Seo Jung Hak

Translated from the Korean by Megan Sungyoon

Green Onion

On the cutting board a green, onion is lying, with my left hand I slowly press its neck, the kitchen knife in my right hand, its blade, facing the sky, the sweat on my forehead, the back of my neck is sore, let’s imagine there’s a green, onion on the cutting board, green, and long, a very ordinary, green, onion the clock strikes ten, the room temperature is, a little, warm, to cut a green, onion on the stove a kettle is steaming, sweats form on the nose, this is a green onion, green onion, I try murmuring, at once, clean, cut, I must, if I cut it like slicing a green onion, I can’t look at the cutting board, it’s ten already, I must cut, on the cutting board, a green onion, or something I must think is, not the humidity and time to cut a green onion, not the temperature, it is though,

Incheon Gourmet Club

While the excuse for failing the exam was eating seaweed soup the night before, someone said the whole phylloid was either an ovoid or a lanceolate shape and the way it was lobed pinnately and had many follicles on the surface seemed precisely, like a ne'er-do-well. The day’s theme was seaweed. One of the members used the term intercalary growth. Because it was fact, no counterargument ensued but a complaint that because the mucous gland secreted mucilage the leaf surface felt slimy. One of the members with a special penchant for a sour taste said because of seaweed’s slimy mucilage it was a foul technique if humans stuck to seaweeds. Thumping, on the table, he cried that Daejanggak was produced from March until May. The superior product was blackish-navy and short-woven. Also the inferior product was blackish-yellow with salt crystals and produced later in the season. It was obvious he learned about seaweed through web-surfing. A member who was splitting the void with a dreamy face said the good ones were soft to the touch and the color had to be vivid green and translucent and complained that it was too contrived and modern that seaweed was used as a tool for murder. Therefore, a gathering of people against over-instrumentalization of seaweed was decided as the sub-theme of the club. She said although she disapproves the idea overly ripen seaweed was chewy and bad and that dried seaweed contained 920 milligrams of calcium per 100 grams, expressing her de facto approval. That was the last thing on the club’s official agenda. 

The Celebration of the Eve of the 7th Conference of Incheon Gaepo County Yeonsu Village International Candy Association Representatives’ Summit

His shy murmuring face didn’t look like the representative of the representatives’ summit. Those who had doubts about the assorted gift boxes left their seats, too, early. The stage lit up brightly, where decayed teeth used to look even more sinister. Red candy wrappers tumbled, in wind and now the conference climaxed. Since the outcome of the 6th conference was so scarce, it was time to make a resolute decision. In between sweetness and stickiness were the behind-the-scenes contacts among committees. An abandoned candy was crushed on the floor to block the representative’s exit. Maybe, it was the opponent’s terrorist attack. Insisting that it is truly essential for a man to give candies to his beloved, his face completely, lacked the qualities suitable for the representative of the representatives’ summit. The highlight, of the conference was mispronouncing a word. No one wanted sweet love because of saliva gathered in their mouth. This was where not even sweet humans but sweet candies were needed. Caught off guard, the representative ordered to turn the lights off, and the conference was soaked in darkness upon his request. To tease, slurp, slurp of someone sucking on candy filled the silence.  


When he opened his lunchbox he saw the word “freedom” made with black beans. His colleagues all groaned. Turned out he and his family were members of the rebel army. Right, we saw his underpants with words like “love” and “trust” stitched in the corner. Subtle signs, however, his colleagues pretended they knew nothing, and ate up his lunch before the supervisor came. Seeing is believing, so eating was a good idea. By fast and precise chopsticks of the colleagues, the beans disappeared one bean at a time so “freedom” was turned “freed” and then “feed” and then “fed” and then “fd” and then completely gone. There were only white rice and kimchi stains. Eating together was their unique solution. Obvious signs. Behind the supervisor’s back, the section leader politely advised that he better feed himself “freedom” quietly at home. All merry, he kept twitching cheeks and laughed loudly. When the siren went off for the afternoon shift, he pat, pat on the colleagues’ backs as he headed back to work. From a distance, the supervisor’s whistle blew like binding alpha-synuclein and one of the colleagues farted once as a price for digesting “freedom.” 

Seo Jung Hak was born in Seoul and graduated from Seoul Institute of the Arts’ Creative Writing program. He is the author of two poetry collections, 모험의 왕과 코코넛의 귀족들 (The King of Adventure and Aristocrats of Coconut) published 1998 and 동네에서 제일 싼 프랑스 (The Cheapest France in Town) published in 2017.

Megan Sungyoon translates between languages and across genres. After graduating from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a BFA thesis installation of text, video, and sound, Sungyoon moved to New York and earned an MFA in Poetry and Literary Translation at Columbia University. Sungyoon’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Copper Nickel, Asymptote, SAND Journal, The Margins, Hypertext Review, and Columbia Journal, where Sungyoon served as the translation editor.

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