Kang-myoung Chang The Bleached E ng l i s h
The Bleached (í‘œë°ą) Hanibook Publishing corp. / 2011 / 38 p. / ISBN 9788984314818 For further information, please visit: http://library.klti.or.kr/node/772
This sample translation was produced with support from LTI Korea. Please contact the LTI Korea Library for further information. email@example.com
The Bleached Written by Chang Kang-myoung
Table of Contents Chapter 1 | A Great Big White World | 007 Chapter 2 | Coma White | 211 A Word from the Author Praise from Writers and Critics
A Great Big White World 1.
The Eldest Son of Park Ju-yeong, President of Jinho Group, Found Dead in America Reported August 29, 20XX 14:31
(Seoul=Yonhap News) Seon-wu (29, pictured), the eldest son of Park Ju-yeong, the president of Jinho Group, a company ranked sixth in the financial world, was found dead in his home in Philadelphia on August 24th, according to a spokesperson for the company.
The spokesperson stated, “President Park and his wife left for America as soon as they heard about the death of their son, Seon-wu, who had been studying for his MBA degree at a graduate school in Pennsylvania. On August 27th, the family held a Buddhist funeral in Philadelphia.” He did not elaborate on the specifics surrounding Seon-wu’s death.
Only immediate family members were reported to have attended the funeral; besides Park and his wife, their daughter Ah-yeong, director of Jinho C&I, and their second son, Byeongwu, were present. It was reported that Seon-wu’s body was cremated.
President Park had two sons and two daughters, of which Seon-wu was the eldest son. Seonwu was known to have been talented in many areas and had taken a strong interest in management. As such, he was especially loved by President Park, according to those associated with the company. Seon-wu had also been famous for having won the first prize from the Mock Fair Trade Commission Contest for College Students, which was sponsored by the Fair Trade Commission, while he was in “A” University.
Reports from the Financial Supervisory Service Electronic Disclosure System has revealed that Seon-wu had a considerable stake in Jinho Company: 2,320,370 shares in Jinho Networks and 199,500 shares of the subsidiary company, Jinho Caring.
The Death of Eldest Son of Jinho Group - “Highly possible that he was murdered. . .was stabbed multiple times with a deadly weapon” Reported August 30, 20XX 00:07
(Philadelphia=EDN Today) Correspondent Lee Jae-mun
While the shocking news of the death of Jinho Group’s President Park Ju-yeong’s eldest son, Seon-wu (29), in America has spread belatedly, local police are weighing the possibility that it was murder as they proceed with the investigation.
Local press have reported that “The police are investigating how the Korean international student “Sun” (Seon-wu’s English name) could have been stabbed in four to five places in his body and was found in his home on the 24th.”
Seon-wu was known to have been easygoing, and had apparently completely hid the fact that he was from a family that owned a large company in Korea. Other Korean international students had no idea Seon-wu had been the heir to the family that controlled Jinho Group.
I was born as the first son of a family in Jeonbuk and my father was a level 7 civil servant who worked at Iksan City Hall. My grandfather was also a civil servant. My grandfather was credited as a “man of national merit,” and when I was young, my parents occasionally said, “You must do something great when you grow up, just like your grandfather, who sacrificed his life for his country.” I would imagine that my grandfather lost his life for his country fighting in the independence movement or fighting North Korea’s puppet army during the Korean War. But I found out that he died from vibrio sepsis, which he contracted after eating spoiled sushi during a department dinner, and after that, I slowly lost the respect I had for my grandfather. It didn’t look like my father had much respect for his father, either. Just like I didn’t have much respect for my father, who was a low-ranking civil servant. While my grandfather was alive, he was apparently prone to getting drunk and creating a scene. It seems I inherited his characteristics. Still, I benefitted from my grandfather, who passed away before I was born. If it wasn’t for the extra points I earned for being the descendent of a man of national merit, then I wouldn’t have been able to get into “A” University in Seoul.
I had once received an award from the superintendent of education for getting good grades in elementary school. And from time to time in middle school, when I properly studied for exams, I placed first in my class. But my grades started to fall in high school. It was due to my learning the guitar in middle school, to playing cards with other students whenever there was a break in class, to the fact I didn’t take school or the teachers seriously, and to my cockiness, where I thought “at any point when I decide to study, I can bring up my grades in no time.” I got serious and started studying in my third year, but by then I couldn’t understand the contents of my math and science textbooks, and my grades didn’t improve. Even if I could have brought up my grades in other subjects, it was too late to do anything about my standing in class. I thought the statement “it’s too late when you’re in your third year” was said by the teachers to scare the first- and second-year students, but they were not lying. By the time I woke up, it was too late. Of the top ten universities, “A” University was closer to the bottom. It was a little bit better than Sungkyunkwan University or Sogang University and maybe about the same as Hanyang University. To be honest, if my child wanted money so that he could go all the way to Seoul to attend this university, I would tell him to go to a local university and save money on the tuition, but my parents thought differently. I think it was because they had overblown expectations about their eldest son, and thought that of the three children, at least one should study in Seoul. I liked the idea of living away from my parents, so I didn’t complain and accepted their offer to send me to Seoul. This is arrogant for me to say, but in my freshman and even in my sophomore year at school, I secretly looked down on my university, my department, and my classmates. I thought that if I had gotten private tutoring like the other students, or if I had studied properly
in high school, I could have gotten into a better university for sure. In other words, I was delusional in thinking that I belonged in a different class apart from my classmates, and that I was actually much smarter. That, however, didn’t make me study for another year to get into a better school or to try to transfer out. Even as I got terrible grades, I was always overconfident. There were no reasonable grounds for it; it was more that I had the mentality of a gangster or of an extortionist.
