys day and night. But now the whole village lay in ruins. With no sign of life or breathing it seemed truly dead.  
"Ah, really! How bright the moon is tonight. And no wind." Choi subang muttered suddenly as if to himself, and the young man responded,  
"Yeah. If it was like this every day, it would be a bit easier to get by, wouldn't it."  
"Look, all the fields show up so clearly. Just down there, by the reservoir, that blackish spot - that must surely be 'Middle Boulder' mustn't it?"  
"And round it, the side path that goes over the rapids - can you see it?"  
The two of them stayed in the same posture for a long time, bent forward over a boulder on the top of the cliff.  
Somewhere an owl hooted and the moon had slightly shifted its position. They remained silent where they were with their heads bent forward and their gaze fixed on the same spot. No sound came form the other man near by. He must have dozed off.  
Beneath the hill, the fields lay revealed in their entirety with patches of snow remaining here and there, and the ridges of paddies and plots curved like the backs of tortoises. Spring, summer, autumn and winter - each year these fields, without fail, used to greet people draped in different clothes in different seasons. The silvery waves riding on the wind over the deep green barley fields and the people standing in line like dried persimmons on a skewer as they planted out the rice seedlings in the water-filled paddies - these scenes floated before their eyes as if in a dream. When the sun rose to its highest point you could see far off at the entrance to the village children and women hurrying their steps as they carried on their heads the lunch things for the workers. How the excited farmer's song broke out swelling and floating over the fields!  
"Eiee ehera edoo sangsadeer  
One piece at the edge is the share for the youngest,  
"Eiee ehera edoo sangsadeer  
One piece by the dyke is the share of the father..."  
In the wood, the wind had dropped. The calm. All things on earth held their breath while in the sky the pregnant moon alone was getting fuller and fuller as if ready to burst.  
Then it happened. "Uh!" Choi subang was the first to utter a moan.  
"Why? What on earth was that?"  
He lifted his head in a flash as he let out a moan himself. Something amazing had happened before their eyes.  
A light!  
Far below, in a corner of the village, almost tucked away by the edge of the hill, a light had appeared. It was an empty village. More than two months had passed since the evacuation order was declared and everyone had left. There was no reason to believe that a light could be lit in anyone's house. Not only had the people all left but even the animals had been dragged away. Some people had gone as far as to set fire to the houses they were leaving - there was no explanation at all for the light.  
"How... what on earth is going on down there." Choi subang mumbled as if in delirium and the boy kept rubbing his eyes. However incredible, there was no doubt that it was a light. On the edge of the village of huddled-up cottages - from the lone hut set aside, close to the bamboo grove a thread of light was filtering out.  
"Wait a minute. Come to think of it, it is..."  
No sooner had Choi opened his mouth than the boy's jaws had started rattling violently.  
"Why, surely that is... your house?" Choi let out a low cry as he forcefully gragbbed the boy's shoulder.  
"I don't think so. How could it be..."  
"I'm sure, it is. Absolutely sure."  
The Choi, with a sudden jerk of his head, examined the movement of the man a short way off. At last, it seemed that he had also noticed the light.  
"Comrade Choi, what is that?" he quickly came up to them. "When did that appear?"  
"Just now."  
"Do you think it's the police?"  
"Maybe... But why would they show a light?"  
"You never know. It could be that they are sending out some signal."  
Saying that he ought to report it, he hurriedly disappeared towards the cave. The two of them were left alone.  
He still stared incredulously at the light, his eyes wide. It can't be... He tightened his fists. They were shaking like aspen. It was.  
There was no doubt about it. It was his own house. The chink of light, the colour of a soft persimmon that leaked through the gap in the sliding doors pasted with layer after layer of old rice paper - however you wiped your eyes to make sure, it was his house.  
Ah, mother, mother!  
To keep himself from bursting into tears he bit his lip till it bled. Even so, he ended up by breaking down. He knew. It was his mother. This night, with the oil lamp on, his mother was sitting alone. She was waiting for her son.  
He buried his face in his hands. The choking sound of a strange moan began to issue. Suddenly there was the disorderly sound of running feet.  
