Han Mu-Suk was born into a progressive yet very traditional old Korean family. She had a strict early education, which emphasized propriety and knowledge of the East-Asian classics. Han, whose artistic talent was discovered and nurtured from her early childhood, first pursued the career of a painter. An extended illness in her young adult age and her marriage in 1940 to Kim Jin-Heung, a banker from an extremely conservative family, forced her to switch to writing to satisfy her artistic desires. In 1941, she won first prize in a contest sponsored by a leading monthly magazine, Sinsedae, for a novel titled Deungbul deuneun yoin(A Woman with a Lantern). Soon afterwards, Han received first prizes in drama competitions with a one-act play, Mau※m (Heart) in 1943 and a four-act play, "Seori kkot (Frost Flowers)" in 1944. In 1948, she received first prize with another full-length novel, Yeoksaneun heureunda(And So Flows History), in a competition sponsored by Kukche Sinbo, a daily newspaper. She won the Asia Foundationi's Freedom Literature Award for a short story entitled "gamjeongi inneun simyeon(Abyss)" (1957) and the Republic of Korea National Literature Award (Grand Prix) for her novel, Mannam (Encounter) (1986). The total literary work of Han Mu-Suk, collected in a ten-volume anthology (1992-1993), demonstrates the wide diversity of her literary activities, from novels and short stories to essays, criticism, public lectures, broadcasting, interviews, and travelogues. Her works in translation appear in five volumes, one of which is the much acclaimed Encounter (University of California Press, 1992).
Han Mu-Suk is known for her description of human dilemmas resulting from the conflicting worlds of consciousness and conventional reality. Critics have identified Han as a perceptive literary mediator, who sought harmony and balance between the contrasting forces, seeing human existence in terms of "dialectic interactions of seemingly binary opposites." Some others have noted how Han "accommodates the Western concept of sin within a dialectic binary opposites provided by Korean tradition," often with an "explicit presentation of the complementary nature and interchangeability of sin and sanctity."
One of the most traumatic experiences in Han's life was the tragic accident that killed her third child, a promising young medical doctor as well as a concert cellist whom everyone adored. Through this experience she met death in a most personal and intense way. She injured her back shortly after the funeral. Heart-broken, she lay paralyzed physically and mentally for a while. When she finally "came back to life," her literature seemed to show maturity that only such extreme experiences could bring. "Urisai modeun geosi(Everything Between Us)" (1971) is a heart-rending story told in a form of letter addressed to her departed son.
T'aeho and Su※ngdu※k of Upperville couldn't help scratching the back of their heads.
"Still, when we came face to face with So※ngin's gray-haired mother, we just couldn't tell her something like that, could we?"In fact, no one had the courage to give it to her straight. It was simply lamentable.
There was no other way to describe what had happened to So※ngin's mother than to say she had lost her mind, ever since T'aeho and Su※ngdu※k, who had left with So※ngin, came back without him.
Her once broad face was scrunched up, and her eyes stared blankly. Not only T'aeho and Su※ngdu※k, but all the villagers lost the nerve to tell her the truth when they looked into those blank eyes that appeared frozen in one place.
That gruesome scene was still ingrained in the minds of these two young men from this mountain village who had nearly gone insane themselves due to the overwhelming experience they had gone through-there was So※ngin, frighteningly disfigured after being hit by a stray bullet. Death was common on the battlefield, but the two were dumbstruck when they witnessed the death of their dear friend, with whom they had shared laughter and tears under the boiling sun in that faraway southern land.
The two of them buried the body, but the wail that burst from them when they shoveled the dirt onto the fly-infested face still rings in their ears. Whenever they see So※ngin's mother these days, they become frightened. The terrible corpse looms before their eyes.
They shuddered from the superstitious thought that at one word the blank eyes and scrunched-up face of So※ngin's mother would be transformed into that hideous fly-infested form.
This situation lasted for several months. The villagers thought she should have given up after so long, but So※ngin's mother kept making the trip to the train station four miles away at a flying pace. The more days went by, the firmer became her belief that she should allow more time-wouldn't it take several months to get back from such a faraway place in the southern seas? T'aeho and Su※ngdu※k said that it had taken them that long, so even if So※ngin had left right after them, it would still be a little too early to expect him home. The passing days were tedious to her. Yet they were days of hope and expectation, since she believed that the passing time was also narrowing the space between her and her son.
She would sit idly in the empty waiting room in the station after the train had passed by. The wind grazed her cheeks and high fleecy clouds were scattered lightly in the sky-it was autumn.
It had already been four months since Su※ngdu※k and T'aeho came back; even the ample time that she allowed for the long journey was long past. A terrible doubt begins to raise its head. What if ... ?So※ngin's mother rose abruptly. She couldn't take it. She could take anything but that.
She had endured everything. She had suffered the insufferable. Even the most shocking treatment she had swallowed without a word. But this ...
So※ngin's mother walked briskly toward the village. A fire burning inside her was driving her body, which had become very haggard in a matter of a few months.
The County Office came into sight. The first time So※ngin's mother had entered this office was when So※ngin was eight years old. She had suffered something unthinkable.
It was only for So※ngin's sake that she summoned the courage to visit that fearful place. She had always stayed home, working like an ox. Her first ever protest against her husband, who refused to write a letter on behalf of his now school-age son, conspired with a mother's devotion to drag her into that office.
It was a shabby building with a thatched roof, a run-down house with glass windows added, but to her it was imposing. She summoned her courage and opened the door and entered, but she was at a loss, not knowing where to go or what to do.
"What do you want?" a very young clerk asked bluntly.
"I... would like to enroll my son in school.""School? This isn't a school.""The school told me to come here and get a copy of his census register.""Then go to the Census Register section."The clerk turned away. Afraid to bother him with another question, she asked a salesman from the market who happened to be there, and managed to find her way to the Census Register section.
"They say I have to have a copy of the census register for my son to get into school.""What's his name?""Kim So※ngin. A son of Kim So※ngho of xx-ri of xx-myon."The clerk, with a pencil stuck behind his ear, rummaged through a thick logbook.
"Eh ... xx-ri of xx-myon ... and the father's name is Kim So※ngho, right?""Yes."
"Mr. Kim So※ngho ... Ah, here it is. Hmm. Did you say the boy's name is Kim So※ngin? How old is he?""He's eight years old."The clerk flipped through the logbook a few more times, then, leaning his head to one side:"There's no Kim So※ngin in the register. There is a Kim Yongin, though. Eh ... but he's listed as four years old.""How can that be?"So※ngin's mother looked incredulously at the clerk.
