Saturday, January 15, 2011
Difference Between Cutting and Untying
He worked around the Seoul train station, delivering Chinese's noodles with bean sauce. Since the young man never attended school, he made many mistakes, lost his job and was never paid. During his five years in Seoul, he worked at many jobs: washing dishes, cleaning kitchens, picking up trash. He found it difficult to keep a job no matter how hard he tried.
It was time, he thought, to return to the country, his nostalgia for home overcoming the fear of his father. The house was no longer there; his mother had died and his brothers and sisters were in an orphanage. His father's whereabouts unknown. He returned to Seoul.
All his efforts to find work were unsuccessful. He was not very adept at judging others and was taken advantage of by many. The problems were too much for him and he tried to alleviate the pain of loneliness with alcohol.
He was treated like a dog. He was called every name you can imagine and finally because of drink ended up at the charity hospital. He was quickly given an entry to the hospital as a patient for life. On his visits to the hospital, the doctor would give him a look of displeasure every time he appeared and would not say a word on his departure, but there was great love shown to the young man which Mr. Kim did not return. This began to change over the years, and he gave up drinking and started getting work. No longer drinking even brought back some hearing to his right ear, and he was outfitted with a hearing aid that allowed him to relate to others. With the first 20 dollars he earned, he wrote a thank you note to the doctor, with a scribble: "Thank you, I will not drink anymore."
Everyone who remembered the old Kim commented on the change, and many thought he would make a good subject for a documentary on what could happen to a "loser." But it was not to be; the doctor suddenly died. Shortly after, the pharmacist heard that Kim committed suicide.
The pharmacist ends the story with an incident that happened when he received a package that was tied with string. He looked for some scissors to the cut the string, but the doctor, who happened to be present, told him you don't cut string; you untie it so you can use it again. If you cut, said the doctor, it goes into the wastebasket. The pharmacist compares this untying of the package with Kim's dealing with the difficult 'package' of his life that was bound up with many knots. He was not able to disentangle himself from what bound him, said the pharmacist. The knots were too many and too difficult. The doctor had done his best to untie those knots but after the doctor's death, Mr. Kim was not able to continue the work of disentangling, and felt the only option left was to cut. If he had found someone who cared about him, like the doctor who attended him in the hospital, the end may have been different.