Son Chang-seop was born in Pyeongyang, Pyeonganbuk-do, in 1922. After an unhappy, poverty-stricken youth in Manchuria, he attended Nippon University in Japan dropping out to return to Korea and find work. He taught at an elementary school and later edited a literary magazine. His career commenced with a relatively well-received serialization of Yalgujeun Bi (A Strange Rain, 1949) to continue with such noteworthy works as Konghyuil (Holiday, 1952), Hyolsuh (Written in Blood, 1955), Ingan Dongmulwon Jo (A Sketch of the Human Zoo, 1955), Nakseojok (Scribblers, 1959), and Bubu (Husband and Wife, 1962). Son received the Hyeundae Munhak (Contemporary Writing) Literary Award for Beginning Writers in 1955 and the Dongin Literary Award for his short story Ingyeoingan (Superfluous Men, 1958) in 1959.
Son Chang-Seop is a prime exponent of the poignantly realistic stories of the post-war period of the 1950s. The stories represent his chief contribution to modern Korean literature. Set some ten years after the Korean War, they depict indick and at the same time indic the decade's corruption and social abuses. The author's versatility is exemplified in his masterly creation of characters, at times eccentric and even psychotic, yet perpetually groping for the meaning of life. Often jobless and physically disabled, they fail to adapt to the society which more often than not shatters them. It is a world filled with orphans and prostitues along dark streets; death and poverty; moral corruption-all pervaded by complete despair.
Walking in the Snow
"No, it's impossible!" Mr. Ko was adamant. Kwanshik looked up at Mr. Ko as though the answer was totally unexpected. His eyes had a how-dare-you-refuse-me look. Mr. Ko's face was expressionless. Both remained silent for some time staring at each other across the tea room coffee table.
"You're being too harsh! You're going too far!"
"Too harsh? No, I'm not too harsh; you're too cheeky. That's all."
"I'm desperate. I can afford to be cheeky. But you wouldn't care if I died of hunger or cold!"
"I can't be held responsible for your death no matter how you die, whether it's hunger, cold, or a traffic accident. Why should I of all people be responsible?"
"I never figured you would treat me this way. You can't be serious."
They became silent again. Both were agitated.
Kwanshik would have no place to sleep after tomorrow. For that matter, his very livelihood was up in the air. Until today he had been living with a man from his hometown who had established an unlicesed medical clinic in a slum area. Kwanshik had never studied medicine but he had been acting as an assistant on the strength of his being the son of a doctor. It was not a prosperous enterprise by any means, but they had managed to survive until the clinic had been closed by the health authorities a few days previously. The pseudo doctor had disappeared with all his belongings and someone else was moving into the former clinic tomorrow. This was how Kwanshik came to ask Mr. Ko, his teacher during middle school days, to take him in for a while.
"We meet for the first time in ten years and you ask me for such a favor. Is this your notion of good manners and common courtesy? I really don't understand you young people."
"This isn't the first time. It's the second time."
"It's the first time we ever sat and talked like this. That time we ran into each other on the streetcar we merely exchanged greetings."
"Anyway, I never thought you could be so heartless."
"Before you accuse me of being heartless, don't you think there are certain things you should consider about me? The conditions under which I live; my personality; my personal tastes, my..."
"I can't afford such luxuries. I must find a roof to put over my head. Where can I go?"
"What would you have done if you had not run into me?"
"It's long road that has no turning. There must always be a way out. There must be. I came here because I had confidence in you and in our friendship. You are heartless!"
"Friendship? There seems to be no limit to your audacity! I do not recall any occasions or instances between you and me that warrant the use of the word friendship. I sold knowledge at the going rate and you boys bought it. Since when have we established a close relationship? After three years in North Korea and three more in South Korea as a teacher I have come into contact with thousands. Well, do you supose I have the obligation to be bound by friendship to each and every one of them? You mean to say that I must offer my friendship to those who wouldn't even offer to buy me a cup of coffee? Was I born merely to help others? Was I born just to offer you friendship?" Mr. Ko was worked up and his voice was shrill. All in the tea room looked up to see what was happening.
