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Lashi ng

Not esf r om aPr i sonJ our nal

Ki m Dong-i n

Tr ans l at edbySt ephenEps t ei n, Ki m MiYoung


Lashing Notes from a Prison Journal By Kim Dong-in Translated by Stephen Epstein and Kim Mi Young

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Originally published in Korean as Taehyeong in Dongmyeong, 1922-1923 Translation ⓒ 2013 by Stephen Epstein and Kim Mi Young

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and Literature Translation Institute of Korea. The original manuscripts to these translations were provided by Gongumadang of Korea Copyright Commission.

The National Library of Korea Cataloging-in-Publication Data Kim, Dong-in Lashing [electronic resource] = 태형 / [written by] Kim Dong-in ; translated by Stephen Epstein, Kim Mi Young. -- Seoul : Literature Translation Institute of Korea, 2013 p. ISBN 978-89-93360-19-6 05810 : No price 813.61-KDC5 895.733-DDC21

CIP2013027895

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About Kim Dong-in

Kim Dong-in (1900-1951), together with Yi Gwang-su, is one of early modern Korean literature’s representative writers of “pure” fiction. His debut work “The Sorrow of the Weak,” which appeared in the journal Changjo (Creation) in 1919, is considered the first Korean short story to focus in earnest on character development and psychological analysis. A clear, concise style is the hallmark of Kim’s writing. As the first author to adopt the plain past tense “-ieottda” style and to establish an objective stance in fiction with a third person point of view, he is regarded as having employed a realistic technique and well-rounded character types, in contrast to Yi Gwang-su, who saw literature as a vehicle for enlightenment and whose characters were more flatly drawn. At the same time, Kim declared that fiction should create an autonomous world whose value inhered within itself. His belief in “art for art’s sake” led him to a unique method of composition which he likened to handling puppets. In Kim’s view of literary creation a writer must act like a puppet master, controlling his characters, just as God created human beings. This attitude contributes unbridled free rein to a writer’s imagination. The short story “Lashing” (1946), in showing conflicts among prisoners under extreme duress in jail, exposes humanity’s selfishness, which forces suffering upon others for the sake of comfort. The first-person narrator pressures an elderly man into acquiescing in receiving a physical punishment that he had wished to appeal. The narrator’s reactions after driving the elderly man to the whipping platform and hearing his screams builds extreme tension and impels readers to reflect on the ugly aspects of human character.

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Lashing: Notes from a Prison Journal

“Kishou!” I’d fallen into a deep sleep, but anxiety allowed the voice to penetrate my ears. I awoke with a jolt. Drowse, however, overcame me once more. “Hey! Kishou, they said. Get up!” The man next to me shook me. I rolled away. In a few seconds slumber sweeter than honey had been won anew, but he shook me again. “Get up.” “What do you want?” My mind was slipping back towards an abyss. “Cut it out. Get up. They're checking Cell Five.” “For God’s sake, man, let me sleep ten more minutes.” “Do you think I care? If the guard catches you dozing, you could be in for big trouble.” “Shit! Just let a guy get some rest. It hasn’t even been two hours. Come on, let me sleep just a…” Exhaustion overwhelmed me even before I could complete the sentence. My eyes swept over all the space I had for sleeping and the cigarette at my side. Someone was offering me a smoke. Reaching to accept it, I was interrupted by yet another shake. “Kishou, they said. They’re going to start inspection. Wake up….” “Hey! I barely fall back to sleep, and you’re hassling me again?” “Tenken.” I burst into anger. “Tenken?! So what if it's roll call? Does that matter to you?” “Enough. You'd better get up.” “I was dreaming I was about to have noodles and a cigarette...” Or so I intended to say, but exhaustion captured me yet again. One second, two. I was drifting back to my sweet dream when I was startled into sitting upright. A sword clanging in the adjacent cell, a door being flung open. Nonetheless, the drowsiness sapping my strength kept my thoughts clouded. I clasped my knees, buried my head and entered dreamland once more. One second, two. Bang! Now came the sound of our cell door bursting open. I swiftly surrendered and raised my head. Fear now kept me from connecting myself to the self that had been so drowsy a moment before. A few guards entered with the door’s slamming. “Tenken.” The resounding summons to roll call felt too loud for our tiny cell, not even five pyeong in size. Practiced voices announced the digits that had become the substitutes for our names. Number x, Number y. The head guard’s fluent delivery came to a halt. “Nanahyaku nanajyu yongo.” 4


