humansofseoul

“She’s a recluse, so every day I need to take her out. She lives in Seoul, yet this is her first time coming out to a place like this. She likes things like reptiles and bugs, so we came here with an alligator stuffed animal as well. Hey! Why do you keep hiding? By the way, she’s particularly good at catching flies.”

“이 누나가 히키코모리라서 제가 맨날 끌고 나와요. 서울 사는 데 이런 데는 처음 와 본대요. 이 누나가 파충류, 곤충, 이런 걸 좋아해서 악어 인형도 같이 들고 왔어요. 누나! 왜 자꾸 피해. 아참 이 누나 특기가 파리 잡기예요.”

“I’m tall, so at school I was always called, ‘tall girl’. Middle school and high school students would also look at me and whisper amongst themselves ‘she’s so fucking tall’ as they passed by. I wondered why they were swearing at me. Wherever I go I can’t do anything wrong. If you’re tall, whatever you do sticks out. However, when I thought about it, my height is only a disadvantage depending on how I act.”
“Why is that?”
“If you leave a good impression once, it will last a long time. Suddenly looking at me just once, you will remember me.”

“제가 키가 커서 학교에서 항상 호칭이 ‘키 큰 여자애’였어요. 중고딩들도 절 보고 지나가면서 ‘키 X나 크다.’ 하고 자기네끼리 쑥덕거려요. 쟤넨 왜 나한테 욕을 하나 싶기도 했어요. 어딜가서 나쁜 짓도 못 해요. 키가 크면 뭘하든 눈에 잘 띄어서요. 근데 생각해보니 그 단점은 제가 하기 나름이더라구요 ”
“왜죠?”
“좋은 인상을 한 번 남기면 오래 간다는 뜻이잖아요. 딱 한번만 봐도 기억을 해주니까요.”

“When I was in second grade my mother got into a car accident and passed away, I didn’t know where my father was, so I lived in Busan with my grandmother. However when I was in middle school her health took a turn for the worse, so I told my grandmother I’m going to live on my own; after that I lived by myself in Seoul. Later when I became an adult my grandmother was disappointed in me because I said I was working as a tattoo artist. So, I met my grandmother in person and showed her my first tattoo, and she was really moved by it.”
“What made her change her mind?”
“Because my first tattoo was of my mother’s face.”

“초등학교 2학년 때 어머니가 교통사고로 돌아가시고, 아버지는 어디 계신지도 몰라요. 그래서 쭉 부산에서 외할머니하고 같이 살았는데, 중학교 때 외할머니 건강이 안 좋아서 제가 스스로 독립하겠다고 말하고 그 이후로 서울에서 혼자 살았어요. 제가 나중에 성인이 된 다음에 타투를 직업으로 한다고 하니까 외할머니가 실망을 하셨어요. 그래서 외할머니를 직접 만나서 제가 처음 한 타투를 보여드렸더니 감동을 받으셨어요.”
“할머니가 왜 마음을 바꾸신 것 같아요?”
“제 첫 문신이 제 어머니의 얼굴이었거든요.”

“(Man) I’ve been close with this girl standing next to me for about the past ten years. When I was in the military and out on leave she would meet me and buy me dinner.“
“Did you meet each other really just because you’re comfortable together or were you actually interested in each other? Are you really just friends?”
“(Girl) Yes, we’re just friends. We have known each other for so long, so I just want to take good care of him. He’s like a little brother.”
“(Man) No. Today I was going to tell you I’m interested in you.”
“(Girl) Is this interview really going to be published?”

“(남자) 옆에 있는 친구하고 절친으로 한 10년 정도 알고 지냈어요. 제가 군대에서 휴가 나왔을 때 저 만나서 밥도 사주기도 했구요.”
“마냥 편한 거보다 관심이 있으니까 만난 건 아니었어요? 정말 순수하게 친구인가요?”
“(여자) 네, 친구에요. 오래 알고 지내다보니 그냥 잘 챙겨주고 싶더라구요. 그냥 남동생처럼”
“(남자) 아니요. 오늘 고백하려고요.”
“(여자) 저, 이거 진짜 인터뷰 나가는 건가요?”

“I’m Japanese, but living in Korea. I sell takoyaki with hikikomori (people who avoid social contact) and NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) students and help them out with any problems they’re experiencing.”
“You could do that in Japan too. Why did you decide to come to Korea to do it?”
“I met a lot of people like them in Japan, so I felt responsible for their problems. Hikikomori problems are not exclusive to Japan; this is a problem in Korea too. So, I wanted to help them experiencing this here as well. There aren’t a lot of support groups for people with this sort of problem in Korea, but we have a lot of experience with this sort of thing in Japan, so I have the knowhow to help.”