"Stop it, boy. Be careful or you'll die. Say that you know nothing. Whatever happens, you must say it's not your house, got it?" Frightened Choi's voice was vigorously trembling. The son closed his eyes tight. The moon glinted beneath his eyelashes.  
Somewhere the owl hooted again. The moon was now at its highest point in the sky.  

The mother brought her hands to a stop. An owl was calling. It was from the direction of the woods. For a few minutes she was stockstill, in an uncertain manner as she listened. A strip of paper torn off the door lay across the threshold, sinister like a thin snake, and pieces were missing from the lattice. The dim lamp lit the worn paper pasted on it, with several holes. It was all quiet outside. Not even the whisper of a breeze brushing through the reeds.  
A deep sigh issued from between her lips. She turned her eyes away from the door as she resumed her work. Left for so long, the floor was covered in dust. Unlike others, she had left it without nailing it up just in case her son might come. He would be walking through rough mountain paths if he did. What if he came home only to find not only that his mother was not there, but the room nailed up so that he could not even for a short while step out of the mid-winter wind that pierced his bones, and had to turn back - she could not let that happen.  
As she roughly wiped off the dust with a damp rag, she examined every corner hoping that she might find some sign that he had been back in her absence, but there was none.  
"Aigo, poor child. In this cold what can he be eating in the woods? and what does he have to wear?" With a half sigh and half lamentation, she mumbled as with one hand she wiped away her tears and with the other mopped up the dust.  
A flutter - even though there was no wind, the flame of the lamp collapsed and came up again. With a start she turned her head toward the door. It was just as it had been shut. She clicked her tongue, put aside her rag and brought out from a corner a small parcel which she began to unwrap.  
Some sweet potatoes, dried fish and an old wooden container in which were several side dishes of dressed vegetables. For the last she took out from the bottom of the bundle a small parcel wrapped in cloth. Inside it was a half measure of millet that she had scrounged off a relative a few days ago. Admittedly, it was war-time, but it was a world in which getting hold of a handful of rice was harder than it might be at the end of three years of famine. Rice had been taken away from people voluntarily and involuntarily so that the rice jar got low anyway, and those who had some left kept it in deep hiding as they ate it little by little. For the others, without rice, a handful of mixed grain was the highest luxury they could hope for. You were lucky if you could manage to find sweet potatoes or make gruel of dry cabbage leaves.  
The mother went round to the kitchen. She fumbled for the oil lamp, lit it and took a large gourd bowl, covered with dust, from the shelf and stepped out through the back door. The well was in the backyard, close to the fence. It was more like a spring than a well. You did not need a pail to drop in to draw water. The water was covered with a thick sheet of ice. She fetched a stone from the jar-stand and broke the ice. Each time the stone and the ice clashed a sharp clang resounded, piercing the darkness and dispersing pointlessly in all directions. At last the ice split into two, she scooped out small pieces of it, fallen leaves and bits of straw.  
Squatting she was about to dip her gourd in the water when her hand was suddenly suspended. There was the moon. Whenever it had come, the pregnant full moon, tight as if to burst, was lightly floating in the well. She abstractedly stared at the white reflection. Around it there were also reflections of the thin branches of the persimmon tree. It looked as though the moon was trapped by them, unable to go further and kept in captivity. Momentarily someone's face was about to overlap the white and lovely face of the moon when she dipped with a splash her gourd. The moon broke into small pieces.  
"Oh, dear. Seven Stars and Mountain Gods, tell me how and why my fate turned out to be this misery." She muttered a sing-song-like lamentation as she rinsed the millet while the moon was again creeping up into the water.  
Back in the kitchen, she set the grain in a cooking pot, a Japanese one from which one handle was missing. Then she began to make fire in the ondol stove. As she fed it with wood she was again snuffling. It was the firewood her son had gathered in the early summer of last year.  
"That'll do. You don't have to pile up so much all at once. You'll be wearing yourslf out."  
"While I am at it, I might as well make sure there's enough. Once the rainy season starts, it'll be tiresome to go about."  
