The bridge, generating a cloud of dust at every step, appeared very dilapidated for a border bridge. Although covered over with grey paint, the railing sported clear bullet holes. He turned around to see there were several such marks. There were bullet marks everywhere his eyes turned, just like a series of sores is revealed when the sleeve is rolled up. Park felt chills running down his spine and his heart thumping wildly. Just then a whistle sounded from somewhere and Park started to run unknowingly. 

발길마다 뿌옇게 흙먼지가 이는 다리는

국경의 다리치고는 무척 낡아 보였다.

회색 페이트칠로 덮고 있었지만 난간에는 탄흔이 뚜렷했다.

눈을 돌리니 그것은 한 두군데가 아니었다.

박은 등골이 오싹해지면서 심장이 뛰는 것을 느꼈다.

그 때 어디선가 호르라기 소리가 들렸고 박은 저도 모르게 뛰기 시작했다.

#Interview by Jeon Sung-tae

I Korea, crossing the border is an act that can strike a fear of death in people, like feelings refugees get when they cross over the borders. Since the sound of whistle represents an urgent signal, when Park heard that sound, the fear in his unconsciousness was brought back all at once. That feeling comes from living in a divided country.

The sound Park heard came from a toy whistle blown by a child. The only person who realized that it was the sound of a whistle that made Park run was the German tourist, Jan. He was also the one who explained the situation to the police.  


“I heard that many North Koreans are dying. Is it true that many children are suffering because of economic hardship?”

“That’s what I heard.”

Park smiled lightly. But then Jan’s face suddenly became stern. 

“How can you smile at that?”

Unexpectedly, he asked in a disapproving tone. When Park straightened his face and sat up, Jan had already turned away from him, with his eyes staring out the window. Park was dumbfounded that facial expression, not language, had caused the misunderstanding.      

‘북한 사람들이 많이 죽고 있다고 들었다.

 경제적 어려움으로 아이들이 많이 희생되고 있다는데 사실이냐?‘

‘나도 그렇게 들었다’

박은 싱긋 웃어보였다.

그러자 돌연 얀의 표정이 굳어졌다.

‘어떻게 웃을 수 있느냐’

놀랍게도 그는 힐난조로 물었다.

박이 정색을 하고 자리를 고쳐 앉았는데

얀은 이미 몸을 돌려 창밖으로 시선을 던져 외면한 채였다.

언어가 아니라 표정이 오해를 불러일으켰다니 참 난감했다.

Although Park and Jan share the experience of living in a divided country, there were clear differences in communication or expression between the two, as if a sort of a border was separating them. 

Jeon Sung-tae: Born in Goheung, Jeollanam-do Province in 1969. His writing career began when his short story “Chicken Chase” was published in 1994, and his first collection of short stories titled “Maehyang매향” or “Burying Incense” was released in 1999. “Over the Border” was published in literary magazine Literature & Thought.