“Rivers Must Flow, Mudflats Must Be Bountiful” by Choi Sung Kak

That’s your development.

 

 

     “What’s with this talk of ocean cities?”

     “I know, right? This is a form of expansionism too. The new powers that be are driveling on about us becoming a key country in Northeast Asia... It’s just the fantasy of a self-styled celebrated architect.”

     “How does building an ocean city help in saving mudflats? They’ve no idea what they’re talking about. If they want to save mudflats they’ve no choice but to open the seawall. Isn’t saving life the only way to prevent the destruction of life?”

I didn’t find anything strange or awkward in hearing him speak of “life.” What would it be like if such words were to come out of my mouth? Would they smell of grilled saury or pork belly?

     Behind their plan to plod around drawing a handcart this time was the intention to play out with their bodies the fiction of the ocean city theory that popped up as an alternative to the Saemangeum Seawall with the backing of certain men of repute.

     “I can’t forget this story about Native Americans. One day, white people visited a Native American village. They told the natives they’d construct buildings in their village, lay tracks, and change the course of the river. The natives asked them, ‘What for?’ The whites answered, ‘To spread the gospel to you heathens and to help you experience a developed way of life.’ The natives asked them again, ‘What’s this thing you call development? That’s your development. Development for us is salmon teeming and jumping in the river, and water birds playing in peace. Go back to where you came from.’ When I read this story, my hairs stood on end. It touched me deeply.”

     “…Yeah! Rivers teeming with salmon is development all right. By the way, tell me, is ‘develop’ an intransitive or transitive verb?”

     “I don’t know.”

     “It was an intransitive verb originally. But after Truman’s 1949 speech, people started using it as a transitive verb. Truman announced that America would help develop the uncivilized nations. Terms like “developing countries” and “undeveloped countries” were also coined around then.”

     “I see.”

     A chilly wind raged across the winter fields on the rim of Asan Bay. I could see the Seohaedaegyo Bridge in the distance; the grey sea was frozen over.

     “I just thought of something else. There w...