No response. “Nanahyaku nanajyu yongo.” 774, the old man squatting behind me, unable to recognize the Japanese number referring to him, naturally failed to answer. I gave him an impatient dig in the ribs. A frightened response rang out. “Yes, hai!” “Nango hayaku henjio sinai? Come here!” The head officer shouted, demanding to know why the old man hadn’t answered immediately. But the old man did not stir. Silence prevailed. “Come here!” The old man bowed at the second command and went before the guard. A crack parted the air, and a hand so practiced that its movement was imperceptible landed the whip on the old man’s back. Though he remained stoic, his eyes filled with tears. Further numbers were called, and the old man returned to his spot, accompanied by a reproach admonishing him to stay alert. The cell door shut once more. Strangely enough, when any prisoner is punished, his fellow cellmates tremble, although not at all from righteous indignation or sympathy. This trembling is not just physical but mental. I first had this experience in the police station. After three hours of consecutive beatings, I was sent to a detention room where I quivered like an aspen for the next two hours, thinking I might die. (This now happens a few times each day.…) The room was silent, an enclosure of death. None breathed deeply. None dared look to his side, as if a devil lurked at the ready. You might wonder if any life remained within them at all. Before long it seemed that roll call had come to an end. The guards’ footsteps passed our cell again. Only then did the old man’s quiet voice puncture the silence. “I have two sons of my own, each older than that brat of a guard…” * Hot. How hot, I don’t know. 110 Fahrenheit? Maybe hotter. Every morning I imagine that the sun rising in the east will soon scorch everything in its path. As if fulfilling my prediction, the sun stews our cell in no time. At first 20 of us crowded into our tiny five-pyeong cell but the total grew to 28 when they added other prisoners. ‘My god, how will we cope?’ I thought. When they transferred for arraignment prisoners who'd been held at Jinnampo, the number reached 34. We sighed. By the time the sum reached 41, including those sent down from prisons in Shinuiju and Haeju, even a sigh was beyond us. All we mustered was a cluck of the tongue. Soon the scorching sun, hanging at eave edge, would be radiating constant heat. I 5


hadn’t realized my body held so much moisture. I sweated all morning. I sat weakly in my dampness, then, using my last strength, leaned against the wall and arose sluggishly. This was hell. We sat cramped together dully, heads bent, robbed of energy, mouths agape like corpses, no thought to wiping away the spittle and sweat. Backs hunched, dispirited arms across knees, lips weakly parted, faces puffy blue with edema, lifeless eyes, hair and beard disheveled, living dead. Had these same people dashed to the washroom in the morning and stirred for lunch two hours earlier? Nauseating fumes stung my eyes despite the dulling of my senses from exhaustion. What had they all done to end up here? What had brought them here from a world where the wind blows, where bedding and tobacco was theirs? Some must have adorable grandchildren; others must have beautiful wives. Some must have mothers who would starve without their support. They'd eaten and drunk freely, enjoyed the wind freely, slept freely. How had they arrived here? Now they lacked independence, autonomy, freedom. No loveable wife, no loveable sons, no parents, not even fresh nerves for experiencing the heat. The only wish now coiled within their weary brains, distressed and demoralized by the stuffy air and heat, was for a gulp of cool water. That gulp was the price at which they would sacrifice their homeland, their hometown, their families and any future happiness. In our mind’s eye burbling springs readily appeared, gourds beside them. “A single scoop of water. I beg you.…” I prayed, not knowing who I was praying to. My gaze shifted back to the others. One boil-infested body pressed against another. Most had scabies. Silence, seemingly interminable, held sway. I sat back weakly. “This heat’ll be the death of me!” The speaker uttered the word “death” as though gagging on it to make it less audible. Another seemingly endless silence followed, as if none dared respond. In order to live, men need labor, whether physical or mental. It was a mystery how the prisoners endured these last few months, without anything to keep brain or body active. Especially in this inferno… The heat grew worse as the afternoon wore on. I felt that each cell of mine possessed a life of its own. I was unable to connect them to this body that lay distended in the heat. With each stifling breath entering and exiting my lungs, the air grew more torrid. How was it that typhoid wasn’t spreading? Five days ago a prisoner had been sent to the infirmary, followed not long after by a second. Today two more had fallen ill. We looked on jealously as the guards came to remove the sick. The cells in the infirmary contained only about a dozen men each, and they received medicine that was drinkable. What's more, they had fresh air to breathe. 6


