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  • Excerpt from Ch’a Sang-mun, the Genius Rabbit
  • Kim Nam-il (bio)
    Translated by Jeon Seung-Hee (bio)


Skipping to the end, Yu Chin-suk survived after drinking 98% pure lye.

Even ordinary people, who know nothing at all about the molecular formula of lye, know that, starting with your throat, your inner organs begin to erode if you drink lye after mixing it with much less water than than you would mix for laundry. Nevertheless, Yu Chin-suk got better after a single gastric irrigation. The doctor who treated her couldn’t believe the result of his treatment and became famous overnight. Ten years later, aided by a little bit of financial support from his in-laws, he built a thirty-bed hospital in Taegu.

An even greater fortune befell the midwife. When the parturient young woman staggered in, nearly collapsing as she entered the clinic in the middle of that stormy winter night, the midwife had no idea what enormous fortune—the kind she could never even dream of—that pregnant woman would end up bringing her. At that time, even the midwife’s dreams were incredibly pathetic: a dog, or chicken, or mouse often leaping up at her and causing her spoon full of rice to drop and spill all over the floor. A good dream for her was when she was able to actually pick up and eat the grains of rice off the floor. [End Page 225]

At first, she had been annoyed by the bell that woke her up from her recent sleep. After waking up and rubbing her eyes hard as she came to, the midwife was shocked to find the pregnant woman in front of her, shocked more because she looked as if she were about to collapse from the cold rather than the labor pains. The midwife remembered thinking that if she didn’t take care of her right away, the pregnant woman would end up becoming an unnecessary burden. Although she had begun to work as a midwife after she had lost her husband at twenty-two, only a young woman then, one who had never even felt like vomiting, let alone being nauseated and pregnant, she had never seen a pregnant woman crawl into her clinic alone and in such bad shape.

As expected, the woman threw a huge tantrum—almost pulling all the hair out of the midwife’s already thinning scalp—until her water broke and she began to dilate. Because she wasn’t simply going to tolerate this behavior, even if she was a midwife, she hurled all the curses she knew at the woman. She called her a “bitch” and a “fucking beggar.” Their hand-to-hand battle would have made a great spectacle if it had been captured on a CCTV or a camera phone and circulated as it could have today. There was no doubt that their fight got pretty bad. The midwife even bit the pregnant woman’s arm.

By comparison, the actual birth was quick and easy—almost too quick and easy.

“My God!” was all the midwife could say, not because she hadn’t had any formal education, but because she had no words to describe what it was she saw.

For some reason, the first thing that came out of the mother’s body, out of the reek of lye and the gouts of blood, was neither head nor feet, but ears. Additionally, the ears were quite long, certainly as long as this extremely experienced midwife had ever seen. Among all the animals these ears might have belonged to, they could have belonged to none other than the humble rabbit. And—goodness! They did belong to a rabbit! Although [End Page 226] the midwife felt more and more shocked with every breath she took, she still accomplished her mission by mobilizing all of her available skills to deliver the child.

After she washed the baby with warm water—the baby was bright blue because it had just been born—a white rabbit, as white as a newly steamed rice-cake, appeared. It was much later when she was slyly bragging about her skills, feigning complaining, that she...


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pp. 225-248
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