The vision of him, speaking light-heartedly as he put down with ease his jigye flared up with the bright flames in the stove. She had still regarded him as a child but when she saw him carrying on his back the bundles of firewood piled higher than his own height and entering with ease the gateway, she had been so proud. As she said to herself "He's nearly a man," the pride and happiness she felt had been as great as the load he was lowering. At that time how her heart had swelled at the thought that when hopefully the war was over very soon, she would search for a smart young lady and get him married...  
When she had put more wood in the stove she went into the room where she set out a table at the warm end. She searched her memory. "Wait a minute, where did I put it?" After opening and rummaging through a chest of drawers at the other end of the room she produced a photograph in a frame. It was her husband. Turned yellow, it had hung on the wall until the day of the evacuation order, when she had hidden it among the clothes.  
She brought it close to the light and looked at the man in the picture for a long time. Were her eyes matted or was it due to a cobweb? Her vision became blurred. Then at last tears rose to her bleary eyes.  
"Eigoo. You, heartless man. It was just as well you went. This blighted life - what is there worth struggling to live on for? You don't have to face these horrible things one way or another. It was really best that you went."  
She mumbled on to herself as she stroked the photo with her rough hand.  
Her husband, Oh subang, had passed away even without leaving his body behind. It was as if he had offered his good life to some foreign soil for no good reason at all. He who had said that he would come back within half a year as he gave her a big smile and walked over the brow of the hill had for no rhyme or reason floated back in the form of a piece of paper. It informed her that he had died somewhere in one of the islands in the Southern Sea. That was all. She did not receive so much as a piece of his bone or a strand of his hair. When the men were returning home from their compulsory labour after the country's liberation from Japan, she had waited, hope against hope, with outstretched neck for his return squeezed amidst the homecoming band, but it was all in vain. From then till now, she had lived alone with her son.  
She carefully stood the framed picture on the table and set on it the dishes she had prepared. After all, she thought, it was such a mean table for an offering, not good enough even for a common labourer in good times. The twisted end of a dry pollack, dried marrow and bean sprouts... that was all. Thanks to the millet she had been able to get hold of, she reckoned she was lucky for she could offer at least some cooked grain, not the gruel of dry cabbage leaves. She brought in from the kitchen the cooked millet as the main dish. After taking out a bowlful there was still about half left in the pot. If only my son was here now... With such futile thoughts she kept turning her wet eyes to the door.  
"Look dear. You must be starving, coming all that long way. Those damned 'South Sea Islands' or whatever they call them - I hear, they're far far away beyond the seas. Do take some of this meagre food, rest a bit and then you must depart again." As she said this, she put a big spoonful of the millet in a bowl of wather and offered it with the spoon to the dead. It was an intimate and caring tone of voice as if to someone sitting beside her. Then she sat back from the table and absentedly stared at it. She could almost see the face of her husband who used to shovel in mouthfuls of rice. Then the face changed into that of her son.  
"T'hoo too"  
The owl was calling again from the direction of the wood.  
Flap. There was no draught but the flame of the lamp fell low and then picked itself up. Her shadow on the wall momentarily lengthened and then contracted.  
Listen. She jumped. She thought she heard a sound. Hurriedly she opened the door. The yard was overflowing with moonlight but there was no movement there. Raising her eyes she looked at Moodung Mountain in the far distance. The great bulk of it came in view crouching dark. Above its ridges, the sky was studded with stars, unusually clear. On this particular night the mountain seemed pitch-black. The mother felt that only the hills were covered in the blackest of the black while all things on earth were revealed under the moonlight.  
She closed the door and weakly sat down.  
"Aigoo, a bad son. I wonder whether he's even remembered it was his father's anniversary?"  
The dream of last night kept bothering her. She had been sitting in the room just as she was now. Then suddenly her son appeared. "Mother, it's me! I've come back." He stood there with a bright smile. He was wearing white cotton clothes. As she closely examined them, she recognised them as those of her husband. She was sure about that. It had been such a vivid dream and after waking she felt as if her son was really lying beside her.  
