다음에 또 만나요
See You Again. Soon
The next day, Jung Yonghwa went to the Xiah Dragon Restaurant with his guitar for his job there as a musician. He actually did not work there for the money; he just liked the feeling of standing on a platform—no matter how small. This job was routine for him for the past year; there was nothing special about today. Yet something was different. For the first time in a while, he had someone in his thoughts—Seohyun. Since he lived in a small close-knit community in the suburbs, he never expected to meet a new girl with a refined Seoul accent listening to him sing from outside their sweet potato farm. Apparently, she is the Kwons’ cousin. Will she be staying just for the summer? Will she stay longer? Those were just a few things that he was slightly curious about, for he knew that it has been a long time since the Kwon family had visitors from Seoul. He faintly remembers meeting one of the Kwon’s cousins back when he was little, but that was so long ago that he no longer remembers that time.
“Ah, one, two, three…”
On the small platform stood a petite young lady checking the sound of the microphones. She had short black hair and an adorable pretty face that made her look younger than her real age. Ironically, when she talks, she sounds like an old lady with a strong Jeolla Province accent, confusing everyone who meets her for the first time. This uniquely strange girl was named Kim Taeyeon, and her family owns this restaurant. Yonghwa found her cute when he first met her, but first impressions are always deceiving. The further he got acquainted with her, the more oddly questionable qualities about her were revealed. First of all, she was from Jeolla Province, and as the old folks around here say, “nothing good ever comes from that place.” She was just very strange—sometimes not in a good way, yet sometimes also in a good way. But then again, most girls have always been strange, just like that new girl she met last night…
 Jeolla Province (전라도) and Gyeongsang Province (경상도) (where Busan is located) have always rivaled and despised each other all throughout Korean history.
“Yonghwa-ssi, proceed to your guitar set-up please!” she ordered in a formal manner even though she and Yonghwa are the same age and have known each other for about two years. Yonghwa obeyed her without a word and began to tune his guitar to the proper pitch.
When all preparations were set, Taeyeon lit up the neon sign, and the Xiah Dragon Restaurant was opened for business. It has only been about a year and a half since this newly refurbished restaurant opened, and yet their little business was steadily gaining attention—not just among the local folk but also among Korean and foreign soldiers stationed around the area. Although the restaurant has only opened recently, the Xiah Dragon Restaurant was originally a drinking tavern called Izakaya Ryujin built in the early 1920’s by a Japanese businessman. Japanese land owners situated near the area used to spend time in this previously known bar to have drinks and to smoke tobacco late into the night. After the Korea was liberated from Japanese Rule in 1945, the place was abandoned until Taeyeon’s father, a nobleman from Jeonju, decided to refurbish the place and turn it into a low-cost diner that served top quality Korean cuisine. Although previously the poor Korean farmers would dare not to step into any of those Japanese bars, the newly refurbished restaurant attracted a lot of the nearby residents because the food was affordable, the atmosphere was one of a kind, and the local musicians were gaining a bit of popularity through it.
 An izakaya (居酒屋) is a Japanese drinking tavern/saloon; Ryujin (龍神) means ‘dragon god’ in Japanese.
“Where were you the other night by the way?” Yonghwa asked, his thoughts drifted off from Seohyun for the moment.
“Why?” Taeyeon seemed surprised by his question.
“What do you mean ‘why?’? You basically ditched your shift for the third night in a row,” Yonghwa told her.
“It’s the third time I shirked but the first time you asked,” Taeyeon replied in a soft, low voice, avoiding the answer she was supposed to give. “You never talked to your friends or anyone for a whole year and that’s the first thing you say to me? Why do you care all of a sudden? Did you miss me, Yonghwa-ssi?”
Yonghwa stood there dumbfounded. “No,” he coyly said. “They were extending my work shifts because of you.” He tried to make his words sound selfish but they sounded more like he was embarrassed and defeated.
“Good. You get more pocket money for the upcoming school year then,” Taeyeon said with a smirk directed at him. Yonghwa just could not smile back at her, even though she had a cute dimpled chin.