* “Today’s Sunday, right?” As I squatted on the toilet, I posed the question to the inmate next to me. He stood below the dim bulb catching lice. (We had divided the night into three watches so we could take turns dozing. Some slept while others stood.) “Would I know? A bell's ringing, but whether it’s Wednesday or Sunday….” A bell resounded into the quiet night sky, as if declaring “Here live those who drink cold water as they wish and have room to sleep….” “I want to see other people….” “Yeah. Me too.” “Out there where that bell is ringing, there must be water. Space. And a breeze, a breeze, blowing for sure…” I murmured. “Water? Water? Stop it, man. When I was outside, I could drink any time I was thirsty, and I had room to sleep too.” He turned away in apparent irritation. His words reminded me that I also drank water whenever I wanted outside. I slept freely. But the memory felt like a dream from the distant past. “Ice cream, too!” A young fellow on my other side poked me. “Ice cream?” I shot back. “Ice cream? Is that all? I even have a wife. The June peaches in my garden are almost ripe!” The old man looked back at me with a glare. “Wife? Listen, young man! Stop it with your drivel. I had two sons. On March 8th, when people were crying out for independence in the valley, my family rose up as one to join them. All of a sudden guns went rat-a-tat-tat and my eldest collapsed to the ground. I was about to go to him when my second son fell next to me too. I lost both at once….I attacked, out of my head…Huh! And you're prattling about your wife?” “What happened next?” I asked as I set about in search of lice. “Do you think I know? They arrested me and sent me straight to prison. Seeing as nobody in my family has brought food or clothes for me, they all must be dead.” “What about me?” A man in his forties sitting a few people away spoke up. “That day we kept cheering for independence, so those military cop bastards chased us. We fled to the foot of a mountain but then couldn't go any further. We fought back, rats cornered by a cat. What could we do? Then they started shooting. We toppled to the ground one after another like bean paste jars….” He paused, apparently recalling the scene, then continued. “My brother fell. I started to carry him away on my back but I got shot as well. It was night when I came to. The field was freezing. I could barely move but started to drag myself away. I made it a little further and then heard a buzz of voices. As soon as I heard them I lost all my energy. I collapsed, unable to go further. I lay still, gasping for breath. Footsteps got 7


