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“An Empty Lot” by Park Hwa-young

#Books on Demand l 2022-11-08

Books on Demand

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At the center of that highland area was the controversial empty lot. At first, five or six nearby homes were razed, leaving an empty lot. People assumed, not surprisingly, that a multiplex building or studio apartments would be soon built there.

But a month went by, and the lot still stood empty. People then began to pay attention to the lot. 

Sometimes empty liquor bottles or cans of aerosol adhesive would be found there, prompting people to regard the empty space as the source and terminal of all crimes. As the middle-aged owner of Hanareum Mart said, it was an ominous sign, no, a sin to leave the lot abandoned in this city. 

사람들은 단지 버리기 위해서만 공터를 찾는 것은 아니었다.

뭔가를 태우거나, 파묻거나, 뿌리기 위해서도 공터를 찾았다.

눈 밑에 짙은 기미가 낀 여자는 자주 뭔가를 태우러 공터에 왔다.

여자는 드럼통에 편지며, 엽서, 혹은 곰 인형 따위를 집어넣고 불을 붙이곤 했다.

인근 연립주택 반지하방에서 사는 남자는 

새벽녘이면 뭔가를 파묻으러 자주 공터를 찾았다.

늘 사람 키만 한 것을 검은 비닐로 감싸 안고 삽을 든 채였다. 

People didn’t come to the empty lot only to throw away trash. They came to burn, bury or scatter stuff at the lot. A woman with dark freckles under her eyes came to the empty lot often to burn something. She would put letters, postcards or sometimes a stuffed teddy bear in a drum can and lit them afire. A man who lives in a semi-basement room in the nearby row house came to the lot frequently in the early morning hours to bury something. He always carried a shovel and something about the size of a human body wrapped in black plastic.

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The empty lot is a dump for life’s detriments, the remnants of people’s exhausting and joyless lives. But the lot is paved over and everything is forgotten. Roads, apartments, and stores will be built over the lot and people who occupy those places would live happily, while the city hides something grotesque. The author is saying that we may live with depression and exhaustion, but malls, apartments and paved roads may be hiding all that. 

그 무렵 공터에 시공 계획을 알리는 푯말이 들어섰다.

동네사람들은 연이어 골칫거리들이 해결되었다는 사실에 안도했다.

곧 공사 차단막이 설치되고 고양이들이 쫓겨났다.

밤마다 음산한 바람 소리와 고양이의 울부짖음이 들리던 공터에는 적막이 감돌았다.

고양이들은 동네 여기저기로 흩어졌지만 

한두 마리씩 죽은 채로 발견되었다.

누군가 독극물을 풀어 고앙이 들을 죽이고 있다는 추측이 설득력을 얻었다.

It was around that time that a construction sign was erected at the empty lot. Villagers were relieved that the problems plaguing them were finally resolved. Fences soon went up and the cats were driven away. There was only silence at the lot where the sounds of chilling winds and mewling cats had once filled the night. Cats were dispersed over the neighborhood but one by one they showed up dead. The residents were convinced that someone was poisoning the cats. 

고양이가 동네에서 모두 자취를 감춘 이튿날,

공터 인근의 다세대주택 옥상에서 한 여자가 뛰어내렸다.

여자가 벗어놓은 굽 높은 하이힐과 유서가 옥상에서 발견되었다.

유서에는 드디어 아무 소리도 들리지 않는데

여전히 고양이 눈이 보인다, 라고 쓰여 있었다.

The day after the cats’ disappearance, a woman jumped off the multiplex building near the empty lot. Her high-heeled shoes and a letter were found on the rooftop. In the letter, she wrote that she could still see the cats even though there was no sound.

그로부터 일주일 뒤 공터는 평평하게 다듬어지고 그 위로 두꺼운 시멘트가 발렸다.

One week later the empty lot was smoothed, and a thick layer of cement was poured over it.

Park Hwa-young (Born in Gwangju, Jeollanam-do Prov., 1977~ )

Debuted with short story “An Empty Lot” in 2009

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