Even after he had left the tea room Mr. Ko was furious. The boy's impudence wasn't even funny. What nerve! What's more, the boy seemed to think that he was harsh and even cruel to refuse. That was the most annoying part of the whole affair.
It was around dusk the following evening. It was particularly cold and Mr. Ko sat in the tea room later than usual, thinking of his cold rented room with abhorrence. Just then Kwanshik showed up again. He was carrying a bundle wrapped in an old gray blanket. It was his possessions. He shoved through the narrow openings between tables and chairs while guests looked up at him in surprise and waitresses frantically motioned him to stop. Mr. Ko arose, frowning, to meet him.
"Let's get out here." Mr. Ko emerged from the tea room pushing kwanshik ahead of him. "How dare you do this to me!"
"I had no choice. I am sorry, sir." Kwanshik dropped his head. His lips were blue and he was shivering. Mr. Ko figured that they could solve nothing by standing in the street. More harsh words would not help either now that things had gone this far. The bundle was left at a nearby bookstore and they went back to the tea room.
As they sat down at a table Kwanshik bowed this head once again.
"I am truly sorry it had to be like this, sir. I must use the phrase you used yesterday. I am going too far."
Kwanshik scratched his head a few times. "I made up my mind not to inconvenience you like this, but after walking around Seoul all afternoon with that bundle, I had no one to turn to but you. I had no choice. Just a week, no more. I will never forget the favor, Sir."
There wasn't the slightest trace of yesterday's overbearing attitude; he was meek, subservient, imploring. "You are quite an actor," thought Mr. Ko but the could not refuse him as he had done so firmly yesterday.
"I can't afford it really, but if it is just for a week we will manage somehow." said Mr. Ko finally. This was how Kwanshik became a permanent guest in Mr. Ko's single rented room. This was the beginning, we might say, of the storm that blew into this withdrawn gentleman's quiet life.
One day Kwanshik brought home a dark-complexioned girl who had unusually large round eyes. A small dimple formed on one cheek when she smiled. She said she was twenty-two years old, but she did not look over eighteen. She was wearing a black velvet jumper and green corduroy slacks; the seat and knees of the slacks were threadbare. She said her name was Kwinam.
"She is my girl friend and she is going to be my wife one of these days."
"Don't get fresh!" Kwinam glared at Kwanshik.
"She is quite a talented dramatist," kwanshik said by way of introduction, not heeding what the girl was saying. At this, Kwinam took off her beret and bowed low in Japanese style. She impressed Mr. Ko favorably despite her shabby clothing. When Mr. Ko asked her if she wanted to an actress, she merely smiled and shook her head.
"She wants to be a playwrihgt. Of course, she wants to take up directing and acting on the side," Kwanshik explained. Mr. Ko commented that that sounded like a challenge not al all suited to a gril.
"Why, is not life itself a play?" said the girl coolly.
"My, my!" said Mr. Ko to himself. As a rule he had an instinctive distaste for such words as life and mankind when bandied around by youth, but this time it was different.
"Do you think so? is life really but a play? I should think life has its sincere aspects too."
"That's only a facade. You pretend to yourself that others are sincere but it takes a real actor to make other believe he is sincere. Of course, that is the ultimate goal of dramatic acting."
Mr. Ko was somewhat stunned. Her remarks had something and he could not dismiss them as those of an impudent hussy. She said things that had a freshness about them.
"That means I am no more than an actor myself and not a very good one at that?"
She merely smiled.
"She often tells me to quit my poor and clumsy acting too. She is a hard director," said Kwanshik with a loud laugh.
"I know this good-for-nothing here had been trying hard to seduce me, but I know his clumsy tricks and can see through his poor acting," said the girl sharply.