"Look, lady. Are you saying I misread the book? There is no mistake. It's Kim Yongin, four years old. Could it be that he's called So※ngin at home but is recorded as Yongin in the Census Register?""He's eight years old. Though ...""I think, then, that you must have filed his birth report late.""Does that mean he can't get into school this year?""Well, you should have the register corrected immediately."
So recommended the clerk. But the register could not be corrected, because So※ngin had never been registered in the first place. Yongin was So※ngin's step brother, and it was Yongin's mother who had been registered as the lawful wife. Ever since then, So※ngin became de jure a fatherless child. His mother's lot was that of a woman who had never left her mother's house but would become a maiden ghost in the maternal family register, but the fact that she had So※ngin and that his father was still earning a living for them made life worth living.
For a rural woman, So※ngin's mother had given a very difficult birth to So※ngin. To make matters worse, she suffered a great deal from postnatal complications. But she could not rest for even three days, because she heard from her room her mother-in-law's cynical voice coming from the living room.
"Childbirth complications are cured by treading the kitchen floor. She'll never get well by staying in bed."It was the time of year when there was little farm work to be done, yet ...
She endured the pain with clenched teeth. Eventually the pain subsided, turning wholly into affection for her child.
So※ngin grew up healthily, getting through smallpox and the measles in his turn without any trouble. Her husband, living separately with his concubine, was heard to have had another child.
It was around this time that they held a banquet celebrating her mother-in-law's sixtieth birthday.
On the dirt floor across from the living room, So※ngin's mother was grinding soy beans for use in the banquet, when she overheard a conversation between the village elders and her mother-in-law, who was picking cotton seeds and had the stem of a pipe in her mouth.
"How can a man live alone for so long? I'm not saying this just because he's my son. Don't you agree?""Then So※ngin's mother should set up a separate household ...""No way. Whoever heard of letting go the eldest daughter-in-law? It's unthinkable...""Has it been long? I mean, since he took the second wife. Have you seen her?""It's been five years."Then came a thumping sound of ashes being knocked from the pipe.
"It's been a long time then. So what's she like?""She's shapely, clever with her hands, courteous to elders ... One can't help but like her.""Hmph. They say a son's concubine is an apple to the eye, but a son-in-law's concubine is a needle in the eye ..."The village elder must have felt sorry for So※ngin's mother, who knew nothing, to speak this plainly to her mother-in-law.
"As long as my son likes her, it doesn't matter. Just being the first daughter-in-law doesn't mean she mixed her flesh and blood with his. Is it so bad for a man to have a wife and a concubine? I intend to invite her on my sixtieth birthday and receive her bows."So※ngin's mother heard all of this conversation from the dirt floor. Still she finished grinding nearly two bushels of beans.
She had endured everything. She had endured the fearsome life with her in-laws without a word. That was not all. She had even gone so far as to send away her son-such a beloved and precious son, her only link to life. She said good-bye and sent away So※ngin-her only son, incomparable to anything in the world-in the name of the "White Paper Conscription Obeyance," a word she had never seen or heard. She calmed herself with the thought that at least he went with T'aeho and Su※ngdu※k, but it was an empty comfort, shapeless like a cloud.
Now T'aeho and Su※ngdu※k had returned. They returned when the Liberation came but So※ngin ... So※ngin's mother was beside herself.
She leapt over the stepping stones that crossed the stream on the way to the village. Just a few months before, her body stolid, she had groped her way across them, bursting with laughter.
She used to never have a backache, even after pulling weeds all day long.
"How old do you think So※ngin's mother is?"Whenever the sound of her strong pounding of a mortar was heard, this sort of conversation took place.
"Well, she was forty-five when she helped me deliver Noma. Now the child is five ... Goodness, she's fifty already!"People would be taken suddenly aback.
"She doesn't age, does she? She's no different from when I first got married."Indeed, her broad and open features did not change even when her husband took a concubine and she started to be neglected.
But her face had become crinkled in a matter of a few months, and her cho※gori became too big and swayed by itself around her chest.
So※ngin's mother strode determinedly into the village.
That night, she fell exhausted into a sound sleep for the first time in months. The sleep came gently, like the ashes that settle after everything has been consumed by flame.
So※ngin's mother had a dream.
It is a bright silvery world. There is an awning erected in a spacious barren land, and under that awning, a wedding ceremony is beginning.
A groom with a ceremonial silk hat and robe stands opposite a bride wearing a coronet and a ceremonial dress. "Ah, it's So※ngin!"So※ngin's mother cries out involuntarily. Isn't that So※ngin standing there with the ceremonial hat and robe? She wants to dash to hug him, but her legs are glued to the ground and will not move. Well, then, after the ceremony, she says to herself and glances toward the bride. It is Suni, whom she has always had her eye on, the daughter of the man who runs the cotton gin on the ridge. The bride is bashful and her head is shyly bent down.
"Oh ... Oh!"Something rises up through her bosom, ecstasy or moan.
"So※ngin! ... Now I can die contented."The duck on the nuptial table begins to quack.
"Caw, caw! Caw, caw!""What on earth? A magpie on the nuptial table ...?"And she awoke.
So※ngin's mother got up quickly and stepped into the yard. It was a silvery world; it must have snowed all night.
"Caw, caw! Caw, caw!"A magpie was singing on a branch of a persimmon tree white with snow.
"It's cawing happily. That means happy news! Could So※ngin be coming home today?"Her heart pounded with audible beats.
She tidied herself up hastily.
"I must meet the train on time."She murmured aloud. In her haste, she became convinced that she had been told that her son would return that day without fail.
The dream and the cawing of the magpie, separated by a single sheet of blank paper, had upset her frail reason and had given this illusion to her mind burning with thirst.
"Not in this snow..."She shook off the family members trying to restrain her and went out into the snow-covered street.
Her feet were nearly off the ground.
Staggering, staggering ...
She turned the corner of the mountain. Her field of vision suddenly widened and there appeared a silvery world in which mountain peaks glistened in the morning sun. The spacious silvery wasteland looked familiar to her.
"Oh, what a fine day. Good weather on the wedding day brings good fortune."So※ngin's mother muttered to herself happily.
She could see the house of the cotton gin now. She was startled, as if just coming to her senses.
"How absurd I am. I must be out of my mind. No matter how good it feels to gain a daughter-in-law, you can't visit the in-law's house on the wedding day."She clicked her tongue and turned around.
Overwhelmed with happiness, her body moved erratically. She walked this way for quite a while.
Smoke was rising from a thatched house by the road. It was a tavern.
She craned her neck and stared inside. Three or four burly men were chasing a hangover with a drink. She stepped exuberantly into the tavern.
"I haven't prepared much, but please help yourselves."The drinkers didn't know what she was talking about and looked at each other blankly.