high school, I got by as someone who knew how to fight with my fists, and it wasn’t because I knew any martial art; I just knew how to be intimidating. Like I had something I could use, talking big like I wasn’t about to back down, and with that, I would have the upper hand. The rest of the world appeared to be the same as high school: The world was actually full of defects, and if an ambitious young man appeared and wielded a sword like King Xiang or Caesar, enemies would fall like dolls made out of strawboard. When my classmates, who were receiving spending money from their parents, would talk gloomily about how bad the economy was or how they couldn’t get jobs, I would say loudly that this was the time to buy stocks and real estate, that that’s what I would do if I had money. And after saying that, I wouldn’t study. Whenever I had any time, I gambled with the kids who were not from Seoul in their dorm rooms or at their boarding houses. I won more often than not. If you play poker with people who are fearful of losing a dime, and you don’t care how many times you lose, then you are bound to win. Seducing a woman works the same way. Acting with such reckless bravado, I never questioned materialistic standards like having a college diploma or wealth, and accepted things as they were. As I got older, the fearlessness faded, but the standards remained in my mind. And according to those standards, I had to acknowledge the fact that I was a penniless Korean male attending a mediocre university, whose father was a civil servant working for a rural
city office. I had learned nothing, and aside from talking big, there wasn’t anything I was good at, and there were no prospects. After I completed my military service and returned to school, suddenly, I was scared. It was too late to start fresh at a new university or transfer out, and I had no money. I had to get a job and make money after two years. The problem was that my grades were mostly B’s 6
and C’s. Fuck. Was it too late again?
Until I turned 25, I lived my life blaming others. But my story ends here. Because this book is not about me. This book is about my college friend, Se-yeon.
Now, how could I best describe Jeong Se-yeon? She could be compared to the soothsayers of the Old Testament.
Like someone who,
one day, suddenly, having seen God’s revelation, begins preaching about the fall of cities and fires of hell; someone who is not quite all there. But, oddly, her distinctness was powerfully attractive, which made her into a character that could greatly influence those around her. Someone who drew attention even when she was still, and even when she made crazy assertions, they sounded convincing. If I had to compare her to someone from modern times, I would say Charles Manson. He led a heretical religious group backed by strange reasoning, preached that the world was rotten, and instructed his worshippers to kill and commit suicide. In this regard, Charles Manson’s behavior was similar to Jeong Se-yeon’s. But I don’t mean that Se-yeon was the type who liked to show off. In fact, she was the opposite. When possible, she tried not to reveal herself and didn’t mix with other people.
“The undying infamy of Charles Manson and his gang for killing just eight people is pretty amazing. He’s become a modern icon alongside James Dean and the Titanic. Maybe less than Marie Curie or Hitler, but much more famous than the twenty-fifth American president or Korea’s first Justice of the Constitutional Court.” Se-yeon once said as she lay on my bed in my rented room. When I asked, “Who was America’s twenty-fifth president?” Se-yeon answered without missing a beat. “William McKinley, and Korea’s first Justice of the Constitutional Court was Jo Gyu-gwang.” Often when our clique was hanging out, Se-yeon would come by my rented room. It’s true that I was the only one who had a room near the school, but I don’t think that was the only reason why she came by. She might have thought of me as the safest member of our clique. It might have been true that she had a condition, sexual insensitivity due to vulva stiffness, which she would joke about. Unlike with Byeong-gwon or Hwi-yeong, she didn’t have to worry about sex when she was with me, and that might have been why she could relax around me. Se-yeon used to smoke a lot in my room. She would look at the ceiling as she smoked, and when she had an amusing thought, she would turn to me, and with a sparkle in her eye, she would talk to me. “There are thousands of websites online about Charles Manson, including the ones set up by his supporters. There is even one that Charles Manson himself maintains from prison. There have been plenty of criminals who have killed a lot more people since Charles Manson. Ted Bundy killed around 35 to 60 people, and John Wayne Gacy killed 33 people.
But why is it that Charles Manson is the only one who’s famous? It’s because he killed a celebrity like Sharon Tate, but more than that, other serial killers were weak-minded children who had a perverse sexual desire or who couldn’t deal with their inferiority. Compared to them, Charles Manson’s gang seemed normal, and although their methods were crude, they were trying to make a statement. Is killing eight people worse than killing thousands of people by napalm in Vietnam? He was saying that he wasn’t the one who killed those thousands of people; it’s your children who killed them, and society educated them to act this way. Of course, it really didn’t matter that Charles Manson didn’t have a real plan. His ‘Helter Skelter’ philosophy was as worthless as a ripped condom. Still, people listened to him. And for decades. To be honest, climbing up Mt. Everest without oxygen or writing a great piece of literature or completing an ultra-marathon would be harder than killing eight people, don't you think? If you wanted to go up the Himalayas, write an epic novel, or run 100 kilometers, you would have to be seriously disciplined, have a strong will, and go through arduous training for years. But killing eight people—especially if you were like the Manson family, who didn’t try to hide evidence and just went ahead and committed the murders—would be easy for anyone who just makes up his or her mind to do it. All you would need is a car and maybe a sack of kitchen knives. The only thing is that if you were a normal person, you would have to carefully cross the line most people wouldn’t even think of crossing. The line has no meaning if completely insane bastards like Ed Gein or John Wayne Gacy cross it. Their behavior is like being a conjoined twin or having werewolf syndrome, a rare hereditary disease. Or deemed a strange incident or accident. Most people designate
those people who cross that line as complete lunatics, thereby protecting the righteousness of humanity. It’s a vicious cycle. But every once in a while, someone who doesn’t seem completely crazy crosses that line. That changes a lot of things. The first person that brought a toilet bowl into an art gallery changed art, and the people who hijacked a plane for the first time then crashed it into a building changed the concept of war and terrorism. If Charles Manson had a message that people could have understood, I wonder what kind of impact his words would have had. He could have actually changed the world a little bit. If that was his intent, then it was enough that he killed eight people. Because after he killed eight people, the whole world listened to this imperfect visionary. Even if someone had climbed Mt. Everest, and in the same year had run an ultra-marathon, and had written twenty epic novels, he or she couldn’t have been able to control the mass media like Manson did. If you cross that line that people wouldn’t dare to cross, then you would scream a message that people wouldn’t dare to scream. Tens of thousands of people in history died from crucifixion, but people only remember Jesus Christ and Saint Peter. Christianity started with one person’s message and one case of crucifixion. If you planned well, and your imagination was evil enough, through the deaths of a few people, you could send a message that could shake the world, don’t you think?”