She left after eating a humble supper prepard by Kwanshik. Mr. Ko saw her to the gate. She looked so cold in her shabby clothes. Kwanshik accompanied her to the bus stop. As soon as he returned to the house he started firing questions at Mr. Ko.
"What do you think of her, sir?"
"How do you mean?"
"I mean to marry her one of these days. She isn't bad at all, is she?"
"Marry her? How can you talk about marriage when you are not capable of supporting yourself alone?" growled Mr. Ko.
"You underrate me. Wait and see."
"I do not underrate you; I am talking about facts. All I am saying is that a man who is sponging off someone else is not qualified to talk about marriage."
Kwanshik was bothersome to Mr. Ko. He showed no signs of moving out when the agreed-to week had passed.
"It's over a week since you came here," Mr. Ko once said to Kwanshik by way of reminding him that time was up.
"My, my, so it is. How time flies! Life has been so carefree that I feel much better now. Within a month or two I'll be putting on weight. It is a good thing I decided to come here after all," had been Kwanshik's cool and breezy answer. Mr. Ko just stood there open-mouthed.
Mr. Ko made a living drawing illustrations for a few magazines and tezching drawing two hours a week at a girls' high school. He hadn't anything like a big income to begin with. Now that he had two mouths instead of one to feed, he was barely making ends meet. Kwanshik consumed an amazing amount of food式three times as much as Mr. Ko ever ate. Fuel expenses and just about everything else had doubled. But that was not all: kwanshik wore Mr. Ko's underwear and suits without giving it a second thought. Mr. Ko usually left home before Kwanshik each morning. Once he ran into Kwanshik, who was with a young girl, in the street. Mr. Ko did not recognize him at first, he looked so smart and different. He had a fresh haircut and was wearing a new suit which Mr. Ko recognized as his own. He had had the suit made last autumn even though he could ill afford it. He liked the cut and color and so had put it away for special occasions. Naturally Mr. Ko glared at Kwanshik angrily.
"I'm sorry, sir. I had to see someone and so had to look decent today. I'll go right home and take it off." Saying that, Kwanshik scurried away to join the girl, who was standing a few paces ahead. That evening Mr. Ko spoke sternly to him. about the suit. Kwanshik scratched his head a few times, but he looked quite unconcerned.
"You're making a federal case out of it. It's only a suit, dammit! I'll give you a dozen of those when I get my hands on my million."
Mr. Ko could not counter this. This incident concerning the suit was followed by many a scene over underwear, socks, and other such things.
Kwanshik had another strange habit. He would ask Mr. Ko embarrassing questions. He would ask why Mr. Ko had not married, for instance.
"It's none of your business."
"I'm worried. What's the point of living?"
"You mind your own business式if you have any business, that is."
"I have a scheme. I know a woman with a mint of money."
Mr. Ko merely turned his back.
"I'm going to introduce yoy to her."
Mr. Ko ignored this.
"I can never figure you out," Kwanshik continued, "Sometimes I feel I'll go crazy if I don't get married soon."
sometimes Kwanshik was even more brazen.
"Sir. I want to show you a good place. A damned nice place. I bet you haven't been to any of those place. Five hundred wo◢n apiece for a throw. One thousand wo◢n is all both of us need."
Mr. Ko could stand it no longer. He was being insulted by this youngster. He was infuriated.
"Shut up! There is a limit to everything! Are you trying to ridicule me? Get out of my place if you don't want to respect my feelings, my character, my personal tastes. Get out!"
"Take it easy. I'm not trying to ridicule you or anything," said Kwanshik. After a while he put his hand out. "I'll go there alone if that's how you feel about it. I want to borrow five hundred wo◢n," Kwanshik said sullenly.
Mr. Ko gave him the sum without any hesitation; he was glad to be rid of him even for a short time. Pocketing the money, Kwanshik strode out of the house into the darkness.
