I want to see what he wanted to see

당신이 보고 싶었던 것을 보고 싶습니다.

Dear Seungman, I’m so sorry for this late reply. First of all, I just wanted to say thank you so much for the beautiful lyrics. I really wish I could face you with some soju shots and talk to you all night, but since I’m staying too far away from where you are, I’m just writing this loosey-goosey letter to you.

So the story begins with my dad, about 60 years ago from now. My dad lost his sight when he was 5, aftermath of the Korean War. He was abandoned by his family because of his handicap, but then he met an old guy who became my step-grandfather while he was bumming around streets and subways to survive. My step-grandfather took him and washed him, fed him, and gave him a place to live with a new family. My dad started studying what he could learn, such as acupuncture and massage. When he became around 30, he had a chance to tell his story on a radio show. Then a young girl who listened the radio visited him, decided to leave her family’s opposition but take care the rest of my father’s life. That’s my mother. They got married, but their marriage wasn’t blessed by others because most of their families disagreed with my father and mother’s decision. Only my grand father, his family, and few others were there for my parents.

Under such condition, I came out to this world. I remember me as a young kid, seeing my family going through a painful and tough life. My dad couldn’t make enough money to support our family, so my mom started to have many different jobs; newspaper delivery, milk delivery, housekeeper, and all of small jobs, if it pays a penny. I remember I was putting eyeballs on fabric dolls sitting next to my mom. We earned 1cent an eyeball. However, we were happy. My parents taught me well. They praise me for good things, they scolded me for bad things. I used to play soccer with my dad. We went to a playground near my house, holding our hands together. You may wonder how we played soccer together because he couldn’t see. I kicked the ball to right in front of him, then shouted, “The ball is coming!”, then he followed my voice, kicked the ball back to me. We really had fun. Since I always held his hands, everyone in the town knew about us. I really hated when people called my dad ‘blind’. If people made fun of him, I fought until I saw blood, but I couldn’t answer my mom asking why I had to fight with them because I knew my mom could get hurt just like I did.

When I was 9, I cried hard hugging my parents and asked, “How could I live alone if you all die?” I might have been lonely and scared at home alone because they always came home at midnight after their work. Then my younger brother was born next year. I struggled so hard to be a good brother to the little one. Since our family didn’t really have enough food to eat, I hid food as much as possible in my pockets when I got invited to some rich kids’ birthday party, such as fancy cookies, candies and feed my little brother. Every time my little brother cried at midnight before my parents came back from work, I carried him outside and cried together, then people in the town came out and yelled at us.

Several years passed, our family finally could own a house, ‘our own house’. I can’t even count how many times we had moved out from where we stayed, and how many times we were kicked out from places. However, thankfully, we had a chance to come to the new city called Bundang — a new town. We moved in to our ‘first’ house, and my mom opened a small restaurant in Seohyun with the money she had saved. The restaurant ran very well with full of many people. My mom’s new business had continued to thrive, and she deserved it. She was a hard worker, no doubt. I became a middle school student by that time and started to help her business as a server, and I started hanging out with my friends in the area, Seohyun station, becoming an ‘angry teenager’. I guess the relationship between my dad and me started going off wrong from that time period. Since I got older, and our family could live just like ordinary people with some $, there were many things came up that I wanted to do, and wished to have. However, my dad who lived in the dark for almost entire of his life, wasn’t able to understand how the world had been changed, what people and his son in that age wanted in the changing world. I guess that was the reason why we always had arguments. I was truly immature. When my dad scolded me, I fought back with nasty words that I wasn’t supposed to say. I couldn’t control my anger since I was young. I rushed into bathroom and kept punching the mirror until I see my fist bleeding. I ran away from home often, too. One night, after running away from home, I got drunk so bad and came to my mom’s restaurant. I was completely out of mind, even holding a cigarette, and lash out at her, “My life is never gonna be like you guys, never, ever!” My mom slapped my face for the first time in her life. She was crying. I went back to see myself, and asked what the heck you’re doing here.

