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FICTION

Fates Tied to the Sea: I Like it Here by Han Changhoon

  • onOctober 20, 2014
  • Vol.4 Summer 2009
  • byJung Yeo-ul
I Like it Here
2009
288pp.

I Like It Here is a story of people who so love the sea that they themselves become the ocean. The stories are about a man who cannot let go of a boat that is no longer of monetary value to him, even as he watches his wife leave him because of his stubborn loyalty to the sea; a son who keeps coming back to an island despite his father’s efforts to send him to land; and a woman who cannot leave the sea and her husband who was buried there as a young man, among others. In the latter, the narrator notes that, “The fact that a human being becomes nothing but food the moment he drowns in the ocean, that the strong limbs of my husband became lunch for the underwater creatures, that he was torn to shreds, and that his bones are rolling on the bottom of the ocean, is unbearable. The sea is too large and too deep to be a technolgrave.”

For these characters, the sea is too great an existence to fathom, too great a force to fight. However, the sea is not just a goddess of inescapable fate. The sea is also a symbol of obstinate love and hope that sweeps over them again and again no matter how hard they try to run. The cold sea is warmed up by the trials and joys of Mijeong, a woman, with a 20-million-won debt, sold to the island, and Yongcheol, the island man who insists that they marry.

Although the wife loves the husband who loves the sea with such a passion that it transforms him into the sea, she would nonetheless like to separate the two. The wife asks, “Despite what the sea’s taken away from you – youth, family, fortune – you desire the ocean?” The husband cannot answer. The word “desire” is the subjective evaluation of the man’s movement toward an object. The ocean, however, is not an object to this character. The ocean is neither subject nor object, but life itself, so that it is impossible for him to imagine himself without the ocean. The ocean is at once simply a watery part of nature and a metaphor for life. Machiavelli once said that while a man can weave the thread of fate, he cannot sever it. These stories remind us of man’s tragic enslavement to fate, which he cannot trust or deny, love or despise.