"As a woman, I shouldn't be glibly offering drinks to men, but he's my only son, you know. I will even dance."She picked up the wine bottle and was about to pour.
"Oh dear, there's nothing to eat with your drinks! Hey, is anyone in the kitchen? Hurry up and bring out some dishes."She called out. The drinkers then exchanged knowing glances, but no one said a word.
The tavern maid stuck her head out, wiping her hands on the hem of her apron.
So※ngin's mother grabbed those hands.
"Hey, miss. Pour me a drink. I'm not much of a drinker, but I'll gladly have some today."The tavern's owner came out and signaled to the maid to pour the drink. Trembling, So※ngin's mother downed the drink in a single gulp, and sighed:"Now I can die contented ... anytime."Suddenly she burst into tears. Then, a moment later, she clapped her hands, laughed, and wiped away the tears with the tie-strip of her cho※gori.
"I must be out of my mind. It's dreadful to cry on this happy occasion ..."The drink made her dizzier.
"Shall I really dance, like this?"She waved her arms and swayed her hips.
"Aren't I really crazy? Yes, I'm deliriously happy."Suddenly So※ngin's mother stood up with a tense expression on her face.
"The ceremony of the bride's coming is the day after tomorrow. I'd better get busy; this is no time to be loafing like this."She mumbled and made a wrinkled face.
"Everyone be sure to come and see the bride!"She ran out the door, leaving behind people staring dumbfoundedly.
Three days later, So※ngin's mother was discovered by a woodcutter boy, lying buried under snow on a sunny slope. It looked as if sleep had gently overtaken her after she fell drunk in the snow. Peace and ecstasy unlike anything of this world were fixed on the dead face of the woman who had spent her life amid hardship, anguish, pain, and suffering.
It became the topic of conversation among the villagers for some time.
"Visiting hours begin at 1:00."After giving that abrupt reply, the sentry shook his shoulders and made a movement to adjust his rifle. With this motion he drew a line in his relationship with her and his face became expressionless again.
The woman who had asked was discouraged, and, after persisting a while longer, went to stand among the group of people lined up next to the lopsided stone wall. She was wearing a silk scarf on her head tied haphazardly below her chin, a silk skirt - whose wrinkles from years of being folded away were not entirely smoothed out - with the pressed hem tucked in the tightly drawn sash at her waist, a white calico cho※gori with drawstrings creased in several layers from being folded up, and even a silver ring on her withered finger. This was a country gentlewoman's greatest finery.
"Mom, we'll only have to wait a little more," said a country girl with a strong local accent. She was standing in line wearing a green skirt and dark pink cho※gori. She stepped back a couple of steps to make room for her mother, blushing. The mother shook her head and sighed.
"Excuse me, is this your first visit?"A fortyish woman standing behind them struck up a conversation. She was a local woman who looked anything but dull, with rouge dotted on her freckled face and the ends of her unkempt hair slightly straightened.
"Yes. We heard that he was hurt and in the hospital, but we live inHaman, so it's not easy to get here."The mother again shook her head and sighed.
"Isn't today Samji? Ah, Samji-day1). We've hurried here to bring him some ssuk-kulle.""Ssuk-kulle? Forget it. You can't take in anything to eat.""What?"
A man of around 50, wearing a cotton overcoat and an old felt hat, who had been standing behind them, took a step forward from the line and asked, furrowing his brow.
"You can't take in anything to eat. It's strictly forbidden."The middle-aged woman emphasized the word "forbidden.""Humph!"
The man returned weakly to the line and blew his nose with one hand - ping!"What did you say?"A young woman who has been squatting against the wall asked, lifting her head as if curious.
"They won't take any food or beverages. Humph!", and he looks at the bundle in her right hand.
"Really?"The woman squatted down again, with an expression that said "Ah well, if that's the case."
In a corner of the Army hospital were stone steps leading to what looked like the site of an old so-called "shrine" that the Japanese had built. From a shady spot at the top of stairs, Army Private first-class Kim Yo※ngbae stood on crutches looking down to the bottom of the wall and listening absent-mindedly to the words of the visitors.
Among the visitors lined up along the wall were those with large bundles, all apparently here for the first time, while a few of the faces of those carrying nothing at all had become familiar to Private Kim.
The old man seated against the wall five or six people over from the man in the cotton overcoat always left in tears, but today he was crying before his visit had even begun. From the way that the people around him were all holding their drawstrings to their eyes, he could tell their son or whoever was a patient there was in quite serious condition.
Among the people holding drawstrings to their eyes, the woman with an unhappy face and broad hips was the mother of Master Sergeant Cho※ng Hu※iyong, who shared Yo※ngbae's hospital room. Every time she came, she hid something to eat in her sleeve.
Yo※ngbae leaned on his crutches and looked down to the bottom of the wall. There were more visitors today than usual. There were soldiers, too. There were young men who looked like white-collar workers mixed in, middle school and elementary school students, and finally beautiful young girls in the line. The girls, prettied up like flowers, were even holding flowers in their hands.
As the woman who said she was from Haman said, today is Samji, and that is part of the reason, but it seems that a more significant reason is that it is Sunday.
Samji-day of the third month - Sunday -Suddenly Yo※ngbae thought how funny things were.
On Samji of the third month the pussy willows bloomed, the barley fields rippled in the gentle spring breeze, and the peach blossoms in the hedge were in full bloom. Before you knew it, the swallows had come and built nests in the corners of the roof ... what pleasure. The swallows who came on Samji-day, no, they didn't necessarily come right on Samji-day, but even if they were a day or two early or late, the day they came was always Samji-day to him.
Flowers bloom and wither, swallows come and leave ... in this way Nature tied knots in the unending, unfeeling flow of time.
As a boy of the mountains, this was how plain his concept of time was.
Twenty-four hours in a day, seven days in a week-after six days pass, Sunday, the day of rest, comes ... these days Yo※ngbae finds this calculation newly strange.
Sunday - The new jacket he wore to go out last Sunday still seemsbrand new, and already six days have passed and it is Sunday again.
Yo※ngbae thought back to the time when he was wounded.
Deep autumn, they were stationed at XX Village. They didn't know the details of how the war was going, but it was a clear fact that they would be victorious, so the soldiers were feeling at ease.
They were sitting around a campfire roasting chestnuts they had gathered in the mountains, laughing and having a good time, when suddenly there was a partisan guerrilla attack.
The tension when each man, under the Captain's mobile direction, was waiting at his post; the moment when, lying flat on the ground with his finger on the trigger of his machine gun, he waited for the enemy to come into range; that moment, which the young and simple Yo※ngbae could not express no matter how hard he tried - Ah, how long it seemed! In those few minutes he lived out an entire life.
But now he had been filling up these past few months with nothing but the single word "treatment." Could it be that time also has quantity and quality?