After that happening, I started studying for a while. Then I fortunately could go to university, and could start taking photos because I met a guy we both know. And my life had changed. (I will skip this story because you know everything about the guy and me, right?) But the relationship with my dad and myself didn’t have any changes yet. It got even worse. Leaving that behind, I moved to the United States to study photography. It was really hard in the beginning. New country, new culture, new language, and new people made me lonely and frustrated everyday. I missed my mom, brother, and even my dad who I hated. At that time, there was an assignment called ‘Alias’ for one of my classes. My teacher told the class to become another person and take pictures with a different point of view. I could be a painter, musician, or just an ordinary person. Then I thought, ‘What if I become like my dad?’ I went to some places, closed my eyes, and took pictures by listening, smelling, touching, and feeling. I told the class about concept of the project showing my pictures. They truly liked it and got touched.

I came home and took a look of the pictures from my project again, then found what I have missed in my entire life. That was my dad, who lost his sight, who was not able to see anything in this beautiful world, but ironically, I was a photographer who could watch all of this beautiful world by using the eyes given by him. I could share the pictures with everyone but him. I’ve been missing the absurd-important truth in my whole life. Then I closed my eyes again just like when I was taking pictures for the project. I realized how it’s hard to be in the dark for just few minutes, the dark where my dad had been staying for over the 60 years. I should’ve understood him better, I’ve been so bad, and I was a jerk. I was such a foolish son.

I made a phone call that night and said to my dad, “Hey dad, I had a class today, and showed this assignment about you. My teacher and friends here truly loved it. And I just found what I’ve missed in my life. I may see more as a photographer because you can’t see. I know I never said like this to you, but just want to tell you that thanks for giving me these beautiful eyes. I, your son, see this beautiful world with the amazing gift from you, I really hope one day medicine will cure you and you’re able to see how beautiful my pictures are. So please live long, I love you.” I don’t know how I held back my sobs when I was saying that, I can’t even hold it now while I’m writing this letter. Anyways, the wall between him and me was collapsed after the incident. I still can’t act easy just like when I was young, but now I believe I’m taking a right position as his first son. My dad also counts on me even though he doesn’t really express that much. I think, I was the problem, and I was the key. Once I decided to make our family happy, we were happier. I think the story I wanted to share with you in this letter is pretty much it. I can’t wait to listen to the song you will write about my story. Thank you so much Seungman, Hope we can have some shots when I go back to Korea.

안녕하세요 승만씨. 답이 늦어 미안해요. 먼저 좋은 가사 써 주셔서 정말 감사하다는 말씀을 드리고 싶어요. 이런 이야기는 술 한잔 따라놓고 넋두리 하듯 슬슬 풀어나가면 참 좋은데, 거리가 거리인 만큼 이렇게라도 마음이 잘 전해졌으면 좋겠네요. 그냥 우리 그렇게 술 한잔 따라놓고 같이 이야기하는 것처럼 격식없이 형식없이 죽 써내려 갈게요.

이야기가 좀 전으로 거슬러 올라가요. 아버지는 한국전 후유증으로 다섯살때 시력을 잃으셨어요. 대가족에서 제 역할을 수행할 수 없었던 아버지는 부모형제들에 의해 버려졌고, 지하철로 거리로 돌아다니시며 구걸로 연명하셨어요. 그러던 중 제 양할아버지를 만나셨어요. 지금은 돌아가셨구요. 미국서 잠깐 들어오셨다가 아버지를 만난 양할아버지는 아버지를 데리고가서 씻기고 입히고 먹이고 또 함께 살 곳을 마련해주셨습니다. 그렇게 아버지는 양할아버지 밑에서 성장하셨구요. 침술이나 지압등 할 수 있는 일을 배우셨습니다. 성인이 되고 나이가 들어 아버지는 어느날 한 라디오 쇼에 나가셔서 본인의 기구한 사연을 이야기하시게 되요. 그리고 그 라디오를 들은 한 스무살 아가씨가 아버지를 찾아가고, 모든 가족의 반대속에 그를 지켜주기로 결심합니다. 그게 저희 어머니세요. 결혼식을 하기는 하셨는데, 지금 봐도 참 쓸쓸해요. 찬성하고 축복해주는 사람이 없었으니까요. 양할아버지와, 일부 가까운 사람들이 함께 해 주셨어요.