This shameless youngster became more annoying to Mr. Ko. He was even becoming opressive. But he could not drive him out of the house. Kwanshik wasn't the sort of person to obey like a lamb either. This he knew well. He had nothing to blame but his own irresoluteness. He was exhausted.
Kwinam came to the house often. Kwanshik brought her along most of the time, but sometimes she dropped in alone. She always wore the same clothes, the black velvet jumper and the green corduroy slacks with the frayed seat and knees. Then there were the men's socks she always wore which sometimes had holes large enough to show her toes and heels. At times when she she stayed overnight she would mend her socks while Kwanshik prepared their supper. On such nights Mr. Ko suffered most, for he had to relinquish his bedding to the girl since his was much cleaner than Kwanshik's. Even so, the girl was hesitant to use the bedding at first. She said the quilt was too dirty. Mr. Ko had to cover the upper edge of the quilt, the part that touched her neck, with a towel. She crawled into bed with everything on except the jumper. Then she undressed under the quilt. After some wriggling she produced her slacks, then her woolen underwear.
"Hey, are you completely naked? No kidding!" Kwanshik saked the prankish question. He was already in bed, but he had been intently watching her undress, craning his turtlelike neck.
"Don't be fresh! Go tl sleep."
"I'm not sleepy. Can you blame me? Remember, there are two unmarried men in this room, Kwinam."
But it was Kwanshik who fell asleep first. He fell asleep easily like so many healthy people do. He would even drop off to sleep in the middle of a conversaton. By the time Mr. Ko would get through with his nightly task of completing magazine drawings, she would be fast asleep too. Somehow he would eye the underwear by her pillow. It was woolen underwear to be sure, but it was army underwear in extremely bad shape. It had patches on the knees and elbows. Mr. Ko would watch her sleeping face and recall her life story as she had once related it.
She was born to a Korean father and a Japanese mother. Two years after the Liberation in 1945 when she was fourteen, her mother deserted the family and went back to Japan. She had a brother who was nine years old. Within a few months of her mother's departure, however, her father died suddenly. He was assaulted and killed by some person or persons unknown. People figured it was the doing of the leftists since her father had been quite active in the right wing youth movement. As she recalled, things had happened so suddenly that she hadn't even been sad. She merely felt as though they were the poor orphans in some fairy tale. They were cared for by an aunt. Since the aunt was well-to-do they could continue their education under relatively happy circumstances. But the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950 ended all that. The uncle had left Seoul alone just before the communists occupied the city, and the aunt was killed during an airraid while the children were in a shelter in a neighboring house. Her brother was now delivering newspapers, living in the night watchman's room at a newspaper company and attending a commercial high school in the evenings.
Mr. Ko pressed his lips to Kwinam's while she slept. She moved, her head on the pillow. "I did that thinking of you as my own daughter. I'll buy you some warm underwear as soon as I get a bit of extra money," Mr. Ko mumbled wistfully to himself. He rearranged the quilt covering her. he pushed snoring Kwanshik to one side to make room for himself to lie down. But his wistful, pensive mood did not last long. No sooner had he lain down beside kwanshik than the youngster began to twist and turn. Many times during the night Mr. Ko woke up with a numb leg from Kwanshik lying across it. But he decided not to mind all this just to give the girl a peaceful night's rest.
One day the girl said she wanted to ask a special favor of Mr. Ko. She wanted to stay at the house for the time being. She said she was very tired of snatching a night's sleep here and there. She had been staying with one of her married cousins until recently but it had become obvious that she was not welcome. Since then she had been dropping in on friends, staying with each for a night or two. Now she had just about run out of friends too, she said. Mr. Ko willingly agreed to let her stay, for he thought she might be a welcome change in the drab life he and Kwanshik had been living. He urged her to get her things right away, but she had practically nothing to call her own except a beatenup suitcase. She wanted to leave that at her cousin's, however, for she might need a pretext to go back there one of these days.
"Who knows, and I'll be needing some excuses," she said.