Further deviating from the topic, Taeyeon asked, “I heard you have new neighbors. I’m assuming you haven’t even met them.”
“I met Jun Hyung and Yuri’s cousin last night.” Yonghwa’s thoughts drifted back to Seohyun and that picturesque moonlit night. Her slender feminine figure under the dim luminescence made the scene appear to be something out of a mystical fairytale. He has never seen anything look remarkably radiant and mysterious amongst the shadows of a calm, desolate night. And when she spoke to him, nothing made sense. It was as if she spoke in riddles and in tongues of angels. Sweet potatoes. It was something as simple as sweet potatoes. As puzzled as he was in that moment, replaying the memory exaggerated the scene even more.
“Oh, you did?” Taeyeon found his statement hard to believe.
About a week later: September 1947
“Class, this is Lee Jonghyun, and he’s a transfer student from Seoul. Treat him well,” the old school teacher announced as he lightly patted Jonghyun on the back. The new student just gawkily smiled at everyone in the little rundown classroom. Then the teacher turned to him and continued, “You may sit over there—on the empty seat at the third row.”
After the summer break, Jonghyun and his sister Seohyun enrolled at the local high schools. Jonghyun was not particularly excited about it since he barely knew anyone had to make all new friends again. Besides, in a close-nit high school like this, everyone probably already knew each other from the previous semester to even bother being friends with him.
“I hope I see Minhyuk and Jungshin in school today,” he grumbled to himself as he walked toward his designated seat. “Where could their classroom be?”
Since Seohyun and Jonghyun were still new to a lot of things, Yuri introduced them to some of the residents during summer vacation. Apparently, she knew just about everyone who lived nearby. Among the people she introduced, Jonghyun became quite fond of Kang Minhyuk and Lee Jungshin. Kang Minhyuk was an impressive lad, and Jonghyun really admired him even from the moment they met. He was about six feet tall and had a thick fringe that hung right above his adorable slit eyes. Minhyuk’s darling, smiling eyes and gentle disposition was just so appealing that Jonghyun knew he would get along very well with this boy. The lad was being trained to be a luthier by his father even at a young age. He often helped out with their small family business—making and selling musical instruments for a living. Minhyuk also introduced Jonghyun to his friend named Lee Jungshin, another really tall yet goofy young man from Minhyuk’s class. Although the lad’s height was towering over his own peers, he was definitely more childish. At first he was quiet and shy but as time passed, his true colors began to show. He began to tell really strange stories and jokes that kept Jonghyun entertained even days after Jungshin had told them. With Jungshin around, they always had a good time. He also lived nearby at the vintage photography studio, and helped his father develop photographs in their small black room, which Jonghyun found very fascinating. The three of them hung out almost every day for the rest of summer vacation. Jonghyun also found out that Minhyuk and Jungshin will also be attending the same high school, but unfortunately since they were both freshmen and Jonghyun was in his second year, Jonghyun still felt lonely.
Later, after what seemed like an endless stream of boring class lectures, the school bell rang. It was time for lunch. Everyone immediately headed out of the dreary classroom to go about their own businesses while the lost Jonghyun really had no idea where to go. He was new to the place; the divergent halls still confused him. So there he was standing awkwardly, not knowing what to do.
“Jonghyun Hyung!” he suddenly heard someone call out to him while he was awkwardly trailing behind the other students down the hall. When he turned around, there he saw Minhyuk and Jungshin, grinning widely as they were heading toward Jonghyun. “Let’s go eat lunch together!”
With a sigh of relief, Jonghyun hung his arm around Minhyuk’s and Jungshin’s broad shoulders and walked with them to the school cafeteria. The cafeteria was definitely a lot livelier than his previous high school in Seoul. The students all noisily enjoyed their meals and hung with their clicks at their own respective lunch tables. While eating his kimbap roll, Jonghyun saw a familiar guy sitting all alone at the table next to theirs. The guy looked like he was in deep thought; he was not even touching his food. Jonghyun could not help but notice the guy.
“Hey, isn’t that the guy singing at the Xiah restaurant?” Jonghyun asked Minhyuk and Jungshin.