“저는 일본인인데 한국에서 히키코모리 그리고 니트족 학생들과 같이 타코야끼를 팔면서 문제를 겪는 학생들을 도와주고 있어요”
“일본에서만 활동해도 되는데 왜 굳이 한국까지 와서 활동하시는 거예요?”
“일본에서 이런 친구들을 많이 만나와서 이 문제에 책임감을 느껴왔는데, 히키코모리 문제가 단지 일본에서만 일어나는 게 아니고 한국에도 있는 문제잖아요. 그래서 이 곳에서 이 문제를 겪는 친구들을 도와주고 싶었어요. 한국에는 이런 문제를 가진 친구들을 도와주는 사람들이 많이 없지만, 우리는 경험이 많아서 노하우가 있거든요.”

“On my kid’s fourth birthday, the day care center held an event which told a fairy tale like story about how he was born. The story was like, you came from the sky, and as you were looking down at the ground below, you chose a mother and father. You then napped next to a flowerbed and afterward crossed a rainbow to your now mother and father. Having heard the story that day, once we came home, he went to his room alone and stayed really quiet. I was curious, so I opened his bedroom door and went in. I found him looking for a long time at a picture from the day he was born. He still thinks that was how he was born. And, he’s said lately that he dreamt about a pretty younger sister riding a rainbow and coming down from the sky.”

“제 아이가 네 살 되는 생일 날, 어린이 집에서 어떻게 본인이 태어나게 되었는지 이벤트로 동화 비슷한 이야기를 들려 준 적이 있어요. 하늘에서 얘가 밑을 내려다 보면서 어떤 엄마 아빠를 고를까 하다가 꽃밭 옆에서 한숨자고 무지개를 건너 지금의 엄마,아빠에게로 오는 그런 내용이었어요. 그날 그걸 들은 이후에 얘가 집에 와서 혼자 방에 들어간 다음에 참 조용히 있더라구요. 궁금해서 방문을 열고 들어가봤더니 자기가 갓 태어났을 때의 사진을 한참 보고 있더라구요. 본인은 아직도 그렇게 태어났다고 생각해요. 그리고 최근에 말해주더라구요. 예쁜 동생이 무지개를 타고 하늘에서 내려오는 꿈을 꿨다고.”

“I’m from India, but I have been studying in Korea for about six months. I plan to stay here for about four to five years. I’m not sure if I can get a job in Korea, but I don’t think it would be bad to stay in Korea anyway.”
“What do you think is different between India and Korea?”
“Standards in terms of liberty are different, I think, especially when applied to women. For example, in the part that I come from in India, women are expected to wear traditional clothes and strictly told not to wear jeans. I’m wearing jeans now, but wearing jeans doesn’t make me a bad person…”

“한국에 유학 온지 6개월 됐어요. 인도에서 왔고, 4~5년 정도 더 한국에 있을 것 같아요. 한국에서 일자리를 얻을 수 있을 지 모르겠지만, 한국에 남는 것도 나쁘지 않다고 생각해요.”
“어떤 점에서 한국과 인도는 다르다고 생각했어요?”
“규범, 자유의 측면에서 다른 것 같아요. 특히 여성에게 적용 될 때요. 예를 들면 제 살던 곳에서는 여성은 전통적 의상을 입어야 하고 청바지는 입지 말라고 해요. 지금도 청바지를 입고 있지만, 청바지를 입는게 저를 나쁜 사람으로 만드는 게 아닌데..”

“Some of my friends who are only around 19 years old are already worried about getting a job. I think something is wrong with this. You should do what you want to do in your 20s. Once you’re past your 30s or 40s, you may regret not doing the things you wanted to do. “

“제 주변에 19살 쯤 되는 애들도 벌써 취업 걱정을 해요. 이건 뭔가 아닌 것 같아요. 20대에는 정말 해보고 싶은 걸 해야 해요. 서른 살, 마흔 살이 넘어선 아마 해보고 싶은 걸 못 해 본 걸 후회할 거예요”

“I’m usually really stressed about my grades. I thought I had to get good grades, so this semester was really hard, not to mention that the women’s college is so competitive. The day after the semester ended I slept for about 11 hours. That’s when I realized, this is happiness.”

“평소에 학점 스트레스를 심하게 받아요. 학점을 잘 따야겠다는 생각에 이번 학기가 정말 힘들었거든요. 여대라 다들 정말 열심히 하기도 하니까요. 종강하고 다음날 한 11시간 정도 늦잠을 잤는데 그때 딱 알겠더라고요. 이게 행복이구나 하고요.”

“This is an exhibition at Hyundai Motors for a collaboration project with a media artist. I entered my story to win a free ticket and came here with my younger sister. The piece itself didn’t look too difficult, but the artist’s whole family worked on the project together. It was nice to share this feeling together with my sister.”
“Are you and your sister close?”
“All sisters fight and then become closer, right? Until we both got married and had children, we never realized that we would be this close.”