When it comes to explaining how one man, Charles Manson, could manipulate a group of people or how his woeful followers could exist, some people point to the hippie culture at the time. They believe that in a normal society, it would not have been possible for one person to drive normal youths to such lunacy as to commit suicide or commit murder.
I would respond to those people this way. There is a bigger demon that is controlling the world today than hippie-ism. We are living in an era of the greatest failure—to borrow Seyeon’s words, “a big white world.” And we want to get rid of that sense of inferiority. Isn’t that why we put on our red tshirts to cheer on the national soccer team or gather at Gwanghwamun to take part in 10
Se-yeon, who was several times more cunning and ambitious than Charles Manson, was not indiscriminate in choosing the martyrs who would help her spread her beliefs. Hwi-yeong, Byeong-gwon, and I were not feeble-minded and didn’t have personalities that were susceptible to falling for sham religions. I met Se-yeon for the first time on the evening of the “Employment Workshop for ‘A’ University Business Administration Department: A Conversation with Past Alumni” function on March 20XX. After the workshop, there was an informal gathering.
1006. If God appears, everything will collapse.
Man has created the idea of God in order to live and prevent himself from committing
suicide. World history up to now only demonstrates this. . . . The path to
for all people is evidence of this fact. But a person, the first person to realize
must kill himself. -
When Antichrist, Socrates, Jeff Luther, and Jackie first gathered, Jackie asked, “By any chance, is there anyone who believes in a religion?” Jackie said she herself “believed in atheism.” Even if God actually existed, she couldn’t acknowledge his existence. “My world view starts from the belief that God has absolutely no value, so if God made an appearance, everything would collapse.” Jackie explained. “If there was God, everything would revolve around it. Even if for a moment I had free will, in the end, everything concerning me would be judged by exterior standards. So if I wanted to be the center of everything, then there couldn’t be God.” “You don’t believe in God, but what if it comes to light that God really exists? What if on Judgment Day, God says, ‘You still don’t believe in me?’” Socrates asked. “Then I would reject God and go to hell.” “In regards to things you aren’t sure of, wouldn’t it be logical to leave things open to different possibilities?” “No. When it comes to God, I don’t want to be open to the possibility that he exists. As soon as I do, there are too many things I wouldn’t be allowed to do. Besides, I don’t think much of a God that would send you to hell for not believing in him.” Jackie raised her head toward the ceiling and exhaled cigarette smoke. Whenever the candlelight swayed, so did the silhouette of her chest. Antichrist said he used to go to church. “When I was in middle school, I formed a church band. The band was pretty good. The truth is I went to church because I wanted to play in the band.”
Antichrist grabbed the guitar that was on the bed and sang the first verse of the hymn version of the song “Eres Tu,” walking around the small room like a country singer. When he finished his performance, Antichrist made a gun sign with his hand and pointed it at Jackie, Socrates, and Jeff Luther, one by one, and said “amen, amen, amen,” then sat down. “Why did you stop going to church?” “First, I can’t live abiding by all the Ten Commandments. Can you live without lying? When I saw the adults sing the hymns like they were possessed by the Holy Ghost, I thought they were all sinning, they looked like idiots, and I thought I shouldn’t be like them. Plus it’s not like I’m a rapist or a serial killer; why would I be sent to burn in hell for eternity? I’m okay with there not being a God, and nothing existing after death. I just want to live a good life. If you look at it from a distance, what you’re saying and what I’m saying is all the same.” “What if something happens where you can’t live a good life?” “When I’m 65, wait, I mean 64, I’m going to take all the money I have and go on a fabulous trip around the world. After a year of playing and enjoyment, and after a fabulous 65th birthday party, I’m going to jump into the North Sea. You guys should come to my party then.” Antichrist said this as if he had planned it for some time. “Why wait until 64? If you want to commit suicide in style, then shouldn’t you do it in your 20s?” Socrates argued. “The idiots who kill themselves when they’re 20 or 25 do it because they’re immature… there’s so much to enjoy in life, why would you kill yourself then? They kill themselves out of laziness or from being overly sentimental. I’m going to suck every last drop of sweet nectar out of life, and when the sum of life’s pleasures is at its maximum, I’m
going to die then. It’s just that 65 is when you have more of life’s pleasures after you subtract life’s total misery from it. Though I would have to take into consideration how far science has developed by then.” “What if circumstances change and life’s pleasures will surely decrease and life’s misery will increase? For instance, what if you contract an incurable disease that doesn’t kill you but causes you incredible suffering?” Jackie asked. “In that case, there wouldn’t be a need to live till I’m 65; instead I would I kill myself right away.” “It’s all verbal play. Who knows how much pleasure or suffering there is for us to have?” Jeff Luther interrupted as he drank soju and ripped apart the dry squid legs and put them on a paper plate. “We all have some hidden potential of some kind. No matter how miserable a situation is, no one knows what will happen in the future after that.” Jeff Luther muttered as if talking to himself. “What kind of Reader’s Digest bullshit is that?” Antichrist scoffed.
2. The gathering after the employment workshop with past alumni took place at Nolbu, the budae jjigae place in Sinchon. I didn’t like the idea of this workshop from the beginning. I knew that it was incredibly difficult to get employed these days. And I thought it would be good to learn insider tricks from people who were employed. But I didn’t think that being employed in
itself was deserving of respect. However, the alumni who were employed demanded this respect. Funnily, most of the college students who had gathered at the restaurant looked at the just newly employed alumni with precisely the respect they demanded. In particular, toward the alumni employed in the H Group human resources department and K Group’s recruitment head. Just how much power did the recruitment head have anyway? The alumnus from H Group talked for a long time about how college students these days lacked the will to face challenges. “When I look at college students these days, I worry about how little spirit they have. It doesn’t matter how detailed your résumé is. Don’t put all your attention to that; instead, dream big.” “But why do young people have to have the will to face challenges?” The H Group alumnus looked at me perplexed as I asked this question. “So you think old folks should have the will to face challenges?” The laughter of the admirers—“A” University business administration students— followed. “If the will to face challenges is that important, then everyone should have it. Why should just young people have it?” “When you’re young, you have nothing to lose, and if you fall, you can just get back up, so you should look into all different opportunities. And if you find something you like, then you’ve hit the jackpot.” “Doesn’t a person in his 50s or 60s, whose life is coming to a close, have less to lose? Young people have plenty to lose. . . . For example, if you lose even two or three years, companies like H Group won’t even take you. You would be disqualified because of the age cutoff.”
