Reciprocating One’s Hell: Sweet, Cold by Oh Hyun-jong
- onOctober 27, 2014
- Vol.22 Winter 2013
- byLee Kyungjae
- Sweet, Cold
In Oh Hyun-jong’s Sweet, Cold, the world is basically hell; as Shinhye says to Jiyong: “Everyone says ‘I’m in hell.’ Everyone says that they’re in hell because of you, but you also cry out that you’re in hell.”
The bizarre relationship in this story portrays a place that has become a hell because it only operates according to the logic of exchange. Shinhye tells Jiyong, “There’s no such thing as free of charge. Not even for a friend.” This comment echoes what Shinhye’s mother spits out when she makes her 11-year-old daughter prostitute herself for the first time.
Jiyong’s mother torturously steps into his life because she wants reciprocation for having provided excessive economic aid for her son. His mother neither asks nor is interested in what he wants. As a result Jiyong, touting it like it’s a natural conclusion, says: “The only way to punish evil is with evil itself,” which is also solely based on the logic of exchange.
In this novel, what is offered always requires compensation. Jiyong feels “sweet, cold” mellowness from Shinhye’s lips, but he soon turns into a murderer. Shinhye, who helps turn him into one, is also miserably betrayed by her stepfather. To begin with, the murder that Jiyong supposedly commits for Shinhye comes to light as an act that also benefitted him.
In the hell that Oh Hyun-jong creates, giving without wanting compensation makes no sense at all. Thus, “the person who has been truly used, the one who has been deserted” is everyone after all. If there is any truth left, it is solely the fact that “We’ll live in the same hell until the day we die.”
Oh Hyun-jong made (b.1973) her literary debut in 1999 when her short story “Addiction” won the New Writer’s Award after appearing in the monthly magazine Literature and Thought. Her major works include the short story collection Seiren, and the novels The Sacred Materialists and Sweet, Cold.