“Yup, that’s Yonghwa Hyung,” Jungshin said, looking over at Yonghwa’s direction. “He, Minhyuk, and I used to always hang out together, but he just hasn’t showed any heart for anything recently. He even refuses to talk. Now he’s nothing but a loner. We’ve tried asking him to sit with us here at the table, but he just says he wants to be alone. He wasn’t like that back then. He was actually one of the most fun and outgoing people I know.”
“What happened to him?” Jonghyun asked.
“Everyone suspects that he has family issues,” Minhyuk simply said. “He doesn’t like talking about it, so we’re not entirely sure about the details.”
Later in the afternoon when school was done for the day, Jonghyun went out to the school grounds to wait for his ride home. Yuri told him and Seohyun earlier that Jun will come with their huge truck and give them a ride so they should not have to worry about going home. Right on time, a young girl with long black hair standing by the front gate of the school was waving her hand at Jonghyun’s direction. It was Seohyun. And she was not alone; there was someone else waiting out by the gate with her.
Seohyun’s day went a lot like Jonghyun’s. She entered school, was introduced to everyone as transfer student from Seoul, and did not know anyone in her class at all. Despite that, she diligently paid attention to her classes, made perfect remarks to questions, and aced short quizzes and activities. She was such a genius that some even began to gossip. Other students began to think she was a prim, snotty know-it-all who thought she was better than everyone else because she was from Seoul. In reality, Seohyun just felt so out of place. By lunch, Seohyun ate with Yuri and her friends from upper classes. Yoona, one of Yuri’s good friends, became really attached to Seohyun. (Yoona was the waitress they met at the family-run Xiah Dragon Restaurant.) As a freshman two years younger than everyone else, Seohyun also felt slightly out of place amongst Yuri’s friends who were all mostly of the same age. Seeing that Seohyun was eating quietly, Yoona sat close to her and kept her entertained. Seohyun was obviously pleased by this, because she loved being cared for by eonnis. Yoona also liked having Seohyun around because she was not the youngest among their group of friends anymore. Even after school, Seohyun and Yoona stuck with each other while waiting for the boys’ classes to finish.
“Jonghyun Oppa!” Seohyun exclaimed when she saw her brother.
“Hey, isn’t that your brother?” Yoona asked and pointed to the foreign-looking young man with pale skin and a cold, apathetic gaze that immediately lit up to a bright, charming smile upon taking notice of Seohyun.
“He’s good-looking,” Yoona said with a giggle. “It makes sense because you’re also very pretty, Seohyun.”
When Jonghyun got to the gate, he stood there with dilated pupils. Im Yoona, the pretty, young waitress he met at the Xiah Dragon Restaurant was holding hands with his sister and smiling widely friendlily at him. She looked different wearing her school uniform and not her red apron. She seemed like a very fun and lovely girl just by the way she showed her pearly whites.
“It’s very nice to see you again, Jonghyun-ssi,” she addressed him formally.
Jonghyun coyly grinned and said, “Please just call me Jonghyun.”
“You’re both the same age so you should feel free to talk comfortably to each other,” Seohyun told them.
“Sure, I’ll just call you Jonghyun then,” Yoona said, her bright, lively aura radiating out of her. “Let’s be good friends!”
When Minhyuk and Jungshin arrived at the gate, they all got ready to head to the truck, but something else caught Seohyun’s attention.
“Oh hey, isn’t that Yonghwa Oppa? Yonghwa Oppa!” she called out.
“You know him?” Yoona asked, quite surprised.
“I only really met him once that one night…,” Seohyun explained.
Yonghwa, who was minding his business, unchaining his bicycle, heard Seohyun calling out to him. What in the world…? he thought as he looked up toward the school gate. Isn’t that Yuri and Jun Hyung’s cousin? He slowly made his way toward the gate with his bicycle to meet the lass. Compared to the night they first met, Seohyun just appeared to be a normal teenage lass with her school uniform on; yet her sincere, round eyes and soft facial features under the bright sunlight was just as captivating. She may be unknowingly tormenting him with social burdens, but she sure did seem angel-like while doing so.