“현대자동차에서 미디어 아티스트와 협업해서 전시를 한다고 해서, 사연을 신청해서 동생하고 같이 왔어요. 작품 자체가 어렵지 않은 것도 있지만 작가의 온 가족들이 참여해서 작업을 하더라구요. 자매끼리 그런 점을 같이 느낄 수 있는 게 좋았어요.”
“자매끼리 서로 친하신가요?”
“원래 자매는 싸우면서 크는 거예요. 저희도 결혼하고 애 낳기 전까지 이렇게 친해질 줄 몰랐죠.”

“I’m a Christian. When I go to church, I can’t wear clothes like this. The clothes I wear to church aren’t this revealing, but they are still really unique, so church people tend to tell me I look good. I’m the ‘fashion person’ in the youth group at my church. Wow… I can’t believe I just said that.”

<Humans of Seoul at Seoul Fashion Week>

“전 크리스찬이에요. 교회 다닐 때는 이렇게 입고는 못 가요. 이런 식으로 노출이 있는 옷은 아닌데, 그래도 저희 교회에서 제일 특이해서 교회 사람들이 멋있다고 해줘요, 저희 교회 ‘청년부 패피’라. 아 이걸 내 입으로 말하다니…”

“I have been in Korea for about seven months from Kenya to study International Development Cooperation.”
“What do you miss about Kenya?”
“I miss Kenya’s sun! Unlike in Korea, our winters aren’t cold like this. I really miss that warmth.”
“Aren’t the summers quite hot though?”
“Right. There are a lot of times it’s over 40 degrees. Nonetheless, I really miss that warmth.”

“국제학, 개발협력을 공부하러 케냐에서 한국에 온지 한 7달 지났어요.”
“케냐에서 뭐가 그리워요?”
“케냐의 태양이 그리워요! 한국과 달리 겨울에 이렇게 춥지 않아요. 그 따뜻함이 너무 그리워요.”
“대신 여름에 덥지 않아요?”
“그렇죠. 40도가 넘을 때가 많으니까요. 그래도 그 따뜻함이 정말 그리워요.”

“It’s been 10 years since we first met, and now we’re getting married. We didn’t want to have just a normal wedding; we wanted to show people how we love each other and what we think about each other. So, we opened up an exhibit filled with the pictures of our relationship. This exhibit is both the debut of our amateur photography and our wedding ceremony.”

“처음 만난 지 10년이 넘어 결혼하게 되었어요. 그냥 일반 결혼식이 아니라 우리가 어떤 사랑을 했고, 어떤 생각을 하고 있는지 들려주고 싶었어요. 그래서 지난 연애의 기록을 담은 사진 전시회를 열었어요. 이 전시회는 저희가 작가로 데뷔하는 아마추어 사진전이면서 동시에 저희 결혼식이기도 합니다.”

“I used to smoke a ton, like two packs a day. I even smoked the ones without filters, because I just liked it better. After sometime, I started to feel a big pain in my lungs, as if my lungs were bursting. It hurt so much that I quit. Honestly I regret ever smoking in the first place. Even now when I see something like, ‘young smoker’s lungs images’ it’s so scary.”
“It couldn’t have been very easy to quit smoking. How did you do it?”
“There is only one way for me to stop smoking. Throw away all of the cigarettes at my home. Students don’t have very much money, so they can’t buy more cigarettes.”
“Nevertheless, quitting seems difficult.”
“It’s incredibly difficult. However, if I speak frankly, since I quit smoking I could be, you know, more dignified. As a young person, I could do something better and gain dignity. I also could improve my relationship with my parents. I think it’s the best source of pride for me, although that’s the only one I have.”

“제가 원래 담배를 엄청 폈었거든요. 하루에 두갑씩 폈었어요. 필터까지 빼고 폈어요. 그냥 좋아서 폈어요. 그렇게 피다보니까 폐가 너무 아팠어요. 폐가 터지는 느낌이었어요. 너무 아파서 끊었을 정도에요. 솔직히 담배 핀게 후회되요. 지금도 ‘청소년 흡연인의 폐.jpg’ 이런거 보면 진짜 무서워요.”
“담배를 끊는 게 쉽지 않았을텐데 어떻게 끊었나요?”
“끊는 방법은 한 가지밖에 없어요. 집에 있는 담배를 다 버리면 되요. 학생이라 돈도 없으니 더는 담배를 못 사거든요.”
“그래도 끊기 힘들었텐데요.”
“엄청 힘들었어요. 하지만 정말 솔직하게 말씀드리면, 담배 끊으니까 좀 뭐랄까 당당해질 수 있었어요. 청소년으로서 뭔가를 더 잘 할 수 있다는 당당함도 생겼고, 부모님과의 관계도 나아질 수 있었어요. 그게 제 하나밖에 없지만 최고의 자랑거리인 것 같아요.”