Is it possible... Yes. That's right. He may really turn up. He'd know it's his father's anniversary. He will find out that I am waiting for him like this. He will come at once. Of course, he will.  
Suddenly her eyes were full of life. She raised the wick as far as it would go. The room became brighter. Yes, this light will reach the middle of the wood. As soon as he sees it he will run down in one breath. Running down the hill, coming past the shrine, going round the bamboo grove and now he's running along the bank of the paddy. "Mother. It's me. I've come home." At any minute now he will push back the brushwood gate and rush in, calling me breathlessly.  
Ah, my son!  
She ran to the door and flung it open. The chilly night air scraped her cheeks like blades. Flap, the flame on the lamp collapsed. Her body leaning as if lost against the door flopped down to the floor. The yard was totally empty. The moonlight, moonlight. The white light from the full moon of the last month of the year, tight pregnant as if ready to burst, alone in all its richness poured down before her eyes.  
At last bitter sobs burst forth from her lips. The hairpin holding her bun slid to the floor but she did not make any move to do it up again. Each time she swallowed her sobs the long, loose tress of her thin hair, half of it white, shook ominously.  
"How I brought up that child... What does he mean to me... A sob... Whether one is red or yellow it doesn't mean a thing to me. Whatever such a thing means. I just don't care, only let my son come back to me."  
Tears streamed down her cheeks as she tore at her clothes. Then she suddenly held up her face. A strange smile rose to her lips.  
"This won't do. Why am I being so thoughtless. Of course, he's coming. If things are really difficult, the spirit of his father will set out and bring him back. Of course, it will."  
"It is no time to be idle. They say, don't they, that people from the woods drop in and leave again like the wind. I ought to feed him solidly first and then clothe him warmly before sending him away."  

She quickly opened the chest of drawers and took out some clothes. They were the very ones, the cotton clothes that she had seen him wearing in her dream. They were all that was left from her husband's clothes. She had meant to give them to him some day. As she stroked them, she thought the cotton padding was rather thin. She got out of the chest her own cotton-padded bloomers and tore open the seams to pull out the cotton wool. She settled down with a needle and thread. She found it very hard to thread the needle. Screwing up her dim eyes in the light she aimed and aimed at the hole but it looked as if it was a holeless needle. She wetted the end of the thread and pushed it again and through what she guessed was the hole. After trying dozens of times, she luckily succeeded. With deep sighs, she began to sew the padding with neat stitches.  
The night grew deeper. The moon was now at its highest point and the owl called intermittently. As the whole world slept in silence the dim light squeezing through the crack in the sliding doors of the cottage at the foot of the hill stayed on till the night was quite advanced.  
Now and again she stopped her sewing hand and pricked up her ears to the outside of the door.  
"Aw, ahh."  
Her body started and then convulsed. A sound. For some time now, she had sensed there was some strange sound. With the needle in her hand she pricked up her ears again. But there came no sound now. Probable my mind is going. She shook her head as she resumed her sewing. Was the wind rising again? All around was unsettled. The wind as it swept through the bamboo, swished the leaves.  
"Ahh, uhh." The sound again. At the same time the needle stuck deep into her thumb. Crimson blood oozed out and dropped onto the white cotton staining it. There was definitely someone outside. She slowly rose to her feet and hesitated for a moment before opening the door. No, there's nobody. She stepped out of the room, put on her shoes, stepped down to the courtyard and looked round. The gate was half open. She clearly remembered closing it earlier on. Her body shook spasmodically.  
There was that sound again. There was someone in the yard. She took her shaking steps in the direction of the shed.  
"Who is it? Who is in there?" She managed to say this before the shed. Her jaws violently rattled.  
"Aw, it hurts. It hurts."  
The mother's heart sank. It was no imagination. A woman's voice came from inside the shed.  
"Who are you and what are you doing in the middle of the night...?"  
She could not finish her sentence as she let out a shrill scream. A dark human shape came crawling out before her feet. When the body was fully out of the shed the moonlight revealed its identity.  
