The bus left the Chosun Hotel at eight o’clock sharp. 

The bus was bouncing over the bridge with a loud noise when he felt something like a fit of anger, as the sights of a horribly twisted steel pillar plunged headlong into the river and a severed steel sheet hanging askew were combined with the ghastly and clear awareness that he was headed to Panmunjeom. 

When the bust arrived at Panmunjeom, the smell and graceful aura of the foreigners, who had appeared so striking inside the bus, seemed to crumble. Perplexed from all the unfamiliarity, everyone, with an ashen face, was simply wandering around Panmunjeom. 

정각 여덟시에 버스는 조선호텔 앞을 떠났다.

와당탕와당탕 거리며 다리를 건너는데,

처참하게 비틀어진 쇠기둥이 강으로 곤두박질을 하고 있고,

동강 난 철판때기가 삐뚜름히 걸려 있기도 하고,

비로소 판문점행이라는 처절하고도 뚜렷한 의식과 결부가 되어서

웬 노여움 같은 것이 울컥 치밀어 올랐다.

버스 안에서는 그렇게도 돋보이던 외국인들이었지만

정작 판문점에 이르자, 그 냄새와 단려한 기운이 푸석푸석 무너져 보였다,

누구나가 회 범벅 같은 얼굴로 꽤나 생소한 듯이 어리둥절해서

판문점 둘레를 돌기만 했다.

While South Korean reporters were taking pictures of Panmunjeom, North Korean journalists entered the room. Those who had met before began chatting. But the conversation was obviously chilly and empty of substance, filled only with a sense of superiority and subtle derisions toward one another.    


“Don’t rely too much on such a feeling as compassion. Think about all those people around you suffering from poverty.”

“No way. Everyone around me is well-off. The problem is that they’re too rich and too heavy. They’re bogged down with too many miscellaneous things. You are the ones who are impoverished. All you are left with is a red body.”

“You are so pigheaded.” 

She evaded with an expression laden with the guarded defensiveness typical of South and North Koreans who meet here. Jin-su stared at her back as she walked away.

“What a girl. She’s pretty good. Quite nice.” 

“그렇게 인정 같은 것에만 매달리지 마세요.

 당신 주변에 있는 사람들이 헐벗고 있는 것을 생각해보세요“ 

“천만에, 내 주변은 풍부해요.  도리어 너무 풍부하고 무거워서 탈이지요.

 덕지덕지한 것이 참 많이 들끓고 있어요.  도리어 헐벗은 것은 당신이지요.

 당신은 새빨간 몸뚱이만 남았어요“ 

“아주 벽창호군요” 

그녀는 남쪽 사람과 북쪽 사람이 여기서 만날 때 으레 짓는 그 경계와 방어 태세가 

껴묻은 표정으로 피해서 갔다.

그 뒷모습을 건너다보면서 진수는 생각했다. 

 ‘기집애,  조만하면 쓸 만한데, 쓸 만해’

#Interview by literary critic Jeon So-yeong

Panmunjeom is an important place in the modern history of the Korean Peninsula, because it was the only place where the two sides can face each other. What is important in the story is not the meeting that takes place at Panmunjeom, but various characters who come from both sides to cover the event. The North Koreans who came to Panmunjeom in 1960 were portrayed as rigid and principled people adhering to their ideology. On the other hand, people from South Korea represented corrupt prosperity and materialistic capitalism and indolence.  

Lee Ho-cheol (Mar. 15, 1932~Sep. 18, 2016, born in Wonsan, N. Korea)

Came to South Korea all alone in 1950. 

He debuted as a writer by publishing the short story “Leaving Home” in literary magazine Literary Art in 1955.

Published “Panmunjeom” in 1961 in literary magazine Sasanggye.