That morning, right after Kwinam had gone out after breakfast, kwanshik sat down opposite Mr. Ko and said:
"I'm going to marry that girl. You just wait and see."
"Why do you always make such a fuss about getting married? Moreover, I don't think Kwinam is a suitable match for you."
"There you go again. You'll never know. You'll never know what's what in life," said the young man impatiently.
"What do you know? Do you know so much about life?"
"I know what I want to do and I know what I need. i know these things very precisely."
"Is that all?" said Mr. Ko somewhat sarcastically.
"That's exactly where you are wrong. The world has changed. People no longer care if they are despised. The important thing is to grab the meat."
"You are becoming quite a philosopher! You grab all the meat you want and leave me alone!"
"Being alone will not help you to function in this world, I can tell you that," said Kwanshik.
Mr. Ko was silent. The word function came to his head unexpectedly. "What function do I have in this world?" he was asking himself. "Am I fully functioning as a man, a person, a painter?" He could not help seeing his own shabby image looming before his mind's eye.
One day Kwanshik brought another woman to the house. He said she was from his hometown in North Korea. He said, by way of introducing her, that she had a wholesale cosmetics store in the East Gate Market. In her flashy outfit she still didn't look any younger than thirty. The gold rings on her fingers were too big and heavy. She wore thick makeup, which did not serve to hide her plain looks. She brought expensive friuts and cakes. She spoke with a broad North Korean accent.
"Mr. Ko, I hear you're from Hwanghae Province?" she said, and added that she had considerable respect for people from Hwanghae Province. Then she looked at, almost examined, his facial features in such a way that Mr. Ko was embarrassed. She said that she knew much about Mr. Ko through Kwanshik and that it was a rare thing for an educated and honest gentleman like Mr. Ko to remain a bachelor like this at his age. "That by itself is enough to make me respect you," she said.
"I don't know what Kwanshik has been telling you, but I command no respect."
"Of course you do! You are just being humble. You are over forty years old and you are still a bachelor without a house of your own. This can only mean that you have no worldly ambitions and that you are a man of integrity. Gentle and honest people aren't treated right these days!"
Mr. Ko gave her a cold look and half turned away form her.
When it came time to prepare supper produced a roll of ten thousnad wo◢n notes from her pocketbook. She dexterously counted out three thousand wo◢n and handed it to Kwanshik.
"You run along and get some good things to eat. Boys aren't too good at such things, I suppose. That's right, you can go along and help him with the purchases," she said, turning to Kwinam.
"I've never spent so much money. I've never even held that much money in my life." countered the girl with firm dignity. Mr. Ko had never seen Kwinam react this way. The woman gave the girl a contemptuous look and said nothing. She went into the kitchen herself when Kwanshik returned with the groceries. She prepared supper and borrowed all kinds of dishes and bowls form the landlady without even first consulting Mr. Ko. She voraciously attacked the food she had prepared and proved herself quited equal to Kwanshik with respect to gluttony. After the woman had left, Mr. Ko reproved Kwansshik for his indiscretion in bringing such a woman into the house.
"Don't be a wet blanket, Mr. Ko. It's about time you got married. She's got some thirty or forty million wo◢n to her name. That's more than enough to get something really big cooking, you know," counseled Kwanshik.
"She would make a better match for you than she would for me if that is the case," retorted Mr. Ko sarcastically.
"That's because you don't know her. You don't know what kind of a woman she is. That bitch doesn't trust me at all." Then Kwanshik went on to say that from the way she looked at Mr. Ko he judged that she was well satisfied with him. Then he repeatedly recommended that Mr. Ko marry the woman, it being an ideal match in every conceivable way. Mr. Ko found some funny aspects in the situation式a young brat recommending that an older man to get married and all that. As last he dismissed the boy saying, "You are a funny fellow."
When he finished washing the dishes that evening, Kwanshik again extended his hand toward Mr. Ko. He wanted to borrow five hundred wo◢n for "you-know-what."