“In that case, I’m sure you’d have other experiences to show for your age.” “Whatever experience you may have, the point is, because of your age, you wouldn’t be able to even apply to H Group.” “He’s a little twisted.” Someone tried to intervene to stop me, but I couldn’t. When I drank, there was no such thing as stopping. “For me, when I hear that young people should face challenges, I hear it as people wanting to exploit the younger generation. Have the gullible kids do this and that to see what works, and then the older generation will come in and take over what works, isn’t that the case? Why do you say facing challenges is a privilege for young people and then relinquish that privilege if in fact there’s something to be gained from it? Isn’t it because you know it’s a losing game that older people don’t want to play, so that’s why you go on and on about the spirit of the young?” “What’s your name? I don’t think you should come to our company.” When I heard that I said sarcastically. “See, you were preaching about taking on challenges before, and here I am challenging you, and you won’t accept it.”
1138. A Generation without a Big Dream
C Generation: Assumed that the term first came into use in 2005 by MK Business News. It refers to Consumers who Create Content.
D Generation: Samsung Economic Research Institute first used this term. Refers to “Digital
natives,” young people who are absorbed with the Internet and who prefer content that has a rebellious tone.
E Generation: Some of the press started using this term beginning 2005. It refers to the generation that relies heavily on information and communications (IT) but who also continuously study and get educated.
G Generation: Chosun Ilbo first used this term. Refers to the generation that grew up with a global mindset and that has strong confidence in themselves as well as in Korean society.
I Generation: Refers to the generation that invests in their future. Some press refer to them as the generation that are Internet and iPod savvy and are “I” centered.
M Generation: Some of the press started using this term in 2000, but really came to use when Hankuk Ilbo held their foundation special a few years later. With the proliferation of mobile phones, it refers to the young generation that think “Me” as the center of the world.
First used by Cheil Worldwide Inc. Refers to the generation characterized by
their aggressive participation in society, backed by passion and power, changing society’s paradigm.
U Generation: Kukmin Ilbo first used this term. The “ubiquitous” generation whose members validate one another’s existence by sharing information through their phones and the Internet anywhere, anytime.
Once Jackie looked up the phrase “a generation without a big dream.” The smart people she had met in their 20s had said that their dreams were to become an international lawyer, fund manager, or to own a café. Aside from wanting to make lots of money or have a cool job, there wasn’t anyone who had interesting ideas. There are several reasons for the making of “a generation without a big dream.” Foremost, as Korea became a developed nation and social systems were stabilized, there was not much of the pie to take compared to the 1970s or the 1980s. Every organization became bureaucratized, and changing generations within them became difficult. Newly created jobs were simply manual labor, mostly for the service industry. After you put all your energy into impressing people who are not even great in order to make gains, you become narrow-minded. The education system, which rewards children who obey with good grades, and group culture added to the problem, and the fact that globalization happened probably contributed. What used to be considered big dreams in Korea is no longer today. The claim that for the first time in Korean history, “we have a generation that studies the most, are the smartest, and are skilled in foreign languages” is just rhetoric. What is the use of all that? The past generations did well with the circumstances given to them. Also, the past generations took root in democratic or capitalist ideals and implemented modern systems, accomplishing an important historical task. What we are left with are subthemes such as equality of the sexes or environmental issues, instead of great ideologies. The issues that will arise from now on are too trivial to be taken up by one generation as their duty to resolve or to have them replace religions. Sexual minority, animal rights, human rights for the disabled, consumer protection, indigenous economic solution programs, etc.
These are the reasons why this generation is without big dreams.
If I had just ended with the argument “Why do you emphasize that only young people should face challenges?” it would have been settled, but I didn’t stop there. That was always my problem. When the department head of K Group put his hands on the shoulder of the female student next to him, things started. Already in an irritated mood, I said, scowling, “Why don’t you take your hands off of her.” The department head flinched. It was cheap for me to accuse him of sexual harassment. It wasn’t like he touched her anywhere else except the shoulder, and he had only done it that one time when I pointed it out. But it is true that he had been talking to the female student sitting next to him so closely that it looked like their cheeks would meet. If I didn’t say anything, it could have led to sexual harassment. I should have waited until then. I should confess first that I was very smart-alecky in the way I talked and looked at people. To borrow an expression from a friend, I was a man that brought out the “male instinct” in the other person. I was the schmuck that made people think, “I don’t know why but I don’t want to lose to that bastard.” I saw a lot in the world as useless, and men couldn’t stand to be looked at as useless. The department head of K Group said, flabbergasted, “What?” If he was a little bit experienced or had any wits about him, he would have quickly apologized or directed his focus elsewhere. But he said, “What?” and I responded with, “I said, why don’t you take your hands off of her.” What followed next was a cockfight. It took less than two minutes to go from “You must be drunk”; “I’m totally sober”; to “What’s with the way you talk, you ass”; “You think you’re better because you’re older than me?”
“You think we got paid to speak here? We came here, putting aside our important work and postponing appointments, just to support you guys. And then this. . .” “Thank you for that but I’m just saying, don’t put your hands on a female student.” “You’re not offended that he put his hands on her shoulder; you just want to start a fight with him.” A student intervened to take the side of the K Group department head. “He’s the only one like this, right? Not all the kids are like him, are they?” The K Group department head said. “Ah, fu….” I regretted then what I had done. “Did you say, ‘fuck’?” “I didn’t say fuck.” If I was my usual bad-tempered self, I would have flipped over the table before getting up, but I just threw my spoon down and stood up. “I suddenly have a stomachache. I’ll be going now.” The libertine took in the chilling glares from those around him and stood up, took his backpack, and left the restaurant. The students who sat too far to notice what was going on said, “Hey, you’re leaving?” To each his own. I took out my cellphone and sent a text message to the names I recognized under the contact group “‘A’ University Business Administration Students.” Whoever wants to drink, come to my place. My treat. There were too many students in the department, and not a lot of major classes, that even at graduation there were a lot of faces I didn’t know. While I walked through the streets of Sinchon, there were a few replies. “Why did
you leave?”; “I’m busy getting ready for the contest”; “You shouldn’t drink so much”; “You should stop with your foolish hero syndrome. . .”
