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“Cow” by Jeon Young-taek


ⓒ Getty Images Bank

He rose early in the morning and cleaned the cowshed before making fodder himself. After eating the morning hay, a pregnant cow soon gave birth to a calf. Chang-soo was so happy that he washed the calf himself with warm water and covered the cow’s back with a blanket.

“I’ve never seen such a large calf. It’s a bull calf, right? Honey, let’s give this calf to Yong-deok and if the cow has a heifer calf down the road, give it to me. Okay?” 

 내 건너 이북 동네 놈들이 우리 소를 잡아먹었대요.

 그 놈들을 어떻게 하면 좋아요?”

“Those bastards in the north slaughtered our cow. What am I going to do about them now?” 

홍주사도 눈시울이 벌게지면서 아무 말도 못 하고 하늘만 바라보고 서 있다.

Also in tears, Chang-soo stood looking up at the sky without saying a word. 

“소경 제 닭 잡아먹기로 제 동포의 것을 잡아먹고 마음이 편할까?” 

“Can they be happy knowing that they killed and ate their brothers’ cow?” 

홍주사는 이렇게 중얼거리고 산으로 올라가서

마누라 생각, 지나간 십 년 동안의 일, 동네 일, 나랏일을 생각하면서

이남이고 이북이고 분간할 수 없이 안개 속에 잠긴 동네들을 바라보았다.

He mumbled as he went up the mountain and looked down on the villages, blanketed in the fog to make them indistinguishable from ones in the north, while thinking about his wife, what had happened to him over the past ten years, and all the events in his village and country.    

생각을 해서 앞길을 정하려고 해보았으나

눈물이 나고 아무 생각도 할 수 없다. 

He tried to decide on what he was going to do but all he could do was weep. 

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Chang-soo’s village is located just south of the thirty-eighth parallel line. Sometimes animals crossed the line to go over to the North Korean side. Even though people knew that the cows were from the south, the North Koreans slaughtered the animals out of hunger. In retaliation, the young people in Chang-soo’s village also plan to kill the cow from the other side. This is an era of cruel chaos. 

“안 됩니다, 안 됩니다.

 동포끼리 그래선 안 됩니다. 돌려보내시오.

 정 소를 잡아먹고 싶거든 우리 소를 잡아 먹어요” 

“No, you can’t do that. You should return the cow. If you really want to slaughter a cow, you can kill and eat mine.” 

이 말 한 마디를 남기고 창수는 바삐 동네로 내려갔다.

With those word, Chang-soo ran down to his home in the village. 

자기네 소를 끌어다 주려고 대문을 열고 들어가 외양간을 본즉,

외양간이 텅텅 비었다.

But when he went to the cowshed to give them his cow, he saw that it was empty. 

밖에도 집 근방 아무 데도 소는 없다.

방에 들어가 본즉 서투른 글씨로 

이런 말이 씌어 있는 종잇조각이 방바닥에 구르고 있다.  

The cow was nowhere to be found, not inside nor outside of his house. When he went into the room, he found a piece of paper with awkward writing rolling around on the floor. 

‘나는 내 소를 가지고 갑니다.

다시는 기다리지 마시오’ 

‘I’m taking my cow. Don’t look for me.’ 

창수는 얼빠진 사람 모양으로 멍하니 방 한가운데 서 있다가

궤짝에서 돈을 꺼내서 소 한 마리 값만큼 장손에게 갖다주고,

자기도 얼마 가지고는 

장손이 어머니 보고 몇 마디 이야기를 하고 나왔다.

Chang-soo, completely dazed, stood in the middle of the room. After a while, he took money out of a chest and gave Jang-son enough money to buy a cow before taking some money for himself. Then he left the village after speaking with Jang-son’s mother.

다시는 오여울 동네에서 아무도 홍창수를 본 사람이 없다.

Nobody saw Hong Chang-soo in the village ever again.

Jeon Young-taek (Born in Pyongyang, Pyongannam-do Prov., Jan. 18, 1894~Jan. 16, 1968)

Debuted with short story (The Death of Hyeseon) in 1919

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