He laughed and looked again toward the bottom of the wall.
"What're you looking at, Private Kim?"Sergeant first-class Pak, who shared Yo※ngbae's room, approached him smiling.
"Lots of cute chicks have come today."He rested his damaged arm, strung from his shoulder with a white bandage, on top of the wall and looked down below. Without reason, Yo※ngbae blushed.
"I mean that girl wearing the black velvet ch'ima and white cho※gori."What was velvet, what was silk, what was satin - this was knowledge Yo※ngbae had gained during his protracted stay in the hospital.
The girl wearing the black velvet skirt and white jacket was surrounded by other girls, but it did not look like they had come together. She stood waiting silently without a word.
Her skin was so clean the blood vessels showed, her eyes were exceptionally clear, her forehead and the space between her eyebrows were broad, and she had a distant expression. Yo※ngbae felt like he had seen this girl someplace before.
It was one day when he had gone out to the streets with some injured friends. While going down the big road that led from the south to the U.S. Information Service building, leaning their bodies on their crutches, they had encountered a group of girls coming from the other direction in a colorful chattering cluster. Among them, the clothing and appearance of one of the girls left an impression.
The solemn and pure black and white combination looked fresh, stuck in among the gaudy colors of the other girls.
When the girls passed by, the soldiers could hear one of the girls speaking in quite a loud voice.
"When I see a general covered with medals, I only feel intimidated, but when I see a wounded soldier, I want to bow behind him, I'm so filled with admiration, affection, and even tears ... That's right, I can't even hold back my tears."That moment, Yo※ngbae felt a shock like his heart was freezing. His eyes stung like he was going to cry.
These words spoken by the beautiful girl in the black velvet ch'ima and white cho※gori-For some reason he had no doubt that it was she who had spoken these words-were more than enough to wash away all his sadness and pain.
There's no way to know whether the girl mixed in with the visitors now is the girl he saw then or not. In fact, he had not even seen that girl's face clearly, so he didn't even know if she was beautiful or not.
But for him, an orphan, there was no mother or sister to dress up and bring him ssuk-kulle on Samji-day, and there was no one to cry for him, even when his condition once became so serious that they had considered amputating his left leg. Of course there was no one who would smuggle in something to eat in her sleeves.
And so to him, the visitors were always just people; they had never had the significance of "visitors."But now he too had a connection with the visitors. That was enough for him to feel like his loneliness was being filled up.
The girl in the black velvet ch'ima and white cho※gori herself, perhaps feeling the invisible cord strung between him and her, lifted her head as if drawn and looked up for a moment at Yo※ngbae with a tilted, inquisitive glance.
It was impossible to discern her emotion, with her broad forehead and distant expression, but her face was full of goodwill.
Poor Private Kim! Did he suppose a sensitive girl among the visitors at an army hospital would have some other expression, when looking at a dark-faced wounded soldier?Private Kim felt his face flush, his chest became chilled, listless, and filled with fragrance, just as if he had chewed on a mint leaf. Then that languid and fragrant feeling was left as a wound in his heart.
The Seoulite Sergeant Pak, after receiving the girl's glance unabashedly, smiled, slapped Yo※ngbae on the shoulder, and went into the ward.
In front of Yo※ngbae's eyes, the line of visitors started to move. The people who had been sitting against the wall also hurried back into the line. Yo※ngbae saw the girl rearrange the flowers she was holding. He didn't know what kind of flowers they were, but they were white flowers, different from the ones the other girls had.
Even after the visitors had all gone inside, Yo※ngbae stood in a daze. His whole body felt tired, and it was difficult to remain standing.
His situation seemed totally unreal, like a dream to him. As the only son of a village chief in the T'aebaek Mountains, he had grown up favored and pampered. Then, because of his father's death when he was in the second year of agricultural school, he had to bid farewell to the teachers who did not want to waste his outstanding grades. But he had had no choice but to leave school and return home. He had missed school life, but the flow of time had washed that wound, and before long he had become a simple farm boy, sweating over pig slop.
Before the sadness of losing his widowed mother had vanished he had thrown his body into the army, following orders day and night, and now here he was, an injured soldier.
He lifted his face and threw a glance to the hills scattered around this tiny port town. It was less than a year since he had left home, but the lush mountains where he had grown up were vague memories. Not enough time had passed for the people living in those mountains to have changed much either, but it didn't seem like the people of the past would still be leading their lives there like before.
But he missed home nevertheless. There was no one in his hometown to care about him-but ah, how much he wanted to tell them! Boastful stories, surprising stories, shocking stories, grandiose stories - for a dark-faced injured country-boy soldier on crutches it seemed like there was no place but home where he could feel free to share his views and thoughts.
Without his realizing it, visiting hours had apparently ended - the visitors were streaming out from the ward.
The girl in the black velvet ch'ima also went out the hospital door, with her head bowed and taking small steps.
When the girl passed under Yo※ngbae, she lifted her eyes and looked up to the top of the wall. Then, this time, a dimple appeared on one of her cheeks.
Now Yo※ngbae's heart beat so that it hurt. He suddenly hated his crutches. But when the injured soldier Kim Yo※ngbae returned to his hospital room his leg limped much worse than usual.
The twilight was deep in Yo※ngbae's hospital room with an eastern exposure. Even as he silently sat down on the bed he fell into thought without realizing it.
Clang clang-clang clang, a tofu vendor passed the alley below the window. Evening smoke spread silently into the darkening sky.
Hot, spicy tofu stew - that taste, long forgotten, floated into his chest like perfume. Then, completely unrelated, the clean image of the dimple on the cheek of the girl in the black velvet ch'ima arose in his mind.
He could not fathom the enigmatic kindness that the girl with the broad forehead, the translucently clean skin and sophisticated appearance had shown him. Yo※ngbae's heart beat loud enough to hear, yet slowly. But this simple wounded soldier was too humble to think that the girl's kindness was anything more than that.
A wounded solider with a dark face and a gimpy leg - but it occurred to him that if he fully recovered and returned as a strong, healthy young man, then he wouldn't think of the girl's kindness so overwhelming. At that moment, his struggle to recover, whose only goal until then had been to return to the front lines, seemed to gain a new hope and purpose. The dinner bell rang. But Yo※ngbae did not feel hungry. He heard the sound of his comrades with minor injuries all going to the cafeteria.
Yo※ngbae still sat in silence. He felt as if a single movement would wake him from his intoxication.
After a while the hallway grew noisy again and the other patients returned from the cafeteria.
"Private Kim, why didn't you go eat?"Sergeant Pak slapped his shoulder with his good hand.
"I don't know."Yo※ngbae smiled bashfully.