"Why don't you get the money from that rich woman? Five hundred wo◢n is a lot of money for us, you know," said Mr. Ko.
"Money must circulate. You can't make it unless you spend it."
"For the life of me I can't fathom your basic attitude toward life. You're slovenly and dissipated. Especially when Kwinam is around."
"Leave your preaching till I get back. I fee like going to such places all the more because she is around. If she would only listen to me and reciprocate my feeelings toward her." He tried to put his arm around her waist.
"Don't you dare! I'm no whore!" She shouved him away with both hands. Mr. Ko gave him the money.
"Remind me to pay you back one of these days."
He left the room almost triumphantly while Mr. Ko frowning after him. He frowned not only at the lad's reckless attitude but also because he was disappointed in himself.
"That kid doesn't seem to have any moral sense at all," murmured Mr. Ko half to himself. Kwinam countered, "It's all right so far. It's all right as long as he doesn't get to love vice for itself."
"What is all right?"
"I mean it's about time people did away with their habitual hypocrisy."
"Do you mean to say that you condone depravity?"
"Isn't hypocrisy also depravity? Why can't you式a painter, an artist式break through the wall of conformity? unless we throw away the mask of hypocrisy life can never be anything but a poor melodrama."
Mr. Ko stared at her in surprise, yet he felt refreshed and even elated. It wasn't the paradoxical logic of her remarks that caused this reaction, he knew; rather there was something undefinable, something strong, humane, and touching in what she said.
That night Mr. Ko was unable to concentrate on his drawing. He kept turning to look at Kwinam, who was fast asleep. Kwanshik was back from his adventure and snoring in his bed. He drew Kwinam's sleeping face. He drew again and again until he had a satisfactory result. While drawing Mr. Ko realized what a lonely life he was leading. He looked down at the girls's face again. One of her arms lay on top of the quilt and so he fondled her hand. He knew well nothing would ever come of it. He slipped into a fit of loneliness. At last he lowered his head and pressed his lips to her soft mouth. Turning in her sleep she withdrew her hand. "I do this as a father to his own daughter," he murmured to himself. As he was getting into bed he kissed her lips again, and this time she woke up. He was somewhat embarrassed.
"I did that as a father would to his own daughter," he whispered. She merely smiled, closed her eyes, and rolled over to the other side.
From that night on he kissed her whenever she fell asleep before he did, all the while thinking of her as his daughter. Sometimes she awoke, sometimes she didn't. At times she pretended to be sleeping even when she wasn't, but when she did take notice, she invariably smiled and said nothing. Only once did she say. "It's all right with me if this repays you for what I owe you. Nothing is free in this world."
Kwanshik increased his exhortations that Mr. Ko marry the cosmetics woman. He insisted that she was more than willing to marry hi. It would be good for all concerned, he argued: no more magazine illustrations and drudgery for Mr. Ko; a good and honest husband for her; something on the side for himself as the matchmaker. Mr. Ko said that he did not understand why Kwanshik should feel good when other people were getting married.
"Why shouldn't I be happy when I see you marrying into the purple?"
"What are you saying? Seems to me it's more like being hired out as a stallion. I don't want that kind of marriage."
"You are incorrigible! What are any of us but merchandise? As long as we are to be sold, we should make sure we are sold into wealth. Besides, I have a stake in this marriage. I can cook up something big with that woman's money as bait."
"That's why I keep telling you to marry her yourself. Then you can have everything."
"You can't be serious! Don't forget she is a woman who has built up a business all alone. You can't fool her. There are many would-be gigolos who want to marry her, but she says "No!" right to thier faces."
"Why is that? I thought she was out to trap any man."
"Let me tell you why. She can read men's minds like the palm of her hand. She knows those guys are out to get thier hands on her dough. I like to think of myself as a guy with special ways with girls, but I'm beginning to think that this woman and Kwinam are somewhat beyond me." Kwanshik shook his head slowly.
"If that is the case she wouldn't let you touch her money even if I married her, would she?"