"My goodness, who's this? This crazy thing - how did she get here?"  
She recognized the face at once. It was the mad woman known to everyone in the town. It was not clear just when this woman of about twenty two or three, first came into the town. No one knew where she came from or what drove her to such a state. They gathered that she was from the north and had drifted in with the waves of refugees. She was with child. With pitiably swollen belly she just kept smiling meaningless smiles to everybody, but when asked questions she never gave a sensible answer. To tell the truth, in a world where human hearts had turned hard due to the on-going war, you could hardly expect much hospitality to be spared for a mad woman like her. If after roaming the alleyways of the market she was found dropped dead beneath a bridge on a bitter winter morning it was hardly likely that anyone would bother to stop and look at her.  
"I can't believe it. How on earth did this crazy thing drop in here?"  
The mother was dumbfounded. Come to think of it, she now remembered that she had happened to see her in the earlier part of that evening.  
For the past few days, as her husband's anniversary approached, there had been an inward struggle. Unless she herself was out of her mind and had forgotten it, she could not let it pass without offering a memorial table. She had thought of doing it in the backroom of the relatives's house where she was staying as a hanger-on, but decided otherwise. She could not hold a memorial with only a bowl of water in someone else's house. Besides, she was suffering all sorts of insults and humiliations from the village people thanks to her son who had turned out to be "a man in the hills." Several times she had hoped to bite her tongue and die. Even so, she had gone on till now carrying on her miserable life. It was only because of her cherished hope that one day she might see him again.  
So on this evening, she had secretly crept into Chong-pungni. The offering was one thing but on the other hand was that vague hope that she might find some trace of her son having been down - it was indeed this vague expectation that made her take such a dangerous risk, for since the evacuation order, Chong-pungni remained an area where all entry was strictly forbidden.  
The mother had come across the mad woman shortly before she reached the small turning into the village. Squatting by the roadside, her hands round an enormously swollen belly, she was trembling. The mother nearly passed her by but checked by some feeling of pity, she had stopped. Her big belly looked as if the delivery was due today or tomorrow. Her heart was uncommonly sore at the thought that if, in her wandering, it started by the road side on this bitter night, what would happen? The mother pushed a few sweet potatoes into her hands and saw her smile despite her sick mind, before biting into them like a starving devil.  
"Tst, tst, poor thing. You must have had some sense even momentarily. To save your life did you follow me up?" The mother helped her up and propping her brought her into the room. Once in the warmth, she opened her eyes wide and then collapsed weakly on to the floor. The mother got out an old quilt and covered her. As the mother looked down at her, her teeth chattering and eyes closed, she reflected how terrible it must have been for her out in this cold. She blamed herself for not having gone earlier to look out. She went to the kitchen and put an extra, generous supply of wood into the stove.  
When she came in shortly after, she encountered an extraordinary scene. The mad woman must have suddenly got up and now held in her hand the bowl of millet from the sacrificial table, and was tucking in to it with her fingers.  
"Look at this bitch. Whose food do you think that is?"  
But it was too late. The grain was stuck all over her dirty fingers. The mother was at the end of her wits. The mad woman, frightened, feebly retreated backwards casting sidelong glances, her fingers thrust into her mouth. Then she suddenly started screaming.  
"No. it's not. I don't know. I, I am not a Red, I'm telling you." Her face contorted in fear, the woman kept rubbing her palms together. The mother weakly dropped her raised fist as her own memories came flooding back.  
"You old bitch, hand him over. The bastard that came out of your hole killed my husband."  
"No. The bitch is one of the pack. Kill her, finish her off! Ask her what good times she has come to after killing off innocent people like chickens."  
The blood-shot eyes of the women darted towards her. Someone grasped hold of her hair by the roots. With a snapping sound the ribbons of her jacket were torn off. Gripped in the hands of the women she was dragged along the ground. They were the same people who, until a few days ago, had called her elder sister, aunty and so on.  
"This is madness. The whole world has turned upside down and gone stark mad. Everybody's out of their minds." The mother mumbled to herself as she looked down at the mad woman constantly rubbing her palms and repeating "No, I don't know." Unexplainable waves of sorrow surged up in her.  
