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“Mrs. Saennim” by Park Hwa-sung

#Books on Demand l 2022-07-19

Books on Demand

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Kim Eung-gyo came to work as a school clerk, but in all honesty, he was simply a servant who did odd jobs around the school, like sweeping the school yard, opening and closing the school gate or offices, or running errands for teachers and administrators. Once the new dormitory was built, he had his wife work as a maid for dormitory residents and both of them ended up making money.

So, they were respected as Mister and Missus Saennim by the dorm residents, but he was always just “Eung-gyo” at the school.

안방에서는 재봉침 소리가 달달달달 굴러나왔다.

From the main bedroom came the sound of a sewing machine. 

“어이구! 허구한 날 저 짓만 하니...”

“Gosh, that’s the only thing she does all day.” (Mrs. Saennim)

은애 할머니는 가만히 중얼거리며 양지쪽으로 상자를 놓고

그 앞에 퍼더버리고 앉았다.

상자는 푸르고 노랗고 희고 그리고 또 보라색 따위의 종이로 가득 채워져 있었다.

Eun-ae’s grandmother mumbled while sitting down in the sunlight with a box. The box was filled with colored papers – blue, yellow, white, purple.

딸의 바느질 솜씨 덕을 보려고 들어오는 옷감들은

대개 매끈하고 반들거리는 색색 종이에 싸여져 있었다.

전에는 들어오는 대로가 다 그럭저럭 찢겨지고 구겨지고 그래서 버려지기 마련이었는데 이제는 할머니 손으로 정리되는 것이다.

그것을 모아다 떡장수 하는 조카며느리에게 주면

번번이 담뱃갑이 쥐여지곤 했던 것이다.

Fabrics waiting to be transformed by her daughter’s sewing skills were wrapped in those colorful papers, silky and shiny. The papers were once destined to be discarded as some of them came torn and rumpled, but now they are smoothed out by the old woman’s hands. She would hand them over to her niece-in-law who sold rice cakes and get a pack of cigarettes in return every time.

# Interview 2 (Jeon)

The most noticeable attitude of Eun-ae was the high value she placed on women’s labor. Back then, cooking or sewing was something that women did naturally or to make a living. But Eun-ae believed that women’s labor was something valuable that could help other people and wanted to become an energetic woman who uses her abilities to pioneer her life rather than become an obedient wife or mother, the idea of a good woman in the conventional patriarchal framework. Her resolve finally moved her grandmother’s mind. Park Hwa-sung was in her sixties when this story was published in 1965. She was already old by then, but she wanted young women to escape from the society’s confines and regulations imposed on them and live more independent lives. 

“난 밥 짓다 늙고, 어민 바느질하다 늙었는데,

 너도 옷 짓다 늙을테냐?”

“I grew old cooking for others while your mother grew old sewing for other women. Do you plan to grow old making dresses?” (Mrs. Saennim)

"그럼 어때요?  사람이란 일생을 뭘 하면서 늙어가는 게 아녜요?

 할머니나 엄마나 다 남을 위해 봉사를 했으니 안한거보다 얼마나 장해요?

 저도 그렇죠.

 디자인을 연구해서 작은 걸루도 크게, 나쁜 걸루도 좋게,

 좋은 걸루는 더욱 훌륭하게 만들면 오죽 좋아요?

 참, 할머니! 지가 할머니 나이트 가운 한 벌 지어드릴게, 응?"

“What’s wrong with it? People get old anyway. Aren’t you and Mom proud of doing something for other people? Take me for instance. Wouldn’t it be great to study design and make something good and big out of something bad and small? Oh, Grandma, how about I make a night gown for you?”

“에라 미친 것! 다 늙은 게 양복을 입어? 고게 별소릴 다 하네” 

“You crazy girl! Why would an old woman like me wear a western dress? Stop talking nonsense.” 

“호호, 양복이 아니라 자리옷 말예요.  그걸 입으심 아주 멋질 거야”

“No, not a western dress. I meant something like pajamas. You’ll look great in it.” 

은애는 팔딱팔딱 뛰어서 안방으로 건너갔다.

스물 세 살에 저만치 철이 들면 괜찮겠다 싶어서

샌님 마님은 합죽한 입을 헤벌리며 웃었다.

Eun-ae skipped her way to the main bedroom. Grateful that she was mature for a 23-year-old, Mrs. Saennim’s puckered lips spread wide in a big smile.

Park Hwa-sung (Born in Mokpo, Jeollanam-do Prov., Apr. 16, 1904~Jan. 30, 1988)

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