The 31st Man
Who is the 31st Man? My story takes place in the countryside, 220 kilometers south of Seoul, in the mid-thirties. Our township's involvement in what transpired during that period converges with historical events and provides a rare and compelling glimpse into Korea's past. When I was a young boy, our township's well-respected teacher was known by his alias, "Mr. Kang." He was in fact, a legendary political fugitive, the sole escapee of the famous 31-man rebel group who orchestrated the 1919 nation-wide uprising against Japanese rule. In the aftermath of this event, Mr. Kang had been traveling for nearly 17 years, sometimes as an itinerant poet, other times as a hunter, thus earning a cryptic code name "Tiger Hunter." One day a rumor surfaced, accusing Mr. Kang of abusing his 14-year-old student, the beautiful daughter of Mr. Hung, township chief. This act supposedly took place in dense fog under the famous Virgin Bridge. As a result, the local waenom ('foreign devil' policeman) put Mr. Kang under surveillance. As we students watched, Mr. Kang challenged the waenom to a fight and he felled the policeman with a single blow. We cheered, of course, and Mr. Kang fled later that day, accompanied by his errand boy Poong Do. The policeman was able to go home unaided, but committed a hara-kiri next day.
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Auntie Aurora College bamboo bang began bowed brother brown paper called Chin Soo Choon classroom colonel courtyard cried crowd daughter door Du's errand boy eyes face Father ﬁnd ﬁnished ﬁrst ﬂag front Gi’s Hana Hana Ko hand head heard Hung girls hunter Japanese Kang Kang's Kang’s knew Korean Korean chess Korean nobility Korean tiger kun bang laughed Little Grandpa looked married mo sum morning Mung night nodded oﬀ oﬃce Olympic pharmacist Poong Poong Do’s proclamation board replied rice candies Sang Sang Du Scholar Kang schoolhouse Seoul shouted silence smile Soon Hong sorry spoke stopped story student suh dang Suzy sword Taka Gi teacher tell told township chief township plaza Umehara village Virgin Bridge voice waenom walked watched whispered wife wine word write Yoshi Zane Yoshita Young Du Young Du’s Yung Soo Dong