closer. A voice said, ‘Here’s another dead one,’ and I felt a kick. I groaned, and they put me in a stretcher. Only then did I realize it was the military cops. People who are trapped tend to survive. I had no medicine and they left me untreated, but here I am, recovered.” He lifted his blood-splattered jacket to reveal the traces of a bullet wound. “I’m from Maengsan. My father was executed in the military police detention room. Fifty people put me in the detention room and then, with a machine gun….Bandits!” Quite a few of us awaiting our turns to rest had succumbed to exhaustion. Some fell asleep standing up. The man next to me squatting over the toilet had dozed off and toppled from his perch. He slept, sprawled in the position he’d passed out in. A prisoner pinned beneath him continued to sleep, the occasional jerking of his legs the only proof that he was not a corpse. I don’t know when I fell asleep. A pressure on my chest woke me—an event that occurs several times each night. Dozens of limbs pinned my head and torso. I forced my way through them slowly to sit up. Removing a few more from my shoulders, I exhaled heavily. The cell was a showcase for limbs. Not a single head or trunk was visible, just layer upon layer of legs. At one end a lone leg wriggled, at the other a pair dangled. These legs were tinged blue, corpselike. Apparently even those who have departed this world dream. From time to time sounds of dreaming escaped from the appendages. (Perhaps they dreamt of cold water.) Ah, surely they’d have room enough to sleep if they returned home, no matter how poor they may be…. On the other side a tangle of more than half a dozen limbs heaved up and down. A head poked its way through, let out a deep breath and then disappeared back in among the legs. I glimpsed the sight dimly and leaned my relaxed body against a pair of legs to sleep. * Every morning when I washed up, I reconfirmed that I was still healthy enough. I might have become slightly swollen or gained weight from inactivity, but when I had cold water to wash my face, even though it had been scorched all day and afflicted with drowsiness and sweat all night I knew I was still okay. Perhaps it was because without a mirror I couldn’t look at my own face and others were changing gradually, but when I rinsed my face of grimy sweat and touched my parched cheeks I knew I was still reasonably healthy. The hours immediately after washing were the most precious of prison life, the hours when I felt most human. Only then did our eyes shine and our expressions have the energy of the living. Our brains functioned for a time. Some even managed to crack jokes. After a few hours, a large gap developed between these people and those whose nerves were paralyzed and whose head drooped, whose eyes were open but perceived nothing, and whose breath resembled boiling 8


oil. “Going to be hot again, don’t you think?” I said to the man next to me. “Hot? You call this hot? I think it’s kind of chilly…” He made a show of shivering and snickered. It was still mid-June, so mornings were cool. Without a calendar, I wasn't sure of the exact date, but it must have been a little past the Dano festival. A refreshing cool lingered, the morning having released all the heat it had received through the previous day. “Did you go to trial yesterday?” I asked. “Yes.” “What’s going on out there?” “Do you think I know? Poplars were turning green, clouds were blowing by. I felt like I was near the end of my days. The ground seemed like it was moving. People’s expressions were all dark, and they all looked like thieves to me.” “I wish I could see that...” I heaved a sigh. I'd been dispatched here on the last day of March, still wearing the padded clothes of colder months. I didn’t clearly remember the poplar’s greenish tinge. “You’ll make it to trial before long too.” “I guess I’ll get there someday. Did you hear any good news?” “Like I said yesterday, it sounds like we’ll be getting independence easily.” “Easily?” “That's what I heard. In ten days.” I was about to respond, when a series of knocks came from the next cell, transferring the Korean alphabet into code. “What…news?” Someone tapped out. “Good....Independence…coming…soon.” “Where…did…you…hear?” “This…morning…mealtime…a…lett…” The knocking stopped. “See! I was right….” The man who'd spoken up before gave a proud whisper. “They’re calling people to trial from the next cell. Today…” “You’ll go for sure.” “I hope so. I’m desperate to see people, to see foliage and some open space….” But the only prisoners called from our cell were the old man who’d been lashed by the head guard yesterday and a few from Yeongwon and Maengsan. Left out again. “I’ll get there someday.” So tedious, I muttered to myself. When would “someday” come? Three months had gone by with me saying “today for sure,” “today for sure.” For three months I’d been waiting to be called to trial every morning. It felt like an eternity. When would “someday” come? If those three months were repeated ten times, it would become thirty. “They left you out again.” 9