"They say the XX Band consolation concert is starting now. Hey, they say even Kim Ch'o※ng-ja is here."Sergeant Pak was almost pulling on Yo※ngbae's arm, making him get up. Yo※ngbae himself got up smiling and walked to the side of the window. But his expression suddenly became grave. The window, due to the darkness outside, reflected the inside of the room, and Yo※ngbae had seen his own face reflected in the window.
Eyes swollen half-shut ... flat, broad nose ... dumb, thick lips and pimply narrow forehead - at that moment he felt like laughing.
Now, he thought, he realized why the girl in the black velvet ch'ima had gone so far as to smile her dimpled smile at him.
A dark-faced wounded soldier with a gimpy leg was someone with the unfortunate honor that allowed even a young woman to smile at him without hesitation.
His twenty-one-year-old youthfulness groaned somewhere in a corner.
If he were to completely recover and return as a healthy young man, mightn't that distant face with the broad forehead lose its air of kindness and be filled with fear, suspicion, and even hatred?Private Kim turned around without a word and went back to the bed.
"What's the matter?"Sergeant Pak asked wonderingly.
Yo※ngbae didn't answer, but pulled the blanket up over his head and collapsed on the bed.
The face of the innocent girl full of gratitude and praise and consolation, shown unhesitatingly to a wounded soldier who had sacrificed his body for the fatherland, appeared once more before his eyes. It was something to be thankful for.
But under the blanket, tears streamed down Yo※ngbae's face.
From far away he could hear the sound of upbeat jazz. Yo※ngbae, as if to shut his ears to that sound, pulled the blanket up higher over his face.
"Is that Dr. Yun?" Her voice was sweet, delicate and cautious. It did not ring a bell with him. "Who is calling, please?" asked Dr. Yun.
"I...I am...""Perhaps you've got the wrong number.""No, Dr. Yun. I am Mr. Yi Hyo-jin's daughter-in-law."Mr. Yi Hyo-jin was one of Dr. Yun's patients. He had been waiting for a kidney transplant operation.
"Yes?""Actually, our father...* she paused here and was silent for a few moments.
"Please go on," he urged. Dr. Yun could not wait indefinitely.
"My husband is thirty years old. He will have to live with one kidney for a long time." She broke off and started sobbing into the phone. Presently she hung up.
It was an unexpected shock for him. "Hello, hello," he anxiously called into the dead receiver. He hurriedly dialled Mr. Yi's home number, which he knew by heart. The sweet voice of a few moments ago answered the call. It was still teary. "This is Yun Myo※ng-no here. I'll have to think over what you've just said."Her voice filled with panic, she said, "Please don't bother. It was my fault. I only wished my blood group had been 'O'. Mine is 'A', you see." She changed her tone at once and said very politely, "I do apologise. I shouldn't have rung you.""Not to worry. Let's wait and see, anyway." Dr. Yun hung up.
"Was it one of your patients?" asked Madam Ku, who was sitting in front of him. "No, it wasn't," answered Dr. Yun tersely with a frown. At that moment, he found her loathsome and disgusting: her glossy skin, her skilfully made-up face, too bright lipstick, well-groomed nails which were far too long for a housewife, and short frizzed hair covering her brow, a style that must have been in fashion at the moment.
Although there was really nothing wrong with her, she complained constantly of aches and pains. This breed of women, with too much money, leisure and vanity, but little sincerity and ability, had nothing to do but to show off. They kicked up a fuss over their headaches and aching limbs, and they even came to see him about their fat abdomens. These women who took much of his valuable time, gossiping and blowing their own trumpets got on his nerves, as he was an extremely fastidious man. His mind returned to Mr. Yi Hyo-jin's yellowish swollen face. One of Dr. Yun's long-term patients, Mr. Yi had been suffering from kidney disorder for many years. He had helped him with urination, and looked after him over the years, advising him to avoid fatigue and go easy on salt. Recently, however, his condition had deteriorated greatly. His blood pressure had long been over 250 and the urine output often fell below 50 cc. He was sixty-eight, an age when one's resistance weakens.
He had been on an artificial kidney machine for a long time. When his G.F.R. (Glomerus Filtration Rate) fell below 5%, the doctor recommended the use of a dialysis machine, which did not exist in Korea at the time. Mr. Yi Hyo-jin immediately went to America to receive the treatment. Later this machine was introduced to Korea, and he was able to receive this strenuous treatment on a regular basis. While he was under treatment, he could play golf and go to his office to settle accounts. Even this ultramodern device, which took out all the blood in the body to rid it of poison and put the cleansed blood back into the blood vessels, had limitations. At the same time, the success rate of kidney transplant operations had improved markedly. By mutual consent the doctor and the patient had agreed on a transplant operation, rather than continue with this cumbersome and makeshift method of treatment, absolutely gruesome to watch. Mr Yi's condition had also reached the stage where something had to be done.
Having agreed on a transplant, the big problem was obtaining a suitable organ. First, his wife offered one of her kidneys. However, her blood group was 'B', which did not match the patient's blood group 'O'. They did their best to obtain a suitable organ, which was not easy, however hard they tried. Faced with such impediments, the patient became increasingly fretful and began to lose rational thinking. Finally, Min-gyu, who was his third son, gave in and offered one of his kidneys. Of course, they say that the death of someone else does not seem so serious as one's cold to oneself. But this woman was hard to bear. When Dr. Yun who was treating a patient as gravely ill as Mr. Yi, he found Madam Ku's hypochondriac complaints detestable and irritating. To make the situation worse, it was four in the afternoon and he was tired. It made him somewhat cruel. Usually he was a patient, gentle and sincere man, but now harsh words escaped his lips. "Everything is perfectly normal. Please go home. Yes, send all your maids away but one. Scrubbing the floor is the best cure for fat abdomens." He was about to get up and go out before Madam Ku, but changed his mind and sank into a chair. "My husband is thirty years old." Her sweet, delicate voice kept repeating in his head. Thirty years old. Thirty. Thirty. To Dr. Yun, it sounded like, "You know very well my father-in-law is already sixty-eight.""You seem busy," said Madam Ku, getting up, embarrassed.
"Yes, very." Madam Ku did not persist any longer.
The outpatients' consulting hour was over. Dr. Yun, however, had to wait for another patient who had made an appointment to see him at 4.30 p.m. He was absolutely exhausted. He was forty-five years old, a capable man at the peak of his life. The many patients in his charge allowed him no time to himself. His work began at 8.30 in the morning with the rounds of the wards, before seeing his outpatients. Since his house was in Yo※ng-dong, he had to get up at 7.30 a.m. to leave home at 8.00 a.m. People often said, "Go and see Dr. Yun at M Medical University Hospital," for any difficult disease. His sincerity, broad knowledge, clear judgment and incessant pursuit of knowledge, combined with his gentle personality commanded everybody's trust and respect.