1570. Why don’t you try becoming a journalist? 20 Most people look at the future as a McDonaldization of the “velvet prison.” People acknowledge that McDonaldization has forever imprisoned them, but they feel very comfortable in that situation. They like the world that has been McDonaldized, and even long for it, welcoming the continual growth and flourishing of it. . . . The only world they know, which is one that has become McDonaldized, represents the standards of good taste and high quality. -The McDonaldization of Society, George Ritzer
“Don’t you think that sometimes it would have been better to have been born during the Japanese occupation or the 1960s? I think I would have been better off. Because I would have been good for the independence movement or the democratic movement.” Socrates followed Jackie to school and listened to her. The school was on break and also because it was evening, it was quiet. “What are you talking about?” There was a very small pond made out of cement. Situated at the back of the College of Liberal Arts in a gloomy corner, the puddle stunk of rotten stale water. No one knew the use for this sudden pond. Had the school planned to make a water fountain then decided not to? The bottom of the concrete was covered with bog moss and water plants, so you
couldn’t really see it, and floating on top of the water were a few faded leaves. There were water bugs and winged insects that flew around. “It doesn’t seem like you can withstand a meaningless life. If you were in the midst of a grand event like the communist revolution, on the outside, you would complain about having been born at the wrong time, but inside, I think you would be pleased. You’re the type of person who would feel like you are living by planning to subvert the system.” Socrates sat on a bench that was rotting away close to the pond. Behind him was a small dark forest that looked like no one looked after it, and in front of him were the pond and the liberal arts building. He started to feel foul as he watched the hazy rays of the setting sun and the halo around it, and felt suffocated by the building that was covering half the sky. There was a couple sitting on a bench slightly away from him. “Don’t you mean you’re that type? If you were born during the Japanese occupation or in the 1960s. . .” “You think I would have become a female warrior?” Socrates was taken aback when Jackie said what he was about to say first. “Yes.” “Nope.” “I’m not the person you think I am, either. I’m grateful you think of me that way, but it’s an overestimation. I’m just a kid from a middle-class family who’s trying to get over a coward complex.” Socrates said in a tone full of self-contempt. “What’s a coward complex?” “I have never made one important decision for myself. I have done everything following my parents or society. When I was in high school, I used to dream of writing poetry or becoming a film director, and not going to college. But I never put any of that into
practice. My family isn’t incredibly rich, but I never had to work hard for money. Except for poor midterm grades, have I ever experienced a real crisis? My dad has never failed at his business and my mother hasn’t passed away. I did well in school, and, on top of that, I have good parents. That’s how I’ve arrived to where I am today. If I look back, all the decisions I’ve made have been rational, but I feel guilty that I’ve been down such an easy road. You don’t have to go so far as the independence movement. I feel ashamed when I hear about people who have just made it on their own. I’m ashamed of the fact that I have lived such a safe life.” Jackie had a look that showed that she wanted to hear more from him. “I did pretty well in school. Both my teachers and my parents thought that I would go to Seoul National University. But my college entrance exam scores were too low. I got into my second-choice school, our university, but people around me thought I would study for another year and take the test again. But I didn’t. I was too scared to study for another year. I went to a tutoring institute to study to retake the test, but I just couldn’t stand the entire building full of young people’s beaten spirits. I was afraid of becoming a loser, and I’m still afraid. The education I’ve received has been about learning how simply not to become a loser. I’ve been living a life mastering the way to live safely, where I neither win nor lose. But what is this? How long has it been since I’ve graduated from high school only to still have a complex about my academics. When I first started university, I started going out with a girl who I wasn’t compatible with just because she was pretty. I thought I would feel like a loser if I dated an ugly girl. Later, I met a really great girl, but she said she was going to America to study. We broke up before she left. I was afraid to put everything on the line for her. Even with the army, I was afraid to go to the regular army, so I applied to KATUSA. Now I’m just afraid that I will forever be this way until I die.”
It became dark around them, and the wind started to blow. The street lamp flickered as if it could go out at any second. Jackie got up from the bench and said to Socrates, walking toward the pond. “I wonder if you could drown in a pond like this?” “There have been people who have gotten drunk and drowned after falling asleep in a rain puddle.” The cement pond, which probably went only as far deep as 50 centimeters, looked like a dirty hole dug in the dirty ground. “Whenever I come here, I feel strange. You know that feeling of wanting to jump from a high place? I get that feeling here. But I really don’t want to drown and die in that water.” Socrates, feeling a bit insecure, put one hand on Jackie’s shoulder and pulled it gently. Jackie didn’t reject his gesture. “How about becoming a newspaper reporter?” Jackie suddenly asked. “A reporter?” “You’d be busy, and it would make you feel like you’re doing the right thing. Or, it’ll at least give you the chance to think about what is right or what is what all the time. I think you need that.” The couple that had been sitting away from them embracing each other was still there. When Jackie and Socrates passed the couple, Socrates saw the man was looking at Jackie with his mouth dropped open. Jackie was that beautiful.