"Oh, dear. Poor thing. I see now that you must have been in the wrong world, just like me. Never mind whose it is. Eat it and get your strength back. You will need it, to give birth to a baby. Come on, finish it off. It's all right."  
The mother thrust out the bowl of millet with a gesture encouraging her to eat. She examined the situation for a moment and then snatching up the bowl started gorging herself. Then suddenly she threw it away as she grasped her waist and broke into shriekings.  
"It's hurting. It's hurting."  
She pounded the floor as she screamed. The mother, after casting a glance at her belly hurriedly went out to the kitchen.  
"Oh, dear. She's going into labour. What must I do? What a thing to happen on this particular night, of all nights."  
Above all they would need hot water. As she went to the well with quick steps, carrying a water crock, the thought of her son flashed through in her mind. He appeared in my dream last night. Was it to foretell this? She dipped her gourd withe a splash into the well where the moon was floating.  

"Isn't it going to be another wasted operation?"  
Hiding behind a ridge of the field Lieutenant Kang muttered to himself. He looked at his watch. Bending his hand over its face to keep out the reflected moonlight he saw the hands. Eleven-thirty. Damn it, already as late as that! It means we've been hiding for exactly four hours. Still it's not too bad really compared to other times when we spent the whole night during field operations. Besides, it is incredibly warm tonight. It's supposed to be the last month of the year but the air brushing my skin is far from being bitter.  
He looked around him as he pushed his helmet slightly back. Close by him, also leaning against a furrow was Yang and a little further down with just over ten metres' gap a whole squad was in hiding. The third squad had been left in charge of the opposite side, around the bamboo grove on the righth and side of the isolated cottage. He had also posted the second squad at the rear of it. A short while ago the liaison officer had been with the message that so far no suspicious movement had been spotted. Kang sent him away with instructions to pass round: "Tell them to be alert. The bastards usually come down at this time. It is crucial from now on. Also tell the squad leaders that they are not in any circumstances to shoot before the signal."  
The wind was beginning to rise. It came from the direction of the woods. He flared his nostrils as if he detected hidden in the wind a whiff of a sinister animal. After leaving a bitter chill on the back of his neck, the wind swiftly died down. He pulled up the zip of his battle jacket. Damn, it's turning cold. Hunching his shoulders he shot a sharp look at the foreground. White beneath the moonlight were the furrows of vegetable plots at far end of which the slope leading up to the mountain. On the left were scattered several burial mounds. It would be roughly a hundred and fifty metres. Thanks to the bright moon, observation was easy. So must it be for the enemy too. No, it's even more advantageous for them with the hills behind them. It's most important that we should not be seen. If they get the slightest inkling of us the whole thing will turn to nothing. He was glad that at the outset of the operation he had stressed this point.  
This time his eyes turned quickly to the isolated house. A dim light still showed. He tilted his head to one side as he pondered it.  
It's too bold an act. However you think about it, you can't understand how anyone would keep a light on so recklessly. It is too open a place to be a contact point, and if the light was to send out a signal it was not merely dangerous but suicidal. So... was it after all a false alarm? As he thought that this seemed the only conclusion, Lieutenant Kang creased his forehead.  
When the first report came in it had been seven-thirty. It said that a woman carrying a bundle had stealthily entered the village. Chong-pungni at the foot of Moodung Mountain was regarded as a vulnerable spot where appearances by Communist guerrilas were most frequent. The person in question was soon identified. A woman in her fifties whose son had joined the guerrillas in the hills and was required to be watched. Instantly the alarm was sounded and Kang was ordered to go into action taking a platoon. From the beginning, however, he had not expected it to be a significant matter for he had guessed that it was just a bold action by an ignorant country woman.  
But a hasty conclusion was taboo. He had learned this through his experience of so many strange and unexpected turns of events. A fifteen-year-old child could pierce people with a bamboo spear; one lying word from a sixty-year-old man, at a critical point, could turn a major operation into a farce - Lieutenant Kang had seen himself and heard such things.  
