#Interview by literary critic Jeon So-yeong
Park repetitively and consistently described the war and the painful memories associated with it. But her stories were not all about individual sorrows or the healing process. She wanted to tell us that this series of historical events, from the Japanese occupation of Korea to the division of the country, was violence that destroyed love, the most basic requisite for human beings.
The two families decided to marry them. But he adamantly refused to get married. He took her through the misty moonlit night of the early spring with the snow still remaining, until the rooster crowed at dawn, in an attempt to make Gob-dan understand how much he loved her even if others didn’t.
But even if he had spent a night at a watermill somewhere, Gob-dan’s parents and villagers would have trusted that Man-deuk’s hands couldn’t have dared to touch Gob-dan’s breasts.
It was that sort of time. It might have been the age of innocence or of stupidity, but that’s how we respected one another.
양가에서는 혼사를 치르려고 했다.
그러나 그는 한사코 혼사치르기를 거부했다.
남들이 다 안 알아줘도 곱단이한테만은 그의 사랑법을 이해시키려고
잔설이 아직 남아있는 이른 봄의 으스름달밤을
새벽닭이 울 때까지 끌고 다녔다고 한다.
그러나 어디 방앗간 같은 데서 밤을 지냈다고 해도
만득이의 손길이 곱단이의 젖가슴도 범하지 못하였으리라는 걸
곱단이의 부모도, 마을 사람들도 믿었다.
그런 시대였다. 순결한 시대였는지, 바보 같은 시대였는지는 모르지만
그 때 우리가 존중한 법도라는 건 그런 거였다.
So, Man-deuk was drafted into the military and the two had to part.
Then another wave of terrible rumors began sweeping the village. Comfort women.
Gob-dan’s family frantically married off the precious daughter as his second wife.
The only thing the villagers who had looked kindly at and vouched for Man-deuk and Gob-dan’s romance could do for Gob-dan now was to not give her up to the Japanese soldiers.
곱단이네는 그 고운 딸을 번갯불에 콩 궈 먹듯이
그 재취자리로 보내버렸다.
만득이와 곱단이의 연애를 어여삐 여기고 스스로 증인이 된 마을 어른들도
이제 곱단이를 위해 할 수 있는 일은
일본군에게 내주지 않는 일뿐이었다.
Gob-dan’s hometown was just south of the 38th parallel line and all access to Sinuiju in the north was blocked, leaving Gob-dan with no way to come back home.
Park Wan-suh (Oct. 20, 1931~Jan. 22, 2011)
Born in Gaepung-gun County, Gyeonggi-do Prov.
Entered Seoul National University’s Korean literature department in 1950 but dropped out because of the Korean War.
Her writing career began in 1970 when “The Naked Tree” won the long fiction award sponsored by a women’s magazine.
Won the Korean National Literature Award in 1980, the Yi Sang Literary Award in 1981, and more.