I lived in a boarding house on the half-basement floor of a building near the university. You might think that my room would be musty with liquor bottles rolling around
and cockroaches scuttling between dirty clothes on the floor, but it was not like that at all. Before I moved in, I bought a can of water-based paint and a paint roller, and painted the room myself. I sprayed the bathroom with deodorizer, and extinguished every last bug with the strongest pest spray. On the night of the “Employment Workshop,” unexpected guests showed up at my 24
place. The very first person who showed up was Hwi-yeong. He was a classmate, but we weren’t close, so I greeted him somewhat awkwardly. I even thought, “What if I have to drink with just him?” “Can I come in?” “Of course.” Hwi-yeong was dressed as usual. A sky-blue knit sweater and beige cotton pants. He had all A’s in his classes, and led a club that helped students prepare for competitions. After we had drunk about half a bottle of soju, Byeong-gwon showed up. He was in the class one year behind ours and was a quiet kid. He always wore a stern expression on his face that scared me a little bit. “May I come in?” “Sure, sure!” I greeted him overexcitedly. I was happy that there was another person besides Hwiyeong. “I’m not saying you were right, but what you did was gratifying. Acting arrogant just because they work for a big company; it’s ludicrous.” “Knowing you, I was worried that you would start swinging. That department head or whatever he was, his face was turning purple with rage.” My mood began to improve with their compliments.
“Society needs to compensate those of us who were born in the wrong era. The government imposes inheritance tax on the people who are born into rich families. Just like that, they should introduce a special tax, ‘a support tax for the generation that is entering the recessionary market,’ on the people who were born in favorable times and were able to advance in society. The money collected could be used on a generation like ours. That’s the proper way to distribute income so they can’t not pay, either.” I added to this nonsensical talk in high spirits. We continued to talk about how we were born in the “years that were cursed.” “In the 1980s, college students were in charge of politics; in the 1990s, college students were the center of popular culture. What are we today? We’re nothing. We can’t even create anything trendy. Our situation is horrible, and we don’t come near the generation that came before us, who were rebellious or had an independent spirit.” Hwi-yeong vented his frustrations. Byeong-gwon added one more point. This generation faced threats from the generations before it even in the dating market. Korean men born between 1973 and 1977 had no problems dating women who were similar in age, and could easily date women who were born after 1978. Because they have the financial security. But men who were born after 1978 had a hard enough time dating women their own age. That’s why none of us had girlfriends. It’s a rotten world, a fucked-up world! It’s all because we were born in the wrong period. We continued to talk nonsense, and then the light suddenly went out. “What the hell? Nothing works out for those who are doomed, is that it?” Byeong-gwon muttered. “Wait just a minute.” I flicked the lighter to look through the drawer, and took out a flashlight and some candles.
“Why do you have so many candles at home?” “It creates a killer mood when you have a girl over. Not that nerds like yourselves would know.” “But you don’t have a girlfriend right now.” As if Se-yeon had been listening, she called at that moment. Se-yeon was famous at school. She was a recipient of “The 21st Century Leadership Scholarship,” the envy of all the students. The 21st Century Leadership Scholarship was enthusiastically introduced by the previous president of the university. If a student who scored in the 0.1 percentile on the national college entrance exam applied to our university, they would get free tuition until graduation. They would also be provided with a stipend, a single room, and other benefits that were normally given to exchange students, as well as have a separate mentor professor assigned to them, who would help with overseeing the scholarship recipient’s life at school. Not only that, if they wanted to attend the graduate school at our university, they would get in automatically. There would also be an advantage if they wanted to apply to become a professor at the university in the future. Also, Se-yeon was extremely pretty. For the third consecutive year, she appeared as the school’s model on its promotional materials. When you saw posters advertising “A” University in underground subway stations, you would see Se-yeon holding books in her arms while turning with a magnetic smile on her face. Underneath the picture was printed, “’A’ University Business Administration Department, Class of XX, Jeong Se-yeon.” However, other business administration students were suspicious of Se-yeon. There were kids who said they had seen her getting out of an expensive foreign brand car or walking arm-in-arm in Sinchon with a man who looked more than ten years older than her. There were many who envied Se-yeon’s extravagant clothes or the brand name purses she
carried. Because everyone knew that she went to “A” University instead of Seoul National because her family didn’t have the money. One of the malicious rumors was that she even had something going on with her mentor professor. More than anything else, the fact that she didn’t try to get along with her classmates, or the students who were junior or senior to her, while she maintained good relations with the professors and the TAs, and the fact that despite her absenteeism, she always did well on her exams, did not sit well with the other students. They hated her haughtiness. They couldn’t accept the fact that she didn’t care what other people thought of her and yet she kept winning. When we heard that this Se-yeon was coming over, we suddenly became nervous. “Are you two good friends?” Hwi-yeong asked. “We never properly introduced ourselves. . . . But I always thought it was a matter of time before she would fall under my spell.” Se-yeon showed up in a t-shirt and blue jeans. “What’s with the candle party? And men only.” Se-yeon didn’t seem flustered by a room full of only men, as she walked right in and took the center of the room. Of course, the men gladly gave up the throne to the queen. “What were you guys talking about?” “About how we were born in a cursed period.” I packaged what we had been discussing in a way that would sound more intellectual to Se-yeon. Se-yeon just nodded and listened. We drank several glasses of alcohol, and fell in a listless mood, surrounded by candlelight. “I felt bad for that department head and chief. They probably came to the school expecting to be the center of respect and interest. Not that the way they behaved showed any
refinement or sophistication, but they didn’t deserve to be put down either. You were a little mean tonight.” “You were quite observant. Where the hell were you at the gathering anyway? I don’t remember seeing you there.” “I was quietly sitting in the back.” How such a famous figure like Se-yeon could sit unnoticed at a gathering was intriguing to me. Wasn’t she always the target of male attention? “I can get people’s attention when I want it. But I can keep men from approaching me.” “Is that possible?” “I’m good at handling people.” Against the candlelight, Se-yeon looked like she was dreaming. She took out a sparkly cigarette case from her bag. The cigarettes didn’t have filters. They looked kind of fragile wrapped in rolling paper. “It’s especially easy to handle young men. Do you know what they consider more important than getting the attention of a pretty girl?” Se-yeon didn’t seem shy about referring to herself as a pretty girl. “Having sex with a pretty girl?” “Being blown off by a pretty girl. When they get a little sense that ‘I could easily get my pride crushed here,’ then they get scared and pretend like they don’t notice me. It’s a useful skill really.” The young men in the room just listened to Se-yeon like three idiots. “For example, these cigarettes are kind of special. What do you think I have to do to get you to smoke this cigarette with me? First, I’ll take a smoke (Se-yeon lit the cigarette), and then I’ll hold it like it’s a dangerous object of some kind. Then you might ask me to take
a puff of it first.” She took another cigarette and handed it to me. I took it, put it in my mouth, and lit it. I was a little scared, but besides it being stronger than a regular cigarette, I couldn’t tell that there was a difference. “Hwi-yeong, what do I have to do with you? If I say I’d kiss you on your cheek then maybe you’d smoke it, right?” Hwi-yeong’s face turned red. He took one of her cigarettes, and, skillfully, she grabbed his chin and gently kissed his cheek. “Should we get you a room?” I joked, but Hwi-yeong didn’t say anything in return. And even in the dark, I could see Byeong-gwon tensing up. After a little while, the drug effects of the “cigarettes” slowly started to surface. Objects did not appear crooked and we did not hallucinate. Everything appeared as they were. Only that the few minutes that passed strangely felt like years, and you felt a loneliness, as if you were the only person left in the world. “By any chance, is there anyone who believes in a religion?” Se-yeon asked. “I believe in atheism. Even if God actually existed, I couldn’t acknowledge his existence. My world view starts from the belief that God has absolutely no value, so if God made an appearance, everything would collapse. . .”