Trust no one and nothing. You must never relax in the slightest even if things seemed to be absolutely clear. Whoever it was could only be either a foe or one of our own. From since some immemorial time he had been pledging himself to this.  
He felt the wind growing stronger. The sound of it brushing the bamboos disturbed the quiet that surrounded him. He lay down his rifle and took off his gloves. His finger-tips were really cold. He warmed them with his breath. His feet inside the boots had frozen stiff long since but there was nothing he could do about it.  
The wind rose again. The Lieutenant nonchalantly looked up at the sky. Not a speck of cloud. It was cold and clear like a sheet of ice. And there was the moon. White and round, swollen to bursting. Suddenly the face of his dead wife overlapped it. He closed his eyes. She had been shot along with other police families. While he was away at Chongsan-do with his retreating unit she had taken refuge at her parents' home and there she had met her fate. The spot where she died was the playground of the primary school she had attended as a child. He had found out much later that she had been carrying within her their first child.  
Involuntarily his body shook. He could see the faces of his wife's murderers. Her frightened eyes as she stood facing the muzzle of the gun. She is collapsing.  
"Long live, long live our country," the flushed faces of the bastards as they raised their arms, leaping like mad - he could see them before his eyes. the murderers. He gripped the gun in his hands as if to crush it. Come on. Any one of you bastards, just show up. He gritted his teeth, his gun aimed at the whole dark mass of the mountain in front.  
He put his eye to the sights. At once the huge body of the mountain closed up to his view. It was black, like a huge monster. It is the hiding place of those bastards. During the past three months, there had been over twenty incidents of pillage and arson in the villages and attacks on public buildings. Kang recalled the faces of his victimised colleagues. His wife falling to the ground, the child in her womb. At the thought of this child that he had never seen, he bit his lip. His eyes were taking on a strange glitter. it was not only tears that squeezed out of them, it was more like a chilly vemon.  
How long had he been like this?  
Suddenly he felt his hair standing on end.  
"Sir, look over there!" Sergeant Yang by his side whispered with urgency. They had seen it almost at the same time. Something had emerged from the scrub at the foot of the hill. It was human. This suspicious figure was stealthily crawling down the slope past the shrine.  
"Wait. Don't fire in any circumstances without the signal." He issued an order in a lowered voice. Cold sweat broke out all over his body. The figure had now entered the furrows of the vegetable plot. I see, so that was that. He was just turning towards that lone house.  
At that moment, something quite unexpected occured. The shadowy figure that had until then been crawling cautiously suddenly leapt up and started to sprint towards the house. As if being chased by someone, he was running with all his might across the ridges. He had reached a point about half-way between the house and the foot of the hill.  
Pew! Pew!  
Unexpected reports of gun fire tore up the night sky. Lieutenant Kang, watching with bated breath started. It was quite extraordinary that the sound of the shots should come from the direction of the hillside. He gave the order to fire. At last tremendous sounds of rifle fire tore apart the fields of Chong-pungni and the mountain valleys loudly echoed them. It was at this moment that the figure running towards the lonely house fell to the ground. It seemed to have stopped moving for a while but it got to its feet once again. Whit a severe limp it took a few steps. Another round of shooting ensued. With the house in the middle bullets shot from both sides of the fields and the foot of the mountain fell like rain. Amidst this the figure was seen finally collapsing to the ground. It never rose again. Over its prostrate body bullets busily flew to and fro between the two sides. It was not at all possible to tell which side's bullet had finally felled him.  
Collapsed between the rows of furrows of the plot, the man still had some breath left for a little while.  
"Mother, it's me. I've, I've co... come home."  
He doggedly tried to drag his body towards the house. The colour of a well-ripe persimmon, the light squeezing through the door flew warmly into his dimming vision. "Ah, mother." He stretched out his hand but his voice feebly faded in his mouth. It was at that very moment that through the crack in the firmly shut sliding doors a new-born infant's feeble cry began to flow out.  

Translated by Dr. Agnita M. Tennant, who is teaching at Sheffield University (U.K.).