Monday, March 25, 2013

The Korean Wars

Refugees moving south in the P'ohang sector after receiving evacuation orders from the South Korean army, August 12, 1950.

From "The Cry of the Magpies" by Kim Dong-ni:

Ok-nan said that her coughing fits had occurred even before the half year had elapsed. When months passed by without a word from me and the magpies continued to cry in the mornings, my mother's eyes began to glare in a strange way. Then the strange glaring of her eyes seemed to shift over to a long spell of coughs. At first her condition was not so very bad, but beginning about one year after I left home, she got to coughing almost wihtout fail whenever the magpies cried in the morning....

I remember my mother was in the habit of mouthing such words as "O, God!" or "Help me!" after her occasional coughing fits even before I left home for the battlefield. And now she was replacing those words with "Bong-su!" and "Kill me!" 

In my view, there was not much inconsistency in this development. Rather, these seemingly contradictory expressions were no more mutually exclusive than the two sides of one coin. The way I looked at it, "Help me" could very naturally become "Kill me", a suffering deepened into bottomless despair.

[From ""The Cry of the Magpies", Kim Dong-ni, The Portable Library of Korean Literature, Jimoondang Publishing, Seoul, 1961, 2002.]

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