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  • From Tokyo to Seoul (Tonggyŏng esŏ Kyŏngsŏng kkaji, 1917)1
  • Yi Kwang-su
    Translated by Ellie Choi (bio)

First Letter

I didn't feel good about the way I left you at the train station just now. You stood by on the platform waving your handkerchief until you could no longer see me, and I felt my eyes moisten. This shouldn't surprise me. How could we not be sad when you and I are like two halves of a whole, when I used to say you were the only one who truly understood me and I was the only one who truly understood you? I'm also distressed about leaving you when you're not in good health. Little brother (同生), please don't call me heartless (mujŏng). Of course I want to stay with you and comfort you, but we aren't people driven only by our emotions. It's our lot in life to be separated by great distances, shedding tears, but no matter when or where I go, I'll think of you. Every time I encounter anything interesting on my journey I'll share it with you, so please take comfort in this.

Second Letter

It's peak rice-planting season. Farmers in reed hats are bending their backs as they transplant rice stalks under the gently [End Page 337] falling rain. Of course for them this is a pretty busy time, but to someone like me observing from a distance, they look idyllic. I can even imagine throwing everything away and becoming a farmer just like them. But the more I think about it, this isn't a time for people like us to be concerned with our own fun and comfort.

I couldn't tell in Tokyo if spring had gone and summer had arrived, but outside the city it's obvious that summer is well under way. From time to time you should also go outside to play and be close to great nature. When you get in touch with nature, not only will your heart feel open and refreshed, and you'll be able to forget all the small and petty things of this world, but you'll surely be able to appreciate life's joys. That you're alive, you're growing, you're flourishing, you're productive—not only the individual, but the whole minjok will realize with conviction that this is the way to live. Little brother, please live with vigor, hope, and energy.

Third Letter

The panting of the locomotive becomes more and more pronounced as we pass Kōzu. The clear, beautiful ocean with its calm waters begins to disappear but in its stead the mountains gradually come into view.

The green mountains, washed clean by the summer rains, are swathed in twilight mists that seem to come from deep within the hills. The mists float as if emerging from the earth, from the luxuriant foliage, and even from the hidden spaces between boulders. And from the bottom of the mountains a stream looks very happy as it trickles down, creating little shoals. I can't believe how beautiful it is set against the verdant mountains.

The surrounding scenery is completely steeped in twilight, and incomparably deep and warm. In its midst, our train laboriously makes its way up towards Gotenba Station in the Hakone Mountains. From Yamagita Station—famous for its silver trout—two locomotive engines front and back pull and push us up the mountain at such a slow pace that we could jump off: with one roar [End Page 338] we are over the railway bridge, and with another, through a tunnel. After we pass one tunnel, we approach another, and after one bridge, another. This area has the most tunnels in the whole Eastern Coastal Railway system. Coal fumes fill the railway car. Passengers hold their handkerchiefs over their noses and breathe, thinking that this area is made up entirely of tunnels, but if you really think about it there are actually more open spaces. Even before you can say there are tunnels everywhere, we are passing by all the caves and the huge Fuji Textile Corporation factory that...


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pp. 337-346
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