Although he had too many patients to cope with, he was always known to treat all his patients equally, whether they were rich or poor. Even when he was tired, he never showed it to them. He was, however, quite ruthless to people like Madam Ku.
He was really too busy; he had to give lectures several times a week; he was frequently invited to present papers at professional conferences; his patients even followed him home; there were telephone inquiries, and so on. He was too busy to realise he was exhausted; so whenever he had a moment he lay back, closing his eyes. While waiting for his patient, he stretched out his legs, lay back in the chair and closed his eyes. As happened quite frequently recently, he felt dizzy. When he closed his eyes he felt as though he was standing upside down. On quickly opening his eyes, he saw the white ceiling. Although the ceiling was white, there were mottled shapeless patterns, which were caused by the sun through the south-facing window, reflecting on the slightly uneven surface. Feeling giddy, he reclosed his eyes. He saw the same flecked patterns on the ceiling in front of his firmly closed eyes. In his mind were the mingled feelings of shock and resistance. A sixty-eight-year-old and a thirty-year-old...the latter had to offer a part of his body so that the former prolong his life. The live body, which no one but God had controlled previously, was tampered with and a part of it transplanted to revive another body. Simply hearing or thinking about the procedure was exciting. Who dreamt that it would actually come about? It was a great medical victory. The human territory dared encroach upon that of God.
Mistakes are made, however, when man surpasses his own ability. Human judgment is never absolute and what he thinks is right and what he thinks he has done right, is very frequently wrong. Under the shadow of victory, the growing malaise is not noticed.
He could never forget the deep emotion he had felt when he and his team succeeded in their first transplant operation. It was a fulfilment of his solemn pledge, "I will serve humanity," when he took his degree. It was also a confirmation of the infinite potential and splendid life burning inside him. In fact, this first successful transplant operation was both a medical victory and also a hymn to mankind. It was the sublime beauty of a mother who donated her kidney to a son who had been waiting to die. Therefore, the operation had the feel of a solemn religious ritual.
Everybody clings to life and is entitled to preservation of life. Everybody wants to live-longer, more healthily and more happily. For this strong desire, man can go wrong and become ugly.
There are surprisingly many people who want organ transplants, but it is not easy to find suitable organ donors. In countries like the United States, many people offer their organs voluntarily in case of accidental death. Because of the danger of rejection, it is not possible to use any organ on just anybody. The most suitable organs are naturally those of the blood relations. Although in theory, losing a kidney makes no difference to the donor, in practice losing an organ has a severe psychological effect, which can decrease one vitality. Therefore, a donor is required to possess certain strength of character.
Take Mr. Paek, for example, who was due to come today. He had been suffering from kidney disorder for a long time. He had six children. He, who had been a poor primary school teacher, was enjoying a very luxurious lifestyle in his old age, which he had not thought possible. Although, as a poor primary school teacher, he could not feed or educate them properly, they all grew up to be capable of making lots of money. The old man came to the hospital in a chauffeur-driven car. When he needed hospitalisation, he was put in a special suite.
When his disease went beyond the dialysis machine treatment a few months ago, his eldest son, who owned a construction company, decided on a kidney transplant operation for his father. Dr. Yun still vividly remembered his uneasy feeling at the moment of decision as to who was going to be the donor. Such a moment, imbued with suspense and anxiety, is an integral part of a transplant operation. Dr. Yun then realised that the standards of living among old Mr. Paek's children were not equal. He knew the eldest son, President Paek, to be very well off, since he had invited Dr. Yun to his home before. His second and fourth sons appeared to be comfortably off. So were his two daughters, judging from their clothes and jewellery. The third son, however, who never opened his mouth, somehow seemed to be in straitened circumstances, although he was not shabbily dressed. His outdated clothes, for example, the extremely narrow lapels of his jacket, which had been in fashion a good ten years before, and the awkward way he wore his shirt and tie possibly gave him away. Anyway, it seemed fair to say that he was the worst off among his siblings.
President Paek, the eldest son, spoke first, "Tong-jun has to go to Japan next month. What did you say you were going to do, So※ng-jun?""Really, brother. I told you buyers were coming from Canada."The eldest daughter had a son preparing for his university entrance exams and the younger daughter had something else. Therefore, the third son was decided as a donor, as a matter of course, right in front of Dr. Yun. He apparently owned a small corner store. He was a thirty-nine-year-old father of seven, who had just managed to have a son after six daughters. His only son was just five months old.
Ensnared by his moral obligations as a filial son, this poor man was obliged to donate his healthy kidney to his father. Dr. Yun would never forget his own resentment, resistance and shock, when he witnessed the human selfishness and ugliness exposed under such extreme circumstances. After that he avoided seeing the third son again. He was afraid of running into him. He gathered that what the man lost was more than his kidney. The wound that he sustained deep in his mind must have been much more difficult to heal than the scar left by the operation itself. The issue was not simply whether losing one of his kidneys affected his health; it was something else entirely. What position did Mr. Yi Hyo-jin's younger son Min-gyu occupy in their family? Why did the daughter-in-law with a sweet and delicate voice, whom he had never met, say such presumptuous things? Or was it only reasonable for her to say them?He pictured the old man's much improved face thanks to his poor son's kidney. But he had no sense of proud achievement at seeing him regain his health. Instead he felt a sort of hate and contempt, even vague pangs of guilty conscience.
"Good heavens, look at this! This onion has grown so many roots," cried Nurse Chu. Dr. Yun cast a glance towards her. By the window, there was a pot of early azaleas, a gift presented to him by a patient, and a glass bottle with an onion which had rooted and from which sprouted fresh green leaves.
"How fresh they look! She said touching the leaves in wonder, and said, "Oh, dear! This onion is empty inside. It's used itself up for the fresh leaves."Dr. Yun jerked himself up. He had visions of the old face of the mother who had given her kidney for her son, and Mr. Yi Hyo-jin's face simultaneously. His countenance must have changed suddenly, for Nurse Chu widened her eyes, wondering.
At that moment there was a knock on the door. Before anyone answered, the door flew open, and Mr. Paek's smiling wrinkled face appeared. The old man did not come because there was anything wrong with him. Although his colour had improved, his face looked shrunk. His once-swollen eyelids had sunk. Despite everything, he looked full of life, quite unlike before the operation.
"Thanks to you, doctor, I've found a new lease of life. In fact, my son is sending me on a foreign tour. I've come to see you to find out whether I'm fit enough to travel." He smiled, displaying his perfectly regular false teeth. His neck looked hideous, sagging like that of a turkey. His narrow brow was full of wrinkles, as though scarred, and his tiny bloodshot eyes were ugly with bags hanging under them. The doctor was repelled by the ugliness of the old man. He was usually gentle, but could not feel the same friendliness for this old man as he did for his other patients, especially those he treated himself.
