"Who are you fellows?"
"I'm in charge of sports; he keeps the classroom nice.
"So, what's up?"
"Om Sokdae, our class monitor . . . didn't he ask you to come over?"
Hearing for the second time that his name was Om Sokdae, that he was monitor, and that for this one reason I had to present myself and wait on his command, did begin to make me feel intimidated.
My experience of monitors in Seoul was that the job never had anything to do with physical strength. Sometimes monitors were appointed because they came from well-to-do families, or because they were good at sports and, as a result, popular. But usually the selection of the monitor was based on exam scores and, apart from a certain prestige that went with the job, it amounted to no more than being a messenger between the students and the teacher. On those rare occasions when the appointee was physically strong, strength was almost never used to repress the others or to force them to do menial tasks. This wasn't just because of the next monitor election; the children themselves wouldn't put up with it. That day, however, I met a completely new kind of monitor.
"If the monitor calls, is that it? Do we have to run to him on call and wait on his commands?" I demanded, making a final stand with the resolve of a true Seoulite.
I couldn't understand what happened next. The words were hardly out of my lips when the boys looking on suddenly burst out laughing. More than fifty boys guffawed, including the two who had been giving me a hard time and even Om Sokdae. I was at a complete loss. When I had regained enough control to begin to wonder what I had said that had caused such hilarity, the boy who was in charge of keeping the classroom tidy choked back his laughter and asked, "You mean you don't come when the monitor calls? What sort of school did you go to? Where was it? Didn't you have a class monitor?"
What happened next was a freakish shift in my consciousness. Suddenly, I had the feeling that I was. doing something very wrong, that I was holding out in defiance of a teacher after he had called on me. This overwhelming illusion of deliberate refusal to give in to a teacher may have been produced by the boys' nonstop shrieks of laughter.
As I approached Om Sokdae hesitantly, his boisterous laughter changed to a nice, pleasant smile.
Copyright © 2001 Yi Munyol. Copyright © 1987 by Kevin O'Rourke. Reprinted by the permission of the publisher, Hyperion Books. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from the publishe
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