I Will Live as an Actor
Traces of time were evident in the old, imposing sign of the village tavern.
To some, the place was a testament to the history that had passed through here, while for others, it was a space to rediscover memories of their lives.
However, one thing was certain – under the starlit sky, where the sea breeze blew, the tavern’s sign, stained with the touch of the owner, shone brightly.
“Auntie, two servings of mung bean pancakes, please!”
The makeshift drum barrel table was set with worn chopsticks and an array of savory side dishes.
Rice wine swirled in a dented kettle, and the laughter of the people showed no sign of stopping.
It was a gathering of the drama Man of August filming crew.
With the drama’s hectic shooting schedule, a place to let loose like this was necessary.
Teamwork among the staff (crew) in the broadcasting field, colloquially called “broadcasting labor,” was more important than anything else.
And what about the actors, the stars of the set? Sharing drinks was the best way to bond.
In a way, it wasn’t much different from the world of manual labor.
After the first day of shooting, a dinner party like this became a tradition, with almost everyone attending.
“Director Yoo, today I had an experience money can’t buy.
That scrappy kid turned the fish market upside down, stepping on the overturned tables and delivering a speech.
Wow! We all saw it.
I’ve never seen anyone speak so well.
Even the seasoned merchants were silenced.
If he were born in the past, he’d have been a general!”
The nose of the camera director, Kim Deukhyeong, was already red.
The other directors were in the same condition.
The main topic of conversation at the drinking party was none other than the child actor, Jang Yeongguk.
The staff who were supposed to control the situation were overwhelmed, and even Yoo Myeonghan could not properly respond to the strong protests from the market vendors.
The young boy resolved the crisis as if walking on thin ice.
His voice was as deep as if he had swallowed a train and as desperate as a seasoned actor’s plea.
“PD Yoo, the more I see him, the more I like that kid.
Yeongguk is going to make it big!”
Yoo Myeonghan nodded as he put down his glass.
If they had brought a child actor from Seoul known to be good at acting, they would have been exhausted from the first shoot because of their pale skin and awkward dialect.
As the camera director said, Yeongguk’s acting had a charm that drew people in.
Could such talent truly be innate? However, not everyone was happy about the situation.
“PD, did we really have to eat here?”
“Actor Park, what’s the problem all of a sudden?”
“As you know, it’s our first dinner together, and all we have is this old tavern.”
“Seems like Actor Park is bored sitting with all these older folks.
But if you look, everyone’s seated according to their own pecking order.
That’s to ensure we can all eat and drink without worrying about others.
If we went to an expensive barbecue restaurant, the younger ones would have to grill meat after an exhausting shoot and couldn’t drink as much as they’d like! The tavern has cheap side dishes; we can laugh and chat without anyone complaining.
When we go to Seoul, PD Yoo will treat us to an expensive meal, so please bear with it for today.”
“No, that’s not what I meant.”
At Kim Deukhyeong’s words, Park Suyeong finally closed her mouth.
The tavern’s owner approached the table with two mung bean pancakes.
Kim Deukhyeong awkwardly licked his dry lips and smiled.
“Auntie, can I ask you something? What’s the deal with the wooden plaque on the wall that says ‘Mother’ in calligraphy? I’ve been curious and wanted to ask since earlier, and you came right on time.”
“That? Many sailors come here, and many men work in the wind by the sea.
I put it up because they tend to fight and cause trouble when they get drunk.
Even the rowdy ones become well-behaved when they see the word ‘Mother.'”
“Wow, I didn’t know there was such a deep meaning behind it! Anyway, it would have been nice if Yeongguk had come too, but PD Yoo told him not to come.
He could have just come and sipped some soda.
He gets along well with the extras since he’s so sociable.”
“I couldn’t stop him when he said he was going to help his mother.”
Park Suyeong, who was just scolded, interjected.
She also had a flushed face from drinking several glasses of makgeolli in a row.
“PD Yoo, doesn’t that kid naturally have such a personality? I mean, someone who hasn’t even learned acting can pull off a rebellious role so well.
I wonder if he usually talks back to his parents?”
Then it happened.
A crumpled makgeolli glass was slammed down loudly.
Park Suyeong felt her drunkenness intensify at the following words.
“Actress Park, please watch what you say.”
* * *
The night at Namhang Market was like cooled charcoal.
Just as heated charcoal gradually loses its heat over time, the bustling night of the market, once filled with the excitement of tourists, was left only with the warmth of the merchants.
While some were tidying up their stores—the foundation of their lives—others were pulling their carts.
Their faces held a mix of joy and sorrow.
From the auctions at the direct sales market to haggling with tourists and soliciting customers, after an intense day had passed, their faces showed relief rather than exhaustion.