“Oh, hello Seohyun,” he greeted with a slightly flabbergasted expression on his face.
“It’s been a while. We’re neighbors but I rarely see you. Would you like to ride the truck home with us? I mean, you do live nearby,” Seohyun asked, trying to be nice—completely oblivious to the bewilderment in everyone else’s face when she called out to the so-called loner.
“No thank you, I’ll just ride my bike,” he stiffly replied, noticing everyone else waiting for his answer. He was not sure what they expect from him, but after ignoring his friends for about a year, he just did not feel comfortable around them at all, especially after Taeyeon’s backlash a week ago.
“It’s a huge truck though. Your bike could fit at the back. And home is a bit far by bicycle.” Seohyun’s bright, sincere eyes made it difficult for him to refuse. It seemed like she genuinely cared about him when she gave him the offer. Who could refuse such a kind heart? He did not want to seem cold to her after she tried so hard to be nice. It would not be fair to her if he ignored her too for no appropriate reason. So finally, he agreed to go with them.
The truck looked like one of those huge metal hunks of junk used for shipping farm goods, except the long back body was fitted with two long seats on each side. About ten people can fit there, not counting the passenger seat beside the driver. There were a few passengers already seated in the truck—among them was Yuri and three other people that Yuri had introduced to them during the past week: Yoona’s cousins Kim Taeyeon and Kim Hyoyeon, and Minhyuk’s older sister Sunny. All of them rode the truck with Yonghwa’s bike was right in the middle.
“Oh, Yonghwa, you’re here,” Taeyeon said upon seeing Yonghwa. None of them expected to have him join their ride. “I thought you wanted to ride your bike, for, you know, some peace and quiet?”
He used to ride home with them since they have been neighbors for such a long time. Nowadays, he just preferred to be alone with his bicycle. Yonghwa just looked at the girls sitting in the truck and shrugged. “Is there a problem?”
“Nope,” Taeyeon bit her lip. Then she mumbled to Sunny and Hyoyeon, “This is very strange…”
Throughout the whole ride, the girls cracked a bunch of stupid jokes—some even cornier than others, making the whole truck shake with the teenagers’ laughter. Yonghwa ignored them all though. He wanted to sit beside Seohyun, but her brother purposely sat between them, separating them from each other like the wooden fence on the night they first met.
Meanwhile, Jonghyun’s mind was filled with nothing but his growing infatuation for Yoona. He laughed at all her dumb jokes and focused on her whenever she talked. Yoona, however, was oblivious of his double effort. She was naturally friendly to everyone, giving him the impression that he was nothing but a socially awkward nobody.
When it was time to drop off Yoona and her cousins at the house right beside the Xiah Dragon Noodles, they waved them all goodbye. Minhyuk and his sister got off as well, since their house was also in the same block. Now Yonghwa was left with Seohyun’s family and that lad Jungshin who he knew would eventually say something embarrassing to make this situation worse.
“Hyung, it’s nice to see you riding with us again,” Jungshin greeted Yonghwa with a big wide mischievous smile as he sat right across the guy.
“Uh, yeah, whatever,” Yonghwa said without any eye contact.
“You used to ride with them?” Seohyun innocently asked Yonghwa. Her eyes were wide and twinkled with so much interest that he could not help but just hesitantly admit it.
After a few more blocks, Jungshin also got off the truck. Now Yonghwa was left alone with the two Kwon siblings and their Lee cousins from Seoul.
Nobody spoke at all as they drove deeper into the countryside part of town. To ease the tension, Seohyun whispered to her brother, “Have you both introduced yourselves to each other? If you haven’t you should.”
After being irked by his sister, Jonghyun finally said in a very half-hearted tone, “I’m Lee Jonghyun, Seohyun’s brother.”
“I’m Jung Yonghwa,” Yonghwa awkwardly introduced himself as well.
For a few moments, Yonghwa just sat there with Jonghyun between him and Seohyun, without a single word. All of them felt the rather stale air. The two Lees were not social butterflies at all; in fact she and her brother were more like social cockroaches, which were not very social at all. Yuri, on the other hand, was just as uncomfortable about the whole situation. Yonghwa did not bother to talk much either. And so they just kept their mouths shut the whole time, waiting for someone to speak up.