3. When Se-yeon came to my place, she would stay up until 2 or 3 in the morning, writing on her computer or reading a book while listening to music. She and I would alternate playing songs on the guitar sometimes. She played the guitar exceptionally well.
And when it became night, she would unapologetically lie on my bed and fall asleep. I would sleep on the floor on blankets. When I opened my eyes in the morning, it was always after Se-yeon had woken up, finished putting on her makeup, and gotten neatly dressed. “I guess you don’t have to check in at the dorm?” “I told the school that I couldn’t concentrate at the dorm, so I got a study room elsewhere.” I told her to go ahead to school first, but she didn’t avoid going to school with me. “The kids already think of me as garbage anyway.” Se-yeon said as if it were a trifling matter. But amazingly, there was not much sexual tension between Se-yeon and me, and we didn’t have sex. At first I thought it was strange that a perfectly healthy young man and woman could sleep in the same room without anything occurring, but now I know that it was because Seyeon carefully set up our relationship that way. “I have a condition, vulvar insensitivity. Even if I try to have sex, I can’t. I need to get an operation.” She said one day sincerely. I had no idea then that all along she had been acting the femme fatale with Hwiyeong and Byeong-gwon. Even the part where she used me to appear dangerous by telling them that she spent the night with me. As someone who was being played, I could not figure out how she could so easily play with other people’s emotions. It was like learning how to dance from a master or playing a computer game with a professional sitting next to you and coaching you on how to play. You might be giving up the control of your actions to someone else, but the experience was so thrilling that you couldn’t
help but fall deep. When it became night, we would alternate playing the guitar and singing. I knew a lot of pop songs, but so did Se-yeon. There were times when she took a pop song and adapted it to her own style and pretended like she wrote it. That was just one of her many lies. I remember one Randy Newman song she made into a Se-yeon version. Even after several years following her death, I didn’t know the title of the song or the singer who sang it. But I couldn’t forget the sad melody or the ridiculously cynical lyrics. In my memory, Se-yeon sat in the corner of my room and played the guitar singing this song. The lyrics went something like this:
If I had one wish that could come true I have something I want to tell everyone in the world I’ll go up on the platform and give a speech First I’ll sing a song or two Then I’ll tell people It’s a rough world. It’s a cruel world. Nothing can go your way But there’s one thing we all want Let’s sing together
I hope you get hurt like me I hope you get hurt like me I hope you get hurt like me
How about becoming a civil servant?
The new world today is just as rigid as the old world, society has lost its inherent fluidity, and the laborers’ duties are minutely assigned. Opportunities are fixed and from the beginning the individual does not have an unlimited future. The individual’s place is established inside a cogwheel, and it decides his entire life. Of course, the few
accidental successes leave open the myth that one can succeed on one’s own, but that
is an illusion that is equal to the chances of hitting the lottery. - America Day by Day, Simone de
“You should do it if you want to.” “What?” “Jump on me.” Jackie said to Antichrist while she lay on the bed. Antichrist tried to sort out whether or not she was trying to seduce him or not. It didn’t settle well with him that she claimed she was a virgin. He didn’t believe that she was, but he thought that if he did jump on her, in contrast to what she said, she would fiercely resist. Jackie, sure enough, thought that the first time she had sex with Antichrist, it would look like rape. “I’ve been curious, why is your nickname Antichrist?” “When I played in the school band, I would sing hymns in a punk rock style. I wasn’t talented enough to create my own songs, and when I wanted to sing the classic songs, I couldn’t think of any in particular. So I proposed we sing hymns, but as rock versions, and everyone nodded in agreement. When I started singing, it was terrifying.” Antichrist spoke about the history of rock as he knew it. From his perspective, at the
end of heavy metal, rock bands faced a dilemma because “there was nothing to oppose.” Music that had come before it had already rebelled against the system, the older generation, conventions about love, authoritarianism, Catholicism, and capitalism. There was nothing left to take on as the enemy. That is how alternative rock, with its incomprehensible lyrics, was born, and that is why it was inevitable that it would self-destruct. After that, there was really nothing that rock musicians could sing about. Marilyn Manson even sung a song called “Rock is Dead.” “It’s not fun, is it?” Jackie asked. “What?” “Everything.” Antichrist responded, “Yes.” He added that in the future, there wouldn’t be anything fun. Silence took over the room. “You should have been born about a 1,000 years ago. The era of the war of conquests.” Before the army modernized; before weapons of mass destruction were created, when individual valor mattered; when nations and tribes started war as their moral duty; and when human beings stood somewhere between being savages and bureaucrats. “Why do you think that?” “You don’t like being shackled; you want freedom. And you’re smart enough to see that world’s religions and ideologies are actually worthless. That kind of attitude can only lead to nihilism, and even if you saw a lofty cause, I don’t think you’d feel genuine empathy. If you were surrounded by people who were plotting for Joseon independence or the proletariat revolution, you would probably be laughing inside and would be dying to say something harsh towards those people. If they started arguing about theory or methodology
