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It was quite by chance that the three of us happened to visit the Olympic Park; emerging from the wedding of a member of a friend's family, one day in late February, we were so struck by the intense spring light that it seemed wrong to separate and go home to curl up so soon.
We had not thought to bring along our old-age pensioners' cards but the girl at the ticket booth charged us the reduced rate anyway and, indicating one of us, remarked with a smile, "Isn't that one 'Sonja's Rules of Warfare'?"
It may be called spring, but still there was nothing to be seen in the park but dry withered yellow lawns and trees standing skeletal, everything was infinitely dreary and the so-called modern sculptures standing around struck us as not so very beautiful.
Passing over a hillock, we found another trio of old men, of about our age, advancing shakily towards us: nothing to write home about, as the saying goes.
-- My dear, what say you go and join up with that lot?
My friend the novelist Chong Pi-sok suggested sarcastically, looking at me.
-- Why, do you think you're any better than them?
We swapped jokes blithely enough but although our clothes were perhaps a bit better cut, they were really the spitting image of ourselves.
Passing the place where you can see remains of old earthen fortifications,
we reached the top of another rise. From there we had a view of a distant
pavillon, a pond, a stone bridge. But by now the three of us had run out
of energy for further walking. It was the poet Kim Kwang-kyun, who was
using a walking stick, who spoke first,
-- Nothing special worth looking at over there!
-- With companions like you, there would be no fun in it, anyway!
I said, disparaging our company, so that old Pi-sok burst out,
-- Ah, if only even old Lady Minister had come along, for want of anything better!
And we all burst out laughing.
We grumble at one another, yet after all we are nothing but dried-up
trees; we had wanted to observe the spring: but how can there be any cheerfulness
left for us at our age? Turning, the three old trees look up at the sky
where a pale twilight is gleaming.
Note: "Sonja's Rules of Warfare" was originally the title of a classical
Chinese novel, which was adapted into Korean by Chong Pi-sok and became
the basis for a popular TV series to which the girl was referring.
The 'Lady Minister' refers to the essayist Ms Cho Kyong-hui, who was previously a Cabinet Minister.