“If they don’t want me, fine. Scum!” “Don’t you think you’ll go soon?” “Soon? When the hell is soon? Ten years, twenty years doesn’t make much difference.” “Still, don’t you think they’ll call you?” “When? After I’m dead?” I shifted my anger toward him. I didn’t calm down until breakfast. I felt more jealousy toward the lucky few called to trial than anger at the officials who weren’t quick to give me a chance to see the outside world again. * Every day after eating my lunch and drinking a bowl of fishy-smelling water, I found amusement in escaping the prison officers’ watchful eyes. I’d pull the rice bowl toward me, pick out the remaining grain and start to knead it. This was the only entertainment allowed us. We were bored stiff, suffocated. Conversation was forbidden. Lack of materials stifled our will to daydream. By the time the grain turned dark with dirt, it had become a piece of rice cake dough. Sometimes the dough turned into a dog, sometimes a pig, sometimes a guard, before finally being tossed into the toilet…. Once I'd kneaded this particular grain of rice a while, it metamorphosed into a gentle steer. Though its horns had grown a bit oversized, it perched on my knee. I lifted my head. Bent on amusing myself, I hadn’t realized that the sun was scorching once more. On the cement wall, splotched with the blood of bedbugs, fell the distinct shadows of bars from the window. Searing heat assaulted my back from that opening behind me. Reflecting off the wall it struck me full on, assailing me with the heat arising from the dense crowd of the fellow prisoners who surrounded me. The stench of fermenting feces and urine, decaying flesh and scabies medicine fused day after day with the rankness of rivulets of sweat to create a noxious gas that settled in the unventilated room. Exhaustion may have blunted our senses, but the foul odor remained ever-nauseating. No wonder the guards were loath to approach. I wasn't alone in suffering from abscesses. All the inmates did. Every time we squatted on the toilet overflowing with excrement, a pungent, sickening moisture smeared our buttocks, creating abscesses that lice and bedbugs spread over our bodies. None of us escaped. Perspiration, a stream rather than a trickle, flowed from our bodies. “Eh, sweat.” I murmured weakly. It was an enigma that if I gulped down cold water after a meal, within twenty to thirty minutes it was oozing from my pores. Perspiration cascaded down my neck and chest, making it feel as though worms were crawling over my flesh. The unpleasantness of the sensation was indescribable. But none of us wiped away the sweat. A single finger's movement dispatched us to a veritable inferno. ‘Send me to the infirmary as soon as possible.’ I prayed, exhausted. In the morning I begged for a checkup for my abscesses and was among the lucky ones 10


chosen. I had no other desire. To be able to taste fresh air and feel a sense of space, even for ten or twenty minutes, was more precious than any amount of money or honor. I might also have a chance to hear some news about my brother. I had not heard which cell he was in, let alone how he was holding up since being tossed into prison. Unexpectedly the first thing that appeared in my mind’s eye was my house. At first vaguely, and then clearly, I could picture against a cement wall backdrop, in sunlight so intense it colored the wall yellowish rather than white, a cigarette and cold water and then a spacious room for me to sleep in. A lone fly (even now it seems strange to me how such a small thing could be seen so clearly) appeared flitting back and forth between a matchbox and the cigarette case. “Fuck!” I spat out a hot puff of air. “Even flies are freer.” Anger takes effort for a mind that has lost the courage for anger. I tried to remove the images. The cigarette and cold water disappeared soon enough, but I never shook that damn fly. I raised my hand a couple of times as if to shoo the fly and fanned my face, then weakly grasped the cow that I’d fashioned. * You would never suspect how sweet air can taste until you’ve experienced it. At my first fresh breath after exhaling the rank, fetid air, I felt deliriously happy. The weather was invigorating. Had it really been so hot? Where had all that heat gone? I actually felt almost cold on the way to the infirmary. Even better, I saw my brother there. “What cell did they put you in?” I asked softly, my head toward the guard. “Ward 4, cell 2.” After a while, I spoke again. “How many in your cell? Boiling, isn’t it?” “Everybody is all swollen up….” “Bandits. There are 40 of us in my cell. We’re all rotting away. And to think that at home there are sections I worry about because there’s so much space to look after. How are you holding up? Have you been sick?” “Illness isn’t coming to me in this prison even if I want to get sick. I just have headaches from the heat….” “How did you get yourself to the infirmary?” “I lied. Said I have a stomach ache….” “I’m covered with boils. Look at this.” I rolled up my pants to show my bluish abscesses. “Are there people in your cell with mange?” “Do you need to ask?….” So-and-so had succumbed to it, according to my brother, and so-and-so had as well. He 11


