- onOctober 19, 2016
- Vol.33 Autumn 2016
- byLee Ho-cheol
The foreigners were quite at ease on the bus. But their sense of assurance seemed to collapse when they arrived at Panmunjom. They appeared rather out of place, wandering around with confused looks on their faces. Then they started taking pictures of everything that came in sight.
The guy who had been going on mindlessly about Okinawa pointed his camera at a North Korean MP, who gave him a fierce look and turned abruptly on his heel. An uneasy smirk came over the reporter’s face; he turned away and walked over to one of his colleagues.
“That guy’s not happy,” he whispered uncomfortably, nodding in the direction of the MP.
“The shrimpy one over there.”
The two of them let out a few empty chuckles.
The reporter who had been so engrossed in conversation with her husband on the bus walked over to Jinsu and asked where the Chinese were sitting. Jinsu pointed out three people inside one of the buildings and told her they were probably Chinese. She glanced quickly in that direction and loudly thanked him several times.
The North Korean reporters had arrived.
At first Jinsu thought they were part of the group from the South, but then it struck him that there was something different about them. A careful look revealed that they had wide-cut pants and were wearing red armbands. Smiling, they walked up to where Jinsu and the others were standing. A number of the reporters from both sides seemed on familiar terms.
“I haven’t seen you for some time,” said a short, squat reporter from the North.
“Well look who’s here,” responded one of the reporters from the South in a casual, informal manner.
There was a frostiness to the exchange. Both sides seemed to be sneering at each other, each trying to put on a show of superiority.
“How about a smoke?” The reporter from the North held out a cigarette.
“Leading the charge again, huh?” said the reporter from the South. Nevertheless, he took the cigarette.
“Why are you guys always saying things like that? ‘Leading the charge, leading the charge.’ What are you talking about?”
“Come on, don’t be like that. Let’s cut the nonsense and put all our cards on the table.”
“Well said. Let’s tell it like it is.”
This is really something. Jinsu smiled inside.
The older foreign woman, who had been standing beside Jinsu watching the exchange, asked in a whisper, “What did he just say?”
“That the Americans should get out.”
“Oh, really? That’s scary,” she muttered with a look of surprise. She gazed intently at the reporters from the North, then walked toward her husband, shoulders slumped. She pointed toward the reporters from the North and said something to him. The expression on her husband’s face held steady as he glanced toward them.
A chubby, fair-skinned reporter from the South wearing glasses with thick black rims breezed his way to the front of the group.
“Big Sister, is that you? Hey, Big Sister’s here. Long time no see. How’s everything going?” he asked in a ringing voice. The woman he was addressing appeared a little over thirty. She was on the attractive side, with gentle, wholesome curves.
Jinsu had assumed she was from the South because she was dressed in traditional clothing. Looking closely, however, he could see her red armband. She scrunched her eyes up as she smiled, glad to see the reporter from the South.
“Haven’t changed a bit, I see. Fatter than ever. Sucking the blood of the farmers and the urban proletariat. Shameless as ever.” Still, she held out her hand.
“Easy now. Before you go on the attack, how about a proper response to a proper greeting?” protested Black Rims as he shook hands with her.
“Attack? What’s gotten into you, Mr. Defensive? You certainly do seem nervous—you wouldn’t have something to hide, would you, something really awful perhaps?”
Everybody laughed. Even the foreign reporters who had been watching the exchange grinned as if they had guessed from the facial expressions what was being said.
“How’s Brother-in-Law?” Black Rims carried on. “And the kids, my nieces and nephews? No trouble with Father-in-Law? You must be having a tough time. I can’t sleep at night thinking about what you must be going through.”