Suddenly, Seohyun broke the silence asking, “Um, how are the sweet potatoes?”
Once again, Yonghwa was sort of taken aback by her question. Usually people ask about his father, about his feelings, and about his mental state, but nobody had ever asked anything concerning sweet potatoes even though they all knew he lived in a farm that produced amazing sweet potatoes. Well, at least, no one he remembered. He blinked a few more times before replying to make sure this peculiar girl was real or not. Seohyun just stared at him, waiting for an answer.
“They’re…o-okay, I guess,” he replied awkwardly.
“Mmmm…That’s good,” she nodded.
Before the situation could get any more awkward, Jun stopped the truck at the tree-lined path into the Jungs’ farm. “Yonghwa, your stop is up!”
“Well, I’ll go down from here.” Yonghwa hastily stood up, grabbed his bicycle, and left the truck.
“Goodbye, see you again soon.” Seohyun bade him goodbye with a sweet smile and a wave of her hand, even though the situation was rather unpleasant and unfriendly. Yonghwa just nodded in acknowledgement and went on his way down the long, tree-lined path leading to their house. “Take care of the sweet potatoes for me!”
When Yonghwa was out of sight and they were heading home to their farm close by, Jonghyun started up, “Who exactly is that fellow anyway?”
“Yonghwa Oppa,” Seohyun answered. “His family owns the huge field past the white fence that grew sweet potatoes.”
“Is that why you’re being nice to him? Because of the sweet potatoes?” Jonghyun teasingly asked. “You never talk to strangers but you talk to him and you barely even know him.”
Seohyun silently sighed though her nose (a sign that she was annoyed by her brother’s remarks). It’s not always about the sweet potatoes.
After Yonghwa got down from the truck, he rode his bicycle down the tree-lined path and glanced to his left, bringing his attention to the rows and rows of crows growing past the white-washed fence. Before continuing his way home he stopped to have a look at their wide field, particularly the area where the sweet potatoes grew. As he sighed, he thought, Sometimes I forget that all of this land is mine. Then he jumped over the fence and squatted to closely look at the sweet potato shoots planted on the soil. Right, I’ll take care of these sweet potatoes.
“Oh Yonghwa, you’re home.”
Yonghwa looked up to see his mother smiling kindly from a distance. Just like Yonghwa, Mrs. Jung had pretty almond eyes that were also tainted by sorrow. She was dressed in a nice hanbok and her shoulder-length hair was slightly curled as was trendy in those days. Yonghwa stood up to greet her as she made her way to him.
 한복 – Traditional Korean Clothes
“Hello, Mother,” he greeted her when she came closer.
“Dear, what are you doing here?” his mother asked. Looking down upon the sweet potato shoots, she continued, “Is there something wrong with the crops?”
“No, Mother, it’s fine,” Yonghwa said with a subtle smile. He usually did not check the plants often after school. Going home and to review school lessons and to practice guitar was his afternoon schedule before working at his part-time job at the Xiah Dragon Restaurant. “Let’s go home and have a snack, mother. I’ll prepare some fresh fruits for you.”
As the mother and son walked home, Yonghwa’s mother said with a pleased expression on her face, “You seem brighter today.”
“Yonghwa, I know this past year has been tough for you. I am sorry for not being a good enough mother to ease your pain. My heart breaks every time I see you down and not being able to do anything…”
Yonghwa stopped walking and looked into his mother’s eyes. “No, Mother, I’m sorry. You’re probably having a more difficult time than I am. With the loss of Father I am sure your heart has gone through more pain. Not only that, this depressed son of yours just added to your misery. It was my fault he left…”
His mother’s eyes started to well up with tears. “It wasn’t your fault. It was nobody’s fault. Your father wouldn’t want you to blame yourself. He loves you. I know you’ll need time, but please smile again. It’s what he would want. It’s what any parent would want. If you can find a small glimpse of sunshine once again, I hope that you would hold on to it.”