“The Fault Lies with God as Well” by Cho Se-Hui

But at Ŭtngang I couldn’t just “do my job.” My brother, sister, and I worked ourselves to the bone in the factories, but after we paid our room rent and ate our food, nothing was left—as always, all the money we sweated to earn went for subsistence expenses. And we weren’t the only ones. All the workers of Ŭjngang lived the same way. We ate poor food, wore poor clothing, and lived in poor health in a dirty home in a dirty neighborhood in a polluted environment. The neighborhood children dressed in dirty clothes and played in dirty alleys. They were abandoned children. I thought about the symptoms of disease that would appear in the children living near the factories as they grew up. When the Ŭangang industrial zone came under a trough of low pressure, the toxic gases spewed out by the various factories hung over the ground, polluting the air.

     After arriving in Ŭngang, Mother had constant headaches. She also had frequent breathing difficulties, coughing, and nausea. Yŏng-hŭ-i had hearing problems. The noise in the Weaving Section and the worksite was torture for her. At the time, I was working as an assistant mechanic in the Maintenance Department. The moment I first saw Yŏng-hŭ-i on the night shift I wanted to die. She couldn’t keep her eyes open. Eyes shut, she was walking backward among the weaving machines. The temperature inside the workplace at night was a hundred and two. The Ŭngang Textile machines never stopped. Yŏng-hŭ-i’s blue work smock was soaked through with sweat. While Yŏng-hŭ-i was dozing several looms came to a complete stop. The foreman came up to Yŏwng-hŭ-i and jabbed her in the arm. She snapped to and revived the looms. A spot of crimson blood appeared on the arm of her smock. It was three in the morning. The hardest time was from two until five in the morning, Yŏng-hŭ-i had said, averting her round, teary eyes. At the far end of her field of vision her oldest brother was working as an assistant mechanic. I oiled the machines that the mechanics serviced and I kept track of the tools. My work uniform was stained with sweat and oil.

     I had a desire to effect a revolution—starting in the minds of the people who worked in Ŭhngang. I wanted them to long for the same joys, the peace, the justice, the happiness that other people enjoyed. I wanted them to understand that they were not the ones who ought to feel intimidated. YŏEng-hŭ-i spent many hours observing me. Every day I stood before the office bulletin board. Posted there was the list of those who had retired or been fired or suspended. I would stand in front of the bulletin board feeling smaller than Father. “Look at the midget,” people had said. When Father crossed the street, cars would honk. People laughed at the sight of Father. Yŏng-ho had said he would make a land mine and bury it in the path of those people. “Eldest Brother,” Yŏng-hŭ-i had said, “I want you to kill those devils who call Father a midget.” Her lips quivered with the vast hatred that lay inside her. In my dreams I used to hear the explosio...