They were grateful to have completed another day’s business.
Yeongguk hurried to help his mother.
As he quickly passed by the stores, the fruit store owner pretended to recognize him.
“Yeongguk, is that you? I heard you’re filming a movie these days.
Wow, we’re going to have a big actor coming from our Namhang!”
“Sir, it’s not a movie.
It’s a drama.
I just say a few lines in front of the camera.
What kind of actor am I? Anyway, if I become an actor, will you give me some fruit for free?”
“Of course! Just give me an autograph, and I’ll give you a box of fresh pears! I bet that guy who runs the bookstore won’t even give you one book for free!”
“Thank you, even if it’s just words.
I’ll have to prepare a hundred autographs when I get home today!”
The merchants liked the boy.
Who wouldn’t like a child who was kind to his mother and friendly to those around him? Several people were moved by the sincere filial piety of the honest and diligent young man.
That’s why the merchants’ association had already suggested a scholarship for him several times.
His mother, who was not only inexperienced in sales but also in handling the aftermath, seemed awkward in organizing the stall.
However, her tired face was filled with a bright smile just because she saw her son.
“Why did you come here instead of going straight home after your exhausting shoot today?”
“I came because I missed you, Mom.
I told you before, it’s easier to clean up the stall if you start from the back.”
“Oh, stop nagging.
I know, too.”
“Weren’t you tired of making the sales without me today?”
“Of course not.
I’m good at sales, don’t you know? The lady next door helped me a lot, so it was fine.
Soon, even without you, I’ll be doing great.”
Despite her words, her face was full of sweat.
The seawater on her pants and shirt told the story of a hard day’s work.
Let me hug you.”
The mother looked both surprised and delighted as her son suddenly hugged her.
After all, what could be more beautiful and precious than her clothes, the proof of her constant efforts to protect her family’s livelihood?
“By the way, the PD gave me some pork belly to take home today.”
“Oh my, they gave us so much of this precious meat.
There’s nothing I can do for the PD.”
“Don’t worry, Mom.
Just go home and get some rest.
I earned it by doing well.”
The son snatched the handcart from his mother’s hand as if to steal it.
Only a bag containing a piece of pork belly her son had given her was in her hand.
Wanting to help but already far away, her son looked back and shouted.
“Let’s go! I’ll be waiting, Mom!”
In a cramped space, barely enough for two people to lie down, a shabby room with yellowish wallpaper covered in mold and a small window containing a full moon, laughter filled the room.
Jang Yeongguk handed his mother a lettuce wrap filled with thick pork belly, and she regained her maidenly smile as if responding to him.
“I’m so grateful to the PD.
How did they even think of giving us this? What’s their name?”
“The PD’s character is as great as their name.
How did they know that my Kook’s favorite food is pork belly and gave us so much? Kook, be sure to tell the PD we enjoyed it so much when you go to the filming site.”
Pork belly might be a common food for some.
However, it wasn’t for the mother.
To afford it, she had to pour out her entire day’s wages, earned from working tirelessly at the fish stall.
It was a food she wanted to feed her growing son but couldn’t give him as much as she desired.
Though her face was brighter than ever, her son’s affection felt bittersweet.
What a horrible person he was.
Of course, in his past life, he only cared about earning his own food and didn’t think about his mother’s meals.
He wouldn’t live like that anymore.
However, he couldn’t do much for his mother with his small stature, which deeply saddened him.
“Mom, isn’t it hard to work?”
“What’s hard about it? Are you worried about me?”
You weren’t originally in the business, and I know how hard it is to sell fish.”
“When I’m eating together with my son like this, all my fatigue melts away like cotton candy.
Everyone in the market is envious of how well you’re doing.
And as I’ve been doing the business for a while now, I’m getting the hang of it.
Despite her words, her hands were full of scars.
Her once-white and tender fingers were now covered in calluses and blisters from handling fish and carrying fish crates.
It would be tough, and she might want to give up, but she didn’t show any signs of difficulty.
She knew it was all because of the word “mother.” As she tried to hide her rising emotions, she flipped the meat on the rusted frying pan.
“The business, what can’t I do? I’ll save money for my Kook to go to college and then wait for you to marry.
I don’t know who will take the place next to my kind son, but until then, I have to look after him.
He’s my one and only son, after all.”
When bedridden and losing strength in the past, she only worried about her son.
Even then, she hid her savings in an old wardrobe, fearing that she might be a burden.
She couldn’t forget her wrinkled hand gently caressing her unworthy son’s face.
“Kook, are you crying?”
He made an excuse while looking at the smoke escaping through the small window.
“No, it’s just that the smoke is spicier than usual today.”
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