In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Their Last Visitor
  • Kim Young-ha (bio)
    Translated by Dafna Zur (bio)

"Don't you think I should prepare some kind of dinner?" Yŏngsŏn called out from the kitchen, peeling off her pink rubber gloves. Between there and the living room was a walnut-colored table that barely seated two. Chŏngsu was bent over his work, his back to her.

"Don't bother. He won't be staying long."

Chŏngsu wiped the back of his gloved hand across his sweaty forehead. Yŏngsŏn dried the kitchen counter with a dishcloth. She looked over the sink out the window. Stray cats sometimes prowled along the windowsill and stared into their basement apartment. Yŏngsŏn liked to toss them scraps of leftover fish. For some reason, though, their visits had become less frequent.

Chŏngsu rinsed his narrow paintbrush in a bowl of water. Yŏngsŏn picked up the container, emptied it into the toilet, and refilled it with fresh water. "Of all days, why the hell does he have to come today? And at this hour?"

The television in the living room showed masses of curious spectators swarming toward Chongno to watch the ceremonial striking of the bell in the Poshin Pavilion that rings in the New Year.

"He's probably just curious."

"A pair of night owls, the two of you. This year's going to be the Year of the Monkey, isn't it?"

Yŏngsŏn brought Chŏngsu the container of water and rested her [End Page 31] hand lightly on his shoulder. Chŏngsu was mixing colors, trying to come up with the blend he was looking for.

"You were born in the Year of the Monkey, weren't you?" she said.


Yŏngsŏn was twenty-four. She had majored in sculpture at a prestigious art school, then married Chŏngsu, a graduate of the same school, before the ink was dry on her diploma. It happened so quickly that most of their friends thought the wedding invitations were a practical joke. She was already working as a graphic designer at an Internet firm, and a friend had gotten Chŏngsu a job as a set designer for a movie producer. Yŏngsŏn's small-scale start-up company kept her busy, but Chŏngsu was even busier. He usually worked through the night. Movies were always produced on a tight schedule. Chŏngsu basically lived with his tool belt on. He'd pound away for days constructing an elaborate set only to bash it to pieces within hours. That was life: good work went completely unnoticed while carelessness was criticized ruthlessly. He had to put up with a lot of crap. Yŏngsŏn tended to think her husband's talents were going to waste, but she kept her opinion to herself.

And then, a week earlier, Chŏngsu had brought home some materials from the art supply store.

"What's all this?" she had asked.

"They need a corpse. The director told me it was time for me to live up to my reputation."

The company had started production on a movie about a serial killer. The screenplay called for five bodies, four of which would be actors in makeup. The remaining corpse was the responsibility of Chŏngsu's unit. They were to fix up a mannequin so it looked real. Chŏngsu slaved away. He mustered his five years of art school and the skills he'd picked up on the job, and put together a dead high school girl who looked so real it was creepy. Yŏngsŏn, of course, helped when she could. The high school uniform hugging the mannequin was her own. Yŏngsŏn and Chŏngsu still felt like newlyweds, and Yŏngsŏn was grateful for the time they spent [End Page 32] together the way they used to when they were students. Even if it was time spent over the mannequin of a dead girl.

"When's the director coming?"

"He just called—he'll be here any minute."

"Is he coming alone?"


"Isn't he married?"

"He used to be. His...