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  • A/pple (Ningo)
  • Chong Ch'u-wŏl
    Translated by Catherine Ryu (bio)

Munching on the flesh of an appleIts blood dribbles downHow translucent it is!

Apple-turned-A/ppleIn    Mother's speech, also yieldingHail to the Amida B/uddhaHAILHail to the Amida B/uddhaHer throat suffused with the words of the sutraTheir lingering sounds pausing and swirling around the tongueToward the stomach, not quite the size of a fistMelting. Descending. The exquisite flavor of the Japanese languageAlong the littered canal, boiling over pungentlyIn the intestine-boiling streetsMother—a street vendor, under a shade—Hunched over, her chest folded in, isAn appleOne mound,    one hundred yen

Buy some, won't you please [End Page 425]

Supplementary Note

Ringo [apples] are called "saguwa" or "nungun."

Saguwa refer to cultivated apples—that is to say, an outcome of human attempts to enhance the fruit's quality—whereas nungun point to small-sized apples growing naturally in fields and mountains. Such a clear differentiation between the two is lodged in the memories of the homeland. These memories have become infused with those of the pain and hardship experienced by Zainichi people over the years. The elegant Japanese language bursting forth from the mouths of first-generation Zainichi is at times surpassed by this nungun.

Ringo is in fact Ningo.

It is not the ringo from the ra-column of the hiragana syllabary. Rather it is ningo, constituted from the na column's na-ni-nu-ne-no.

Now that the ningo's remaining life, that unyielding force of a fortress, is about to ebb away, I harbor a feeling of infinite longing for the delectable and delicate shades of the word ningo.

I, a second-generation Zainichi, possess absolutely no recollections of having tasted either the sourness or the sweetness of small apples passing through the back of the throat—those nungun that naturally grow in the fields and mountains of Chōsen [Korea]. In Japan, there are, in fact, no nungun.


The flavor of ningo can only be surmised by eating a Western apple called saguwa. It is, however, a flavor that has gained translucency from passing through the corporeal body of the Chōsen people who came from across the sea, that first generation in its old age with nothing left to do at this point but to fade away—and that flavor is one of translucent passion. [End Page 426]

Catherine Ryu

Catherine Ryu is an associate professor of Japanese literature and culture at Michigan State University. Her research and teaching interests include classical Japanese literature, Heian narratives, game studies, children's literature, graphic narratives, second language studies, digital humanities, and Zainichi studies. She served as program chair for the International Zainichi Symposium on "The Poetics of Passing: Interrogating Self-Fashioning as the Other in Zainichi Cultural Production" (2018) held at Michigan State University.