Uit: Our Twisted Hero (Vertaald door Kevin O’Rourke)
« Disappointingly, the boys were just like the teacher. In Seoul when a new transfer student arrived, the other children took advantage of the first break in class to surround him and ask all sorts of questions: Are you good at school? Are you strong? Are you well off? They asked questions like these to gather the basic materials for establishing a relationship later on. But my new classmates, like my new teacher, had little interest in this. At the break they stood at a distance stealing quick glances across. And when finally at lunchtime a few boys did gather around, it was only to ask whether I had been on a tram, had seen South Gate, and other questions of this sort. In fact, the only things they seemed envious of, or impressed by, were my school supplies. These were of high quality and I was the only one who had them.
But to this day, nearly thirty years later, what makes the memory of that first day so vivid in my mind was my meeting with Om Sokdae.
“Get out of the way, all of you!”
The few children were ringed around me in the classroom asking their questions when suddenly a low voice sounded softly from behind them. It was a grown-up voice, sufficiently so for me to wonder if the teacher had come back. The children flinched and stepped back abruptly. I was taken by surprise, too. I turned around in my chair and saw a boy sitting at a desk at the back of the middle row; he was solidly planked down there and he looked at us with a certain air of resignation.
We had only been in class together for an hour, but I knew this fellow. From the way he shouted “Attention! Salute!” when the teacher came in, I presumed he was the class monitor. The other reason I could distinguish him immediately among the nearly sixty students in the class, all of whom were much the same size, was that sitting down he seemed a head taller than any of the other boys — and his eyes seemed to burn into me.
“Han Pyongt’ae, you said, right? Come here.”
Yi Mun-yol (Yongyang, 18 mei 1948)