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KyeongJun Yang – Men Don’t Cry

Stories 2022 Shortlist

Based in
Republic of Korea

Photographed in
Republic of Korea

My dad cries a lot these days. Any sad movie never made him cry before. He didn’t cry when our dog died and when his son shaved his head to join the navy. He also didn’t cry on the day that his dad passed away and his mom abandoned him when he was six years old. And now I see his tears very often.

“Men don’t cry.” He said this to me, who used to cry a lot, like a habit. He said I have to learn how to hold tears to be a ‘man.’ When he was a kid, he held his tears to protect himself from people who despised him just because he was an orphan. After he had a family, he didn’t cry to protect his wife and sons from this harsh world.

The tears he held slowly rose from his feet to his eyes. And the night the ‘man’ realised that he can’t hold anymore, the tears were already flowing on his cheeks. Now I see dad’s tears that nobody hadn’t noticed filling up inside of him. I asked if I could take a photograph of him when he was crying. Even at this moment, he tries to be a ‘man’.

“Yes, but don’t show this to your mom. She will cry.”

“Don’t show this to your mom. She will cry.”

“My teacher asked the class, who doesn’t have a refrigerator at home? I raised my hand. She asked, who doesn’t have a TV at home? I raised my hand. She asked, who doesn’