you would tell them that they’re all just talk and leave. The world you can understand is one that combines extreme egoism with violence. The only thing worth anything in this world for you is that people fight to avoid becoming a loser, because it is certain that in this world, winners force losers to do the work they don’t want to do. But a world that would fight that disappeared a long time ago.” “Don’t we still live in a violent world? Powerful nations force weaker nations to accept unfair trade agreements, corporate hunters launch takeovers and get away with huge profits.” “It depends on what kind of violence you want. Do you want to become a lawyer and battle it out in the courts?” Antichrist didn’t say anything and instead took out a cigarette and put it in his mouth. He sat in the lotus position, slightly stooped over and resting his chin on the edge of the bed. Antichrist thought about what he would go to war for if he were born 1,000 years ago. He was happy just thinking about being born in the midst of war. There would be a clear enemy, and he wouldn’t have to think about what to fight for. The enemy would have killed his father, cursed his ancestors, and raped the women in his tribe by then, he thought. All he would have to do would be to take a weapon and fight. Revenge! A word that aroused his emotions. He didn’t question the meaning of this word. It brought about the purest of feelings. It was the most powerful motivation to deliver him out of all doubt. It evoked passion that did not die out with time, unlike love. What would he do if he were born during a peaceful time? Then for what cause would he incite war? To create a great empire? For the victory of people? No, he would use a chant similar to Casare Borgia’s. “Either Casare or nothing.” Accept him or be nothing. Revenge and conquest cannot be achieved. As soon as it is done, the assignment turns to great emptiness. One should always act with that as the goal. Perhaps one becomes
frustrated because he realizes that there is absolutely no way he can take revenge or take over the world by his own individual power. Whether in the East or the West, some soldiers come to this state of mind. That is how the phrases “This land is where I should die” or “It’s a good day to die” came to be. “I am so angry because the future path laid out before me feels like the path of failure. Life to me is an assignment. The task being to find the day I should die or to find the place where I should die. Do you know the term Ma Hyeok Gwa Si? It means that a heroic man who dies in battle should return with his corpse wrapped in horsehide. It means that the right way to die is not on a bed being tended to by a woman.” Antichrist imagined a violent death that he could understand within the confines of this complicated era. Here’s an example. A baby stroller falls on the train tracks in an underground subway station, and he jumps to save the child of a person he does not know. He unclasps the baby from the stroller and lifts him onto the platform, but he doesn’t have time to lift himself out. The train sounds its horn as it has already entered the station. He turns toward the oncoming train with glaring eyes and says, “Fuck” or “Go to hell,” lets out a hideous laugh, and meets death. A death no one could call a failure—a secret escape. But is there a guarantee that the child’s life he saved is worth more than his own? Did his actions simply transfer the assignment he didn’t want onto someone else? “If people lived only until 20 or 30 years of age like they were supposed to biologically, then we wouldn’t have to worry about this.” When Antichrist was in high school, he got two of his wisdom teeth pulled, and had an appendectomy while he was in the military. If he were born just 100 years before, he would have suffered tremendous pain because of his impacted wisdom teeth, and then he
would have died from appendicitis in his early 20s. If people lived expecting to die around 26 or 28, then how meaningful would their life be without having to worry about the assignment? “How about becoming a civil servant? A level 7 or level 9 civil servant?” Jackie suddenly sat up on the bed and said to Antichrist. “Why would you say that all of a sudden?” “There is nothing you would want to fight for in this world, anyway. Let some other idiot fight to make a lot of money or get good grades. Just surrender that kind of useless fight from the start. You would just have to work until 6 pm to make a living, then do what you want to do after. Like playing in a band or writing songs. You should be able to secure at least six hours a day for that. You’re the only one who has to feel good about where you are in life.”
Who Will Succeed in Power at Jinho Group? Reported September 12, 20XX 10:27
(Today’s Economy=Reporter Kim Jeong-yeon) How will the death of the eldest son, Seon-wu (29), change the succession of power at the world’s sixth-ranked company, Jinho Group? People associated with the company have responded sharply that “this is not the time to discuss the matter,” but questions surrounding it are poised to remain.
The president of Jinho Group, Park Ju-yeong, has two sons, including Seon-wu, and two daughters. Seon-wu was the eldest son but was the third child. The eldest is daughter Ahyeong (38), director of Jinho C&I, and the second eldest is daughter Yi-seon (35), head of
Jinho Capital; they are followed by Seon-wu. President Park stated last year at the Korea Chamber of Commerce of Industry lecture that “Even though they are my children, they will not get control of the company if they do not have the skills to lead it. I mean it when I say it is not a must for all for of my children to have stakes in the company or manage it.” In reality, President Park distributed very few shares of his subsidiaries to his children, except for Seonwu.
Although President Park had never stated that he would consider Seon-wu as his heir, he held Seon-wu especially close to his heart. A person related to Jinho Group has said, “It was pretty much an established fact that after Seon-wu received his MBA degree overseas, he would return to receive training on how to run Jinho Group.”
Although President Park was a second-generation executive, he is responsible for creating Jinho Group, as it exists today, practically by himself, and was known to have strong beliefs in the idea that “kids need to grow up on their own.” Amidst the current situation, some people say that the focus should be on the eldest daughter Ah-yeong, the director of Jinho C&I. Most insiders agree that Ah-yeong, who is even nicknamed “Little Park Ju-yeong,” could be the strongest contender in the succession of management rights.
There is even a rumor that last year, after Ah-yeong successfully led the Jinho C&I new logo project, President Park said affectionately, “I wish she had been a son.” And from the beginning, when Ah-yeong started as a Deputy Secretary General for Planning and Management at Jinho C&I, she was known to have been very active in her participation, even reporting on the subsidiary companies.
A person who is familiar with the history of the company has said, “Director Ah-yeong is clear in her likes and dislikes, and thinks in big pictures,” and added, “If Seon-wu inherited President Park’s ‘brains,’ then Ah-yeong inherited his ‘heart.’”
Published on Nov 17, 2015