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Chapter 37 Part 2 - The Mysterious Art Museum

A street artist's life changed when he ended up at a mysterious art museum. DBT,Korean,Novel,Translation,Art,Artist,Slice of life,Poor to Rich,Mystery

"Don't even start, I only hear 'Chairman' outside. At home, he's so forgetful. Can you believe he still walks around in his underwear after the maids leave? And why can't he throw away those old, hole-ridden underwear despite having so much money? Just looking at those underwear turns my stomach."

Chairman Yoo's face reddens as he glances at Secretary Kim.

"Ah, I just wear them because they’re comfortable, don't misunderstand."

Secretary Kim maintains a face as if he hasn't heard anything. Then, the young man's voice is heard again.

"Everyone has clothing they're attached to. I still have the blanket I slept with as a baby. It smells like my mother, so sometimes when I'm feeling down, I wrap myself in it to sleep. It helps me sleep well. Maybe it's something like that for the Chairman?"

"Could be. After all, he mentioned that his late mother, who passed away when he was a bachelor, bought those underwear for him."

"How did you meet the Chairman?"

"Through an arranged marriage. People in our circles don't really think about love marriages."

"What was your first impression?"

Chairman Yoo's ears perk up again.

His wife pauses before speaking.

"He was impressive."

A simple statement.

No fancy adjectives attached, yet Chairman Yoo stands taller. The mention of the underwear brings a shy smile back to his reddened face.

His wife's voice continues.

"My father always felt inferior being from a merchant family. He hoped marrying into a scholarly family would bring perfection. So, he specifically arranged a marriage with a man from a long line of scholars. It was around April 1980, at the Chosun Hotel in Jongno where we first met. The day before, my father kept nagging, 'Be modest in front of your husband, do as he says, cover your mouth when you laugh, don't make a sound.' It was incessant."

Chairman Yoo, remembering his late father-in-law who passed away 15 years ago, smiles gently.

His wife's voice reaches his ears again.

"I stormed out to the hotel, ready to leave immediately after meeting that 'precious scholarly family'. Why should I grovel? I thought I'd speak my mind and come back."

"And then?"

His wife hesitates.

"Leaning forward, I saw a pale, frail man sitting there, wearing glasses. He looked like a high school Korean language teacher."

Chairman Yoo's hopeful expression falters.

The young man's voice is heard.

"But didn't you just say he was impressive?"

His wife hesitates again before responding.

"I arrived much later than the agreed time. Despite my anger, I felt I should apologize for being late."

"And what did he say?"

In the background, his wife shyly tucks her hair behind her ear.

"It's okay. Sometimes, I find waiting for someone alone to be precious. It's a time to stop and think, to forget and start anew."

"Wow, the Chairman said that?"

"Yes, I fell for him after hearing that."

"The Chairman is really impressive!"

"Isn't he? My husband is quite something."

Hidden behind a bush, Chairman Yoo straightens his clothes and walks towards the garden.

Secretary Kim notices the Chairman's proud face but pretends not to see.

"Secretary Kim."

"Yes, Chairman?"

"About the painter. Did you find anything?"

"Everything you need has been thoroughly investigated."

"Everything? Why?"

"Madam ordered it."


The Chairman listens to Secretary Kim explain his wife's investigation, surprised yet again.

"He spoke nothing but the truth? There are still such people nowadays."

People often embellish themselves, especially in fleeting encounters. It's refreshing to hear someone speak only the truth in a world where lies are common.

Chairman Yoo smiles and looks towards the living room window.

"Tell the housekeeper to take extra care of him."

Secretary Kim nods with a small smile.

"Yes, Chairman."


In a bare basement studio.

After another visit to Mrs. Kang's mansion in Buam-dong, I throw my bag onto the mattress, grab a cold water from the fridge, strip off my slightly sweaty clothes, and take a quick shower. Sitting on the floor in my underwear, I reflect on the past month and a half.

At first, it was tough.

Mrs. Kang was full of doubts, only asking about me and never sharing her own stories.

But as time passed, she slowly began to open up.

I rummage through my bag and pull out a notebook.

The first twenty sketches of Mrs. Kang's expressions are useless.

Mostly expressionless.

While there's value in capturing various angles of her face, the later sketches with diverse expressions are more meaningful.

I smile as I examine the sketches.

"I could draw her with my eyes closed now."

But what I want to capture isn't just her face.

As I shake a towel through my still-damp hair, a quote from Klimt comes to mind:

The hearts of those commissioning portraits harbor a wish for the artist to see their inner selves.

And they hope this is reflected through the painting.

Realizing this and applying the utility of art to people's lives is the task of us artists.

At the end of what seemed a hopeless path, I see light.

In the past month and a half, I've managed to grasp the tail of that light.

With an involuntary smile on my lips, I rummage through my bag for my phone and grin broadly.

"Then, shall I start gathering the materials for the painting in earnest?"

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