That day he went home earlier than usual. As he was reading a paper after dinner, his mother-in-law, who lived with them, came in with his seven-year-old daughter. Young Kyo※ng-a was sobbing her heart out, rubbing her eyes furiously with both her hands.
"Heavens above," said his mother-in-law. "It has been defiled. I told you not to keep looking in, didn't I?" She kept clucking her tongue as though something was wrong. "What's done is done. It's no use crying over spilt milk.""What's happened? Kyo※ng-a darling, what's the matter with you?" Dr. Yun asked looking up from his papers.
"You know what, that awful cat has eaten all her kittens,"said his mother-in-law.
"Her kittens?""That's right. An animal, when it is disturbed, eats all its young." "That can't be true," replied the doctor.
"There isn't one single kitten left.""Perhaps someone has removed them.""Who would do such a thing? Nobody has even been near it.""Perhaps, the cat has kept them safe somewhere."o. Hu-sun actually saw it gobble up its own babies.""Can this really happen?""Of course. A pig, when it is purturbed, also gobbles up its babies.""It's hard to believe.""Now the cat is out and about. Just see for yourself... She lost much of her fur and looked shabby after the birth, but she now looks all soft and glossy. She has fully recovered from her confinement, as it were.""If she has really eaten all her kittens, she must be well and truly nourished," said Dr. Yun casually, but he frowned. He hated the mother cat, which had recovered her strength by eating her own kittens, even making allowances for the fact that she was only an animal. He shouted angrily, "Throw the cat away!""I don't want to," shouted Kyo※ng-a, interrupting her sob.
His wife came running in and said, "Really, what's the matter with you all?""We were only talking about the cat," replied his mother-in-law. His wife cast a sidelong glance at Kyo※ng-a. "You're not still crying, are you?" she scolded her daughter and turned to her husband. "I don't know. The cat is wicked. She has eaten all the kittens one by one, all five of them. That's why Kyo※ng-a has been crying like that.""I told you to throw it away.""You can't throw a cat away. It always finds its way home. It's a very clever creature," said the mother-in-law, shaking her head.
"So clever it eats up all her babies, huh?" retorted Dr. Yun.
"That was because of the evil spirit," repeated his mother-in-law.
"What is this evil spirit you keep on about?" snapped Dr. Yun in anger.
"Really what's wrong with him tonight?" His wife protested, picking up an empty fruit dish, as she went out of the room.
It was just then that the guilty cat entered the room. She came in silently, and extending her two front paws in front of her, and putting her tail up in the air, languidly stretched herself. The cat's body was soft and flexible, with her three-coloured fur glossy, whereas not long ago, she had looked haggard and shabby. She had indeed changed beyond recognition. The mother cat that had recovered after eating her own kittens... Suddenly Dr. Yun saw old Mr Paek's wizened but lively face with his unnaturally straight false teeth. The cat started wiping her face provocatively with her front paw, then again stretched herself, as though she was enjoying her unrestrained, gratifying freedom.
"You rascal!" Dr. Yun shouted, and grabbing a lighter, threw it at the cat. It hit the cat before falling on the floor. "Miaow, miaow, miaow," screamed the cat in pain. To Dr. Yun, however, it sounded as though she was putting on. He went to his bedroom, ignoring his wife, who came running in surprise, while his mother-in-law and Kyo※ng-a looked on with bated breath. He lay down, without bothering to undress.
The next morning, as is usual on a morning round, he entered Mr. Yi Hyo-jin's room. Mr. Yi's swollen lifeless face was tense with expectation, hope and anxiety. He looked up to Dr. Yun as though he was the Saviour. His bleary eyes, lacking lustre because of the urine poison, were full of eager desire: "I want to live. Please let me live. You can save me," they seemed to cry out. The deep trust shown in those eyes embarrassed him. Feeling disturbed, he took the patient's chart, which the nurse handed him, and checked his vital sign. It showed pulse: 110, blood pressure: 250/150, respiratory rate: 35, and the urine output: 20 cc. According to his chart, protein in his blood was 3, urea, and creatinine, 15. His condition could not have been worse. At that moment, he realised what had been eating at him for the past few days. The appeal of the delicate voice, "My husband is thirty years old." The old man's pressing appearance, an earnest desire for life in his weak eyes, and his deep trust in him, the doctor. All these factors worked strongly on his mind.
In any case, it was impossible for him to undergo an operation as serious as a kidney transplant in that condition. His general condition would have to be improved by all available means, including the kidney machine. That meant the transplant operation could at least be postponed. Dr. Yun felt relieved, as though he could breathe a little after being suffocated.
In the next room was Mr. Yi Hyo-jin's son Min-gyu. A major surgery was not undergone only by the receiver of the kidney, whose life depended on the transplant operation, but also the donor. The possibilities were infinite; however one viewed it, either optimistically or pessimistically. However accurately planned and carefully carried out an operation was, there was no absolute guarantee of safety. Even if there was no risk to life, even a momentary pain must not be caused. One had to be extremely careful. Therefore, the donor was hospitalised two weeks before the operation for detailed physical examinations to ensure that he was in top condition. Young Mr. Yi Min-gyu had been staying in the adjacent room for four days. He was a cheerful young man. To him, having a kidney taken from him was no different from giving away an item of clothing from layers of clothes. "I'm getting a bit bored, doctor. When are you going to operate?""I'm waiting for the right moment.""It's OK with me any time. I'm in top condition." There was nothing pathetic about him.
"Your father's condition as well as yours must be perfect."Dr. Yun smiled, and looked through his medical report. It showed his pulse as 70, blood pressure, 150/80, breathing, 19, urine output, 150 cc, urea, 14 ml %, creatinine, 1 ml &, protein in blood, 4.5 gm %, Haemoglobin, 5 million, and white cells, 7,000. He was indeed in top condition, absolutely perfect.
"Everything is in first class condition.""Of course, first class. Ha.. ha..ha.." The young man laughed cheerfully, displaying his healthy teeth, which reminded one of a wild animal. His wrinkle-free neck looked fresh, and his double-lidded eyes fringed with long lashes, playful. "I've got nothing up here (pointing to his head), but here," he opened his chest wide, and said, "I'm confident."Dr. Yun, as well as the intern, the resident and the nurse, all laughed. Dr. Yun was beginning to like this young man from the bottom of his heart. He was not reminded of the sweet voice saying, "My husband is thirty years old," in front of this young man. The atmosphere which the young man created was bright, too cheerful and amusing for any morbidity. A few days elapsed. The artificial kidney machine was alarmingly improving Mr. Hyo-jin Lee's condition. Before long, his condition would improve sufficiently for him to undergo an operation.
