Fiction

"Sugar or Salt" by Seo Hajin
We had been at the lakeside that day. It was in K’s neighborhood. K, her husband, and I were each holding a fishing pole, but the lake was just still. The sound of birds and of trees shifting in the breeze shook the forest and dissipated, and we gradually grew tired. K was the first to put down her fishing pole. Fumbling in the basket on the grass, she sighed, “Whew.” We had been planning on catching fish and making spicy Korean fish soup, and all the basket contained was a few pieces of kimchi. “I’m about to starve to...
Time to Eat Lobster by Bang Hyeon-seok
When K ŏ ns ŏ k returned from Tra Tinh he immediately came down with a high fever. Thi s was the first time he had ever gotten so sick during his stay in Quang Tui. It felt as if every nerve in his body was about to break, and hot iron beads seemed to be rolling around and making a racket inside his skull. At first, he found it bearable. It wasn’t so bad to moan and groan and shed tears all night. It seemed that there was no time like being sick when you could so unapologetically pity...
The Soil by Yi Kwang-Su
Part 1-Chapter 1 After returning from the night school where he taught, Heo Sung lay down, resting his neck upon his schoolbag and lacing his fingers behind his head to form a pillow. Lying still, he could hear mosquitoes buzzing to and fro as they tried to get around the mosquito-repellent smoke. Now that the seventh month of the lunar calendar was half past, the wind felt a bit cool after nightfall. For a couple of years, Heo Sung had lived in Seoul with little possibility of hearing the mosquitoes’ buzz. In his hometown, even listening to them again pleased...
At Least We Can Apologize by Lee Kiho
Part One: Finding Wrong 1. The Pillars of the Institution Si-bong and I first met in the institution. I was there first, and Si-bong entered a week later. From then on we shared the same room. Neither Si-bong nor I know how many years we spent there together. That’s because we can’t remember. I know that there, I grew six centimeters taller. Si-bong gained eight kilograms. Some time ago Si-bong had reached 84 kilograms. He was the only person in the institution who gained weight. The caretakers always told him to thank them for that. They would add that our...
"Banner" by Ha Seong-nan
Banner (from The Woman Next Door ) 1 The power went out at ten past midnight this morning. While people were asleep, all the electronic home appliances stopped working. The children who woke up were peevish; they missed the hum of the refrigerator and the whir of the fan, sounds as comforting to them as a lullaby. Housewives who opened the refrigerator in the morning found blood dripping from the pork in the freezer, the meat a dark red. The Popsicles had melted, leaving wrappers full of soft mush pooled around the sticks, and the marinated spinach gave off a...
My Son's Girlfriend by Jung Mikyung
Why do I feel the apartment so deserted when I’m left alone? If I were photographed, standing in the foyer after sending off the last member of my family, a woman’s image would be captured, looking as though she would disappear into cracks of the shoe cabinet like a puff of smoke, the image so faint that it would be hard to make out who she is. I lock the front door, return to the living room, and press the power button of the stereo. Sliding open the veranda door, I step out. This is not to see off my...
"Together with a Chicken" by Jung Young Moon
Together with a Chicken (from An Afternoon of the Faun ) It was early dawn when I woke up from sleep at the sound of a cry. The sound continued in several long stretches, and only after listening to it for some time after I woke up did I realize that it was the crow of a chicken. I think at first I thought it was the sound of someone quietly tapping a triangle in the dark, then the sound of someone’s muffled scream, then the sound of a bird crying, a long-necked bird like a red-crowned crane, for instance...
The House with the Sunken Courtyard by Kim Won Il
Now, to enumerate the inhabitants of that house is no small task. They were legion. But I remember every one of them as distinctly as if they were items in my pocket. The room right next to the city water bin was occupied by the Gyeonggi family who had fled the war from Yeonbaek, Gyeonggi province. There were three people in the family. The mother of the family was in her early fifties, and she was a graduate of a high school in Gaeseong, which means that she was exceptionally well-educated for a woman of her generation. Her son Heunggyu,...
A Pool of Saliva by Kim Ae-ran
There she is, running down the street, shielding her face from the morning light with her hand as small as a maple leaf. She is wearing cotton pants and an orange shirt. On one side, there is a logo that resembles a globe and the inscription, “New Elite Academy 10th Anniversary.” It’s Independence Day, and there aren’t many people out on the streets. There is an uncharacteristic peace around the sandwich stand and the free newspaper stand. A row of half-awake people make a line at the escalator. As children, these people probably did not aspire to be something as...
Garden of Childhood by Oh Jung-Hee
After dinner, Grandmother told Older Sister to do the dishes and went outside, carrying Little Brother on piggyback. He always cried around sunset so every night Grandmother had to carry him around on her back and returned only when their hair and clothes turned damp with night dew. That was why Little Brother always seemed to have a cold and his hands and feet were always warm with worrisome fever. Skinny as a spider, he was constantly crying in frail, shallow whimpers, except when he was sucking on Grandmother’s dried-up breasts. Even when he finally fell asleep, faint ripples of...

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