Our Twisted Hero
- onNovember 16, 2014
- Vol.24 Summer 2014
- byYi Mun-yol
- Our Twisted Hero
Tr. Kevin O’Rourke 201264pp.
When I came home from school that day, I began again to examine carefully this new order and environment. A certain mental paralysis, the result of being thrown suddenly into a very strange school environment, and a feeling of being threatened by the rigidity of this new order, which now suddenly was weighing down on me, filled my head with a kind of fog; everything was so fuzzy that I couldn’t think.
Although at twelve it’s still easy enough to treat everything with the innocence of a child, I had the feeling I wouldn’t be able to transfer into this new order and environment. What had happened violated completely the principles of reason and freedom by which I had been reared all my life. I had not yet experienced directly the full brunt of Sokdae’s order, but I had more than a vague presentiment of the irrationality and violence I would have to endure after accepting it. It all seemed like a horrible prearranged plan that was destined to become reality.
However, the prospect of fighting was dreary beyond belief. Where would I begin, who would I have to fight, and how would the fight be conducted? —it was all so daunting. It was clear that there was something wrong, that there was enormous injustice in a system founded on irrationality and violence. But it was too much to expect me at that time to have either a concrete understanding or a concrete response. To tell the truth, even today at forty, I don’t have the complete confidence needed to handle this sort of thing.
Not having a brother, I told my father about Sokdae. I wanted to describe what I had had to put up with from Sokdae that day and get advice about what I should do in the future. But my father’s reaction was unexpected. I had barely finished describing Sokdae’s strange behavior and was just about to ask a question in the hope of getting advice when Father suddenly said in a voice filled with wonder, “That boy is really something. You said his name was Om Sokdae, didn’t you? If he’s like that already, he’s surely heading for great things.” Obviously Father didn’t recognize the existence of any injustice here at all. Hot under the collar now, I told my father about the monitor system in Seoul. I described how things were decided reasonably by election and that no restraints were put on our freedom. But Father seemed to interpret my attachment to reason and freedom purely as a sign of weakness.
“What a weakling you are! Why do you always have to be in the crowd? Why do you believe you can’t be monitor? Think of how things would be if you were monitor yourself. What better example could you have of what a monitor should do?” He went on then to advocate fixing my sights on the monitor’s job, which Om Sokdae now held, telling me not to be angry at the unfortunate situation the class found itself in, nor at the system that had created this situation, nor at the bad management of the system.
Poor Dad! It’s only now that I think I understand him and the bitter taste of humiliation, the sense of powerlessness he was experiencing after being tossed from a plum job in the central office in Seoul and being made section chief of general affairs in the country administration. He had been nailed by an overzealous boss for staying at his desk and not rushing out to greet the minister when the latter came on inspection. He must have had a greater thirst for power now than at any other time in his life. But he had always been the one who believed in reason, the one who scolded my mother for caring more about my ability to go out and give some boy a beating than about my grades.