mentioned seven or eight names. Some I knew; others I didn’t. “Why doesn’t anybody from home visit?” “I’ve been wondering the same thing….Maybe they’re all dead….” A thought suddenly occurred to me for the first time. What was happening beyond the prison walls was beyond the knowledge of the likes of us, who’d only seen guards the last three months. Occasionally people came back from court, but the journey led through a field. There was no way of knowing, let alone seeing, if the town retained the gloom it possessed when we were imprisoned, if the shops were still closed or life had returned to the streets, if laughter rose from the houses, if couples were marrying in the churches, if the March uprising had been nearly forgotten. It was even harder to learn about mundane family matters. “Something must have happened to everybody.” “A guy who went to trial yesterday said he saw Eldest Brother…” My brother looked worried. As he uttered those very words, though, a call came for 1017. My number. “Yes!” “Examination.” I darted upright and went before the doctor. “What’s wrong?” “Look.” I lowered my pants. The doctor glanced at my rump and thighs, his expression conveying disdain for what he obviously saw as a trivial ailment. He handed me over to the nurse without a word. I was given a coarse ointment, which I smeared on, then sat among those who’d finished their checkups. My brother was speaking to the man next to him in tones loud enough for me to overhear. Startled, I looked at the guard. My brother had caught his attention. I raised my hands as if to stretch. My brother didn’t notice. I coughed loudly, but he still didn’t seem to hear. I began to tremble. “I need to alert him.” I beckoned to him but, absorbed in his conversation, he didn’t stop talking until the guard drew a couple of steps closer. He finally came to his senses and tried to play innocent, but the guard was not about to have any of it. A sharp crack of the whip. My brother grasped his shoulder and collapsed. My blood reached such a boil that I felt faint. I stole a sidelong glance at my brother as I returned to my cell. His eyes swam with tears as he watched me depart. What filled those eyes, so young and pure, with tears? I’d tasted the sweet, fresh air that I’d longed for but returned to my cell in darker spirits than when I’d left. * 12


After dinner I lay prostrate in the heat. I took the chopsticks from the uncollected meal tray, wrapped the ends of my handkerchief around each one and fanned myself with my makeshift creation. The air that washed over my sweat was warm and foul, but at least it offered a smidgen of ventilation. Why hadn’t I thought of this earlier? I flapped my arms as if crazed. The first currents carried the cell’s stink, but at least in evaporating the sweat that had come to feel like worms crawling on my chest, they offered honey-sweet refreshment. The light fixed to the ceiling had now been switched on for evening, but the heat refused to dissipate. All my fellow prisoners mimicked my handkerchief fan. I felt a draft on my back from the inmate behind me. The noisome air was in motion. But the return of the others from their trials forced a halt to the fanning. The old man from Yeongwon had returned with three or four fellow prisoners. His face carried the expression of a corpse. After the guard went back, I beckoned to the old man while keeping my head facing front. “What’s going on?” “I have no idea.” “What was the verdict?” The old man did not answer. What, somebody sew his lips shut? Eventually he replied. “90 lashes.” His voice carried a terrible shake. “Lucky you! You’ll be breathing fresh air and having a smoke in three days…When will I...” “Huh? Lucky me? Lucky me? If I get a lashing at my age...I don’t even want to talk about it. I’m not ready to die! I appealed!” He flew at me, furious. But my anger was as great as his and I stood my ground. “Shut up! Have you gone senile? You’re worried you might die. And you’re the only person here? Can’t you see that the forty of us will have more room if you’re gone? What does an old man have to live for after his sons have been shot anyway? Come on!” I turned to those around me. “We’ve got a guy who appealed his lashing.” I cackled with laughter. No one was keen to pardon the old man. Abuse followed from multiple quarters. Senile old coot. Idiot. Selfish jerk. Get him out. The old man gave no response. All that reached our ears was a long sigh. After our verbal attack we fell quiet, exhausted. A heavy, painful silence remained. Dusk had descended unbeknownst to us. A sky whose hues resembled the Daedong River covered the world. We sat without a word beneath its canopy, crazed with heat and thirst. Had our lips been sewn shut as well? Finally the old man shattered the silence by calling me. “Hey.” “What?” “What do you want me to do?” 13