"You just let me worry about that part. When I get all the good-for-nothings out of the way I can work on her as a longterm project."
"Why should a sharp-eyed woman like her prefer a man like me?" asked Mr. Ko dumbly, just to see how the lad would react.
"That's where you are wrong. You are the very type that such women prefer. They don't have to be on guard to start with. Not that such men are actually dumb. They just don't happen to have material ambitions, and they are quite incompetent in practial affairs. They only talk about culture and cultural values and such things. Yes, you are the very type such women prefer."
Mr. Ko said nothing. He was beginning to fear Kwanshik. At the same time he detested seeing the values in which he belived ruthlessly cast aside by Kwanshik. He merely sat there astounded. Kwanshik seemed to have taken Mr. Ko's sudden silence to mean a change of heart.
As soon as the breakfast was over, Kwanshik said, "There is no need for second thoughs. I'll go see that woman right away. Better still, I'll bring her over if I can. you just do as I tell you." Saying so, he ran out of the house. Kwinam laughed loudly but Mr. Ko could not even crack a smile. He was surprised at himself for not stopping Kwanshik. "Am I secretly hoping to be railroaded into this marriage?" he wondered. He looked at Kwinam and became embarrassed. Of course, Kwinam could not see the workings of his mind. She was busy memorizing lines for her part in a play that was soon to be produced by a newly formed group of young actors and actresses. It was unusually warm for winter, but stil the gray sky showed through the window. Mr. Ko could not help laughing at himself. Finding a warm spot on the hot floor, he lay down to continue with the newspaper he had been reading. A story with a three-column headline drew his attention.
BEAUTIFUL COSMETICS DEALER SLAIN
Was it love? Was it money?
The story said that a beautiful, unmarried cosmetics dealer in the East Gate market named Pyo◢n Yo◢ngju(age thirty-one) was shot to death yesterday morning at about six thirty. The murderer was belived to be a youth called Im. Im had long wanted to marry her but was always rebuffed. Recently Im had borrowed about three million wo◢n form her to finance a business, neighbors testified. The slain woman had come to Seoul during the January fourth evacuation and had built up a prosperous business in smuggled cosmetics, the paper continued. It also said the culprit was at large, but that his arrest was expected any time, etc., etc. Mr. Ko showed the paper to Kwinam. Since Mr. Ko did not know the name of the woman Kwanshik had brought home the other day, he was not certain, but for some reason he thought it might be the same woman. She was far from beautiful, but newspapers are newspapers and sensationalism is of their essence, he thought to himself.
"I have no doubt. It's her. Something tells me it's her," said Kwinam.
She was right. It was nearly lunchtime when Kwanshik came in tense and agitated. He said they were going to cremate the body that afternoon.
"Let's go there together, Mr. Ko. You tell them you are her fianc? Kwinam, you come along tool You must testify to that. Only her distant kin and some friends will be there. I think we can get a good cut of what she left if we play it right," said kwanshik.
"Shut up, you bastard!" shouted Mr. Ko as he resoundingly slapped Kwanshik's cheek. It was the first time he had ever struch anybody. While a teacher he had never so much as lifted a finger at a student no matter how angry he was.
"I've got to go see," said Kwanshik after a while. Kwinam got to her feet.
"I'm going too. I like funerals, the best of human rituals. I'm going to enjoy this funeral," she said.
"Go! Go! Go get cremated with the body! And don't come back!" Mr. Ko's voice had risen to a maddened pitch. He could not control his surging rage. Kwanshik and Kwnam went out. Mr. Ko could not sit still. Possessed by the wrath welling up within him, he arose several times only to sit down again. He felt as though he had been terribly insulted. He went out of the house to simmer down. It was snowing.
He walked awhile against the blowing snow. Soon he could see the Han River. Snow was piling up on the frozen surface of the river. Climbing the pathless hillside beside the river, Mr. Ko walked on in the snow.