그렇게 제가 세상에 나왔고, 그 어린나이에도 불구하고 어린시절 참 힘들게 살았던 기억이 납니다. 아버지의 침술과 지압으로 생기는 돈으로는 세 가족이 살아나갈 수 없으니 어머니는 우유배달 신문배달 파출부일 당신이 할 수 있는 일이라는 일은 닥치는대로 하셨어요. 저도 엄마 옆에 앉아서 그 인형 눈 붙이는 일을 같이 했었던 기억이 나네요. 눈알 하나에 오원이었나, 십원이었나. 그래도 가족 사이는 참 좋았었어요. 가난해도 바른 교육을 받았고, 잘한일은 칭찬해 주셨고, 잘못한 일은 엄하게 벌하셨습니다. 아버지랑은 운동 같이 했던 기억이 많이 나요. 근처에 학교 운동장이 있었는데, 매일 저녁이면 아버지 손을 붙잡고가서 축구공 하나 놓고 몇시간씩 놀았던 기억이 납니다. 아버지가 못보시는데 어떻게 축구를 하냐구요. 아빠 발 근처로 제가 공을 차고, 공 간다고 소리지르면 아빠는 또 그 소리 따라서 공을 다시 차고. 그래도 그 시간이 참 재미있었어요. 그렇게 아빠 손잡고 많이 돌아다니니까. 동네 사람들이 다 알죠. 장님이라는 말이 그렇게 싫었어요. 동네 말썽꾸러기 형들이 너네 아빠 장님이지 놀려대서 무작정 달려들어 피투성이가 되게 싸운적도 많고. 너 왜 싸우고 왔냐하면 엄마 아빠한테는 말도 못하고.

제가 여덟살 때 엄마 아빠를 붙잡고 울면서 그랬대요. 엄마 아빠 다 죽으면 나 누구랑 사냐고. 어머니 아버지가 매번 일하다 새벽에 들어오시니 무서웠나봐요. 그리고 그 다음해에 동생이 생겼어요. 전 동생 정말 업어서 키웠어요. 정말 먹을게 넉넉치가 않아서, 조금 잘 사는 친구들 생일파티에 가면 과자들 사탕들 맛있는거 있잖아요. 그거 친구들 눈치보며 잠바주머니에 여기저기 숨겨와서 동생 주고 그랬어요. 새벽에 엄마아빠 다 일나간 사이에 동생이 울면 같이 울다가 무서워서 그놈 업고 동네 나가서 같이 울고 있다가 동네 아줌마들한테 혼나고.

그리고 몇 해가 지나지 않아 저희 가족, 처음으로 우리집이라는 것을 갖게 되었습니다. 이사를 얼마나 다녔는지 정말 셀수도 없는데, 정말 감사하게도 분당 신도시 막 새로 들어설때 저희도 함께 들어올 수 있는 기회를 얻게 되었어요. 처음 가져보는 우리집으로 이사를 하고, 어머니는 그동안 꾸준히 모은 돈으로 서현역에 작은 분식집을 하나 내셨고, 가게는 매일매일 사람들로 붐볐습니다. 하루가 다르게 가게는 성장했고, 승승장구 하셨어요. 그럴자격 있는 분이셨구요. 그동안 너무 고생만 하셨으니까. 중학생이 된 저도 나가서 일을 도왔고, 저와 제 친구들은 가게와 그때 막 발전하기 시작한 서현역을 우리 놀이터 마냥 들락거리며, 우리의 엇나간 청소년기를 시작했습니다. 저와 아버지와의 사이가 틀어진 것은 아마 그 시점부터였던 것 같아요. 반항기 가득한 시기에, 이제 좀 남들처럼 살게 되었으니 하고 싶은 일들이 많이 생겼고, 바라는 것들이 많아졌던 것 같습니다. 머리가 큰거죠. 그리고 그렇게 수십년을 어둠속에서 힘겹게 지내신 아버지는 세상이 어떻게 바뀌었는지, 그렇게 바뀐 세상에서 일반사람들이, 그리고 그 시기의 당신의 아들이 바라는 것이 무엇인지 이해하시는 것이 불가능했던거죠. 지금 생각해 보면 그게 원인이었던것 같아요. 참 많이 싸웠어요. 정말 철이 없었죠. 아버지가 혼내면 바락바락 대들고 못할 말 하고. 화가 나는데 풀수가 없으니 매번 화장실 들어가서 애꿎은 거울깨고 손에서는 매번 피나고. 집 나가고. 어느날 저녁 그렇게 집 나갔다가 술에 떡이되서 가게로 찾아갔어요. 인사불성이 되서 담배까지 꼬나문채로. 난 당신들처럼 안 살거라고, 절대로 그렇게는 안될거라고 악을 쓰다가 엄마한테 태어나서 첨으로 뺨을 맞았어요. 엄마는 울고 있었고. 정신이 확 들대요. 내가 지금 뭐하는건가.