In the evening, before going home, Dr. Yun went to have a chat with him in his room.
"I congratulate you on your son, Chairman Lee. He is a fine young man, so open and cheerful."Mr. Lee was very pleased to hear praises heaped on his son, and said, "He takes after me most. He is healthy and big-hearted. He even likes sports like me. Both he and I went to X University. We were both basketball players." Mr. Yi Hyo-jin smiled broadly. His now less swollen face looked just like his son's at that moment. He had the same thick eyebrows, double-lidded eyes, and the teeth, which reminded one of a wild animal.
"I used to be as fit as the next person, when I was his age." Mr. Lee said complainingly, closing his eyes. What he said alarmed Dr. Yun. He stood up to leave the room, unable to continue with the conversation.
Upon entering young Min-gyu's room, he saw a young woman.
"Darling, this is Dr. Yun. Say hello to him," said Min-gyu. A slim young woman, who appeared to be in her twenties, bowed her head without looking up. "This friend here has recently accomplished a great task. She has produced a son for me. Ha! Ha! Ha! I am the little fellow's honoured father." Min-gyu grinned ear to ear as though he found everything in life delightful. His young face with savage-looking white teeth was just like that of Mr Hyo-jin Lee's. Dr. Yun could not look into that face for some reason. The young woman kept silent, still not daring to look up. Her paleness was perhaps due to her recent confinement, but she was too modest and quiet for a modern young woman. The voice saying, "My husband is thirty years old" lived inside Dr. Yun's mind as though it were an autonomous being, quite independent of the woman. It troubled him from time to time.
Two weeks after Min-gyu was hospitalised, a date was set for the operation. Dr. Yun became agitated and tense during the days leading up to the operation, although this was not the first time. He neither drank nor smoked, so he found relaxation playing with his daughters on the floor. Although his wife took great care at such times, knowing what was in his mind, the children loved it. The girls were regular tomboys, having been brought up carefree. Though quite big now, they climbed all over their father, jumping on his back. Today, as usual, Kyo※ng-a squealed with joy, clinging to her dad. While playing with his daughters, Dr. Yun suddenly realised that the cat, who had run away whenever she saw him, was clinging to him with his daughters. The cat seemed to have grown more. The three-coloured fur was all shiny under the light. "Why is the cat in here?" Sensing her husband's displeasure, his wife, opened the door, to chase the cat away.
"She has grown so big she is hideous now. That wretched cat, instead of raising her kittens, she's eaten them and grown stronger herself."Dr. Yun stretched his prostrate body. He left the children, who dubiously looked at his face that had turned serious all of a sudden, to go to his study. That night, the light in his study did not go out for a long time.
The next morning, he left home early, for he had something to discuss with Dr. Shim, the surgeon. Since an operation was teamwork, an individual doctor could not cancel it at his will. Moreover, it was the day of the operation itself. Dr. Yun hesitated, feeling considerably troubled.
Mr. Yi Hyo-jin's room had a very tense atmosphere that day. His old wife, the eldest son and his wife, and his daughters had been with him for some time. When they saw the doctor come in, they retreated to the window with abated breath.
Although he came in with Dr. Shim's full agreement, Dr. Yun was still nervous. Making effort to be calm, he kept blinking, not knowing where to look. Mr. Hyo-jin Lee, who had become unusually sensitive, seemed to notice that there was something wrong. He stared at Dr. Yun with his double-lidded eyes wide open. The eyes, which looked just like his son's, though old and wrinkled, supported his claim; "He takes after me most." Dr. Yun remembered his other remark, "I was as fit as anyone at his age." Finally, the sweet voice saying, "My husband is thirty years old."He could now be calm and composed. "Chairman Lee, we will have to postpone the operation." There was a commotion on the patient's face, as well as those of his family, standing by the window. A tense silence fell. After a little while, Chairman Lee asked, panic-stricken, "Why?""There is something suspicious about your son's condition. We will need to carry out another detailed examination." He added, "I won't take long. We will know the result by tomorrow morning.""I will practise medicine conscientiously and with dignity." A phrase of Hippocratic Oath went through his mind like lightning. He could not stay there any longer.
The examination was, of course, in name only. Min-gyu's condition was first-class, almost perfect. His was an unbelievably perfect medical report. A beautiful healthy body, as though it had been created with artistic precision. The irony was that he so closely resembled his father, whose only hope for survival was the kidney transplant operation. His father had been "as fit as anyone" at his age. Dr. Yun did not think that his decision of conspiracy was wrong. At the same time, however, he could not ignore the phrase in Hippocratic Oath, which kept raising its head. It was a long day for him.
The next morning, Dr. Yun was full of apprehension, when he entered Mr. Yi Hyo-jin's room, like an actor who was not confident of playing his part well. He was disturbed to see the anxiety, impatience and expectation written on the patient's face. On the other hand, however, he was also hearing the honest, sweet voice saying, "My husband is thirty years old."He opened his mouth, "Chairman Lee, I don't know how to put this, but my worst worry has been confirmed.""Yes?"
"As I expected, the result of your son's blood test is not very good. He looks healthy, but in his condition, he cannot possibly give one of his kidneys."Disappointment and fear was written all over his face. Dr. Yun felt somewhat dizzy. "Conscientiously and with dignity..." The patient was stunned into silence for a few moments, and said, "That can surely be solved with a blood transfusion,"Those words betrayed naked selfishness and cruelty. At that moment, he saw the mother cat, which had grown fat on her kittens. Dr. Yun could now be perfectly calm.
"No. According to the X-ray pictures, the blood vessels around his kidneys are very thin and weak. This kind of kidney has a strong possibility of being rejected. It could be dangerous."The words came out of his mouth easily. The patient's face was turning like a lump of charcoal right before his eyes. It was sheer black despair, which distorted Mr Hyo-jin Lee's face.
"We'll wait for another opportunity. Meanwhile, you will receive treatment with a kidney machine. In America, there are lots of people, who have lived on it for more than ten years. I'll do my very best for you."On leaving the room, he ran into Min-gyu's wife. She seemed to have spent the night next to her husband, who was supposed to have the operation to have one of his kidneys removed on that very day.
"Madam..." Dr. Yun called, but could not finish his sentence. He left behind the young woman, who looked at him quizzically with her eyes wide open, walked passed Min-gyu's room and went towards the lift.
He saw in his mind two uncannily resembling faces, one old and sick, the other young, beautiful and healthy. "I will practise medicine conscientiously and with dignity."Shaking his head unconsciously, he got into the lift, which had just arrived.