To Detective Kim Who Is Humane, Too Humane

  • onMarch 21, 2018
  • Vol.39 Spring 2018
  • byHwang Ji-woo
Even Birds Leave the World
Tr. Won-Chung Kim & Christopher Merrill

Detective Kim and I can talk frankly now. My wife also finds “something humane” in him-he buys toys for our children, she serves him coffee-though at first she was wary of him. He even bows to my old mother. Probably because of his humanity, we seldom discuss politics. But once I praised Bulam Choi’s performance in The First Republic.

Performance? Are we not also performing roles, Sir? He seems happy to be called “Sir.” Because he laughs so hard, I laugh with him and answer his question about how I’m doing. He wonders how I can live on so little. I answer him. He asks about my health. I answer him. He tells me his own history, though I have never asked about it.

He descends from landlords in the Hwanghae province of North Korea. In his youth he saw family members taken away by men from the Ministry of Home Affairs, he knows how terrible man can be. He crossed the 38th parallel, led a harsh life, enlisted in the marines, dedicated himself to his profession. He told me why people loathe him when he visits their homes. He laughs a lot; he has good manners; sometimes he even seems to have compassion for things. I told him he’s always welcome. He invited me to enjoy a cup of Soju with him someday, though he also lives on a meager salary. After he left, I stopped mulling over our “performances.”



Even Birds Leave the World (White Pine Press, 2005), p. 18.
Trans. Won-Chung Kim & Christopher Merrill

Copyright © 2005 by Ji-Woo Hwang.
Translation copyright © 2005 by Won-Chung Kim & Christopher Merrill.
Reprinted with permission from White Pine Press.

Photo © NOH Suntag, Namildang Design Olympic II #BJE2902, 2009

Author's Profile

Hwang Ji-woo has published several poetry collections, including Even Birds Leave the World, I am You, A Lotus in the Crab’s Eye, and One Day I’ll be Sitting in a Dingy Bar. He has received numerous awards, including the Kim Su-Young Literary Award, Hyundae Literary Award, Daesan Literary Award, and the Republic of Korea’s Okgwan Order of Cultural Merit. His books have been translated into English, German, French, Spanish, and Mongolian.