You can’t live in an apartment because you don’t have enough money. You have only two pairs of shoes, and you just leave those on the floor because there isn’t enough money to buy a shoe rack. You must wait for a long time until the warm water comes out of the tap, and you rely on only two desk lamps to save on the electricity bill. If your niece plans to live at your home for a month, and if she mentions your poverty repeatedly, will you pretend to live affluently? Or will you show that a poor person also can live well?
Today I will introduce the book, The Winter Vacation. It’s a collection of ten short pieces written by Choi Jin Young. I will deal with the most impressive story, The Winter Vacation.
These days, not only in Korea but also around the world, the gap between the rich and the poor is serious. The middle class is becoming poor, and the poor are becoming poorer. Income inequality of Korea is not good. According to Professor Kim Nak Nyeon, the top 10% of people account for about 45% of total income, and the top 1% of people account for about 12-13%. Since the big hit, ‘Squid Game’, and ‘Parasite’, the movie that swept all the awards are about the gap between the rich and poor, we cannot see the situation is improving.
Since the topic and background of The Winter Vacation is the gap between the rich and poor, I would like to talk about the content of the book. The main character ‘Ina’ stays at her aunt’s house for a month because of family circumstances. Ina doesn’t like this because there is no playground or nursery near the house, and the situation is too small compared to Ina’s old house which had three refrigerators and more than ten pairs of shoes. Ina bluntly starts a conversation with her aunt about the households and neighborhoods and uses poverty as a subject. The aunt who has lived poorly but not inconveniently thinks about poverty for the first time since living with Ina. The aunt doesn’t want Ina to learn about poverty from her, so she quits working as a freelancer, and starts cooking and playing a board game with Ina to make her realize that she can be happy although she is poor. And after a while, when Ina says that she wants to learn the piano, aunt immediately enrolls in the academy, saying she also wants to learn the piano. With that memory as the last thing, Ina, who became an adult, thinks about whether the aunt really wants to learn the piano, and the story ends with Ina reflecting on herself.
This story reveals the aunt’s poverty frequently through the main character Ina’s youth and naivety. Not asking about poverty maliciously but asking with the curiosity and pureness of children what is poverty, and why my aunt is poor unlike me. The Winter Vacation keeps readers guessing about what the message is the aunt wants to deliver constantly without mentioning directly. Is what the aunt is trying to convey a lesson that she can live well even if she is poor, or is it the fact that she is living uncomfortably because she is poor? I think she wants to give a lesson that she can live well even if she is poor. If Ina talks about the poor housing conditions, aunt says that she is okay even if she is poor and tries to replace things immediately that Ina points out. Through this, we can guess that, if possible, her aunt doesn’t reveal her poverty in front of Ina, but she wants to tell Ina that poverty is not a shame. Now, I would like to ask two questions to readers. If you were Ina’s aunt, would you have gone to learn the piano with Ina as she wanted, or would you have played another game after telling her that you had no money to learn the piano? At last, if you were poor, would you deceive everyone that you pretending you live well, or would you show that you can live well even if you are poor?
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