“Withdraw your appeal!” He fell silent once more. Some time later he called me again. “You’re right. My sons must both be dead. What’s the point in living alone? Cancel it for me.” “You should have done that before. Okay, I’ll call the guard.” “Please.” His voice trembled. I hit the bell. A guard came. I interpreted for him to convey his wish (our wish actually) and the officer dragged the old man away noisily. I returned to my spot and studied the others. Their expressions sparkled. A tad more space was theirs. * Bathing. Our greatest joy. We are allowed to bathe once every ten days. “Mokan!” We ran out of our cell in a line when the guard gave the call to bathe. Baked by the sun, the cement pavement seared the soles of feet that had gone soft over the last three months. Nonetheless, bathing remained one of our pleasures. We crossed the road, stripped and jumped into bath water so murky it looked half-solid. Bliss. A tap right beside me spouted fresh water. Sweet, cool water, the water that haunts our thoughts. After a hasty dunk, I went to the tap and sucked it in like an elephant. Several convicts were laboring outside. They were a source of envy to those of us sick of constraint. Fresh air was theirs to breathe at will. When thirsty, they could get the guards’ permission and drink. And they were free of that awful stuffiness. The guard issued the command to stop bathing almost immediately. Our twenty seconds of joy came to an end. We wasted no time dressing in order to avoid the lash and followed the guard back to our cell. At that hour of the day the heat was most severe. The next moment, the door closed, and the inferno attacked us once more, suffocating us as if intent upon revenge for our pleasure. “Scorching already!” I muttered to myself. “It would have been worth a whipping just to stay longer,” said someone to feigned laughter. Silence followed. It continued uninterrupted for several hours. We started in surprise at a bloodcurdling noise. A death cry. “Hitotsu, hutatsu.” Cries of agony accompanied the guard’s counting. They pierced our ear drums, deadened though they may have been by heat. “I’m dying!” Oblivious to the temperature we raised our heads, all trembling alike. Those were the screams of someone receiving the lash. 14


After reaching the count of thirty, the guard’s voice disappeared. All that could be heard were the miserable moans of the man who’d been whipped. A second person appeared to have mounted the platform for giving the lash. “Hitotsu.” A weak cry immediately followed. “Hutatsu.” A moan. “Mitsu.” And another. We knew the source of the cry. It was the old man we’d ejected last night, the old man we’d forced to face the lash. Despite the sting of the whip, he had no energy for more than weak groans. “Yotsu.” A further moan. “Itsutsu.” Again. I realized that my head had dropped of its own accord. The image of the old man being dragged from our cell returned to me. “Who expects a seventy-year-old to survive a lashing? Don’t worry about me, but I hope you all…” Before he finished the sentence the prison officer had arrogantly hustled him away. And I was the ringleader in forcing him out. My head drooped further. Tears were about to tumble from my vacantly staring eyes, so I clenched them shut. My eyelids trembled struggling to hold back the tears.

15

Lashing  

Kim Dong-in is one of early modern Korean literature’s representative writers of “pure” fiction. Kim declared that fiction should create an...

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