정신을 차리고 잠깐 책을 잡아 어찌어찌 정말 운좋게 대학을 왔고, 승만씨 아시는 것처럼 승만씨 선배 그분 만나서 사진을 시작했고. 인생이 바뀌었죠. (이 부분은 승만씨도 아는 내용이니까, 생략해도 괜찮지요?) 하지만 아버지와의 관계는 바뀌지 않았습니다. 오히려 더 나빠졌어요. 그리고 4년전 미국으로 유학을 왔습니다. 초반에 진짜 힘들었어요. 처음 나와보는 외국에 낯선 문화에 언어에 사람들에 마음은 황폐해지고 외롭고 죽겠고, 엄마랑 동생은 물론이거니와 그 미운 아버지마저도 보고싶고. 첫 학기 수업때 ‘Alias’ 라는 과제가 있었어요. 다른 사람이 되어 사진을 찍어오래요. 다른 작가도 좋고 그냥 다른 사람도 좋고. 곰곰이 생각을 하다가, 한번 아버지가 되어보자라는 생각을 했어요. 장소에 가서, 눈을 감고 냄새를 맡고 듣고 만지고 느끼며 사진을 찍었어요. 진짜 힘들대요. 인화한 흑백 프린트들을 앞에 깔아놓고 선생님과 친구들한테 프로젝트의 배경과 결과를 들려주니 참 좋아하더라구요. 감동했다는 놈들도 있고. 집에와서 그 사진들을 놓고 가만히 보고 있으니까 참 웃기더라구요. 감사하고. 우리 아버지는 이렇게 태어나서 지금까지 세상 아름다운거 하나 못 보고 사는데, 나는 사진작가구나, 나는 당신께 선물받은 이 두 눈으로 이 세상 좋은거 예쁜거 이렇게 전부 보고 살고 또 당신을 제외한 사람들이랑 나누는구나. 그 웃기고 거지같은 사실을 지금까지 몰랐던 거예요. 나는 이렇게 잠깐만 깜깜해도 힘든데, 당신은 그렇게 평생을 살았는데, 내가 이해했어야 했는데, 내가 진짜 나쁜 새끼구나.

그날 저녁 아버지한테 전화를 했어요. 사실 어색해서 전화통화도 그리 안하는데. 학교에 이러이러한 수업이 있었다. 이런 과제를 했고, 이곳 친구들도 선생님도 너무 좋아했다. 그런데 생각해보니까 참 웃기더라. 아마도 아버지가 못 보니까 아버지 몫 만큼 내가 더 보는가보다. 진짜 태어나서 이런 이야기 한번도 안했는데, 나한테 이렇게 예쁜 눈을 주셔서 너무 고맙다고. 내가 이렇게 세상을 예쁘게 보고 있으니 과학이 발달해서 당신도 꼭 언젠가 내 사진 볼 수 있게 되는 날이 오면 좋겠다고. 그러니까 제발 오래오래 사시라고. 사랑한다고. 전화기 너머로 말을 하는데 아 진짜 먹먹한거 터져나오는거 어떻게 참았는지 몰라요. 지금 글 쓰는데도 이렇게 차오르는데. 여튼 그렇게 오랜시간 쌓아왔던 담이 무너진 거예요. 어린 시절 아이처럼 살갑지는 못해도, 이제는 아버지의 든든한 장남으로 제 역할을 수행할 수 있게 된 것 같아요. 아버지도 말은 안하셔도 저 많이 의지하시는 눈치구요. 제가 문제였던거고, 또 제가 열쇠였던 것 같아요. 내가 우리가족을 행복하게 만들어야겠다고 마음먹은 순간부터 행복해지기 시작했으니까요. 그럼 좋은 노래 부탁해요 승만씨. 우리 한국 가면 꼭 따뜻한 술 한잔 하구요.

June Korea is a New York based visual artist who uses photography as a bridge to invite viewers to his constructed fantasies. He is a member of K/reate New York. http://www.junekorea.com

K/REATE is the professional association for art founded by members of the Korean who are working in Creative fields. We are based on Seoul, London and New York. Our members are Artists, Designers, Dancers, Musicians and so on. Regardless of these awesome back grounds, we will think and suggest creative solutions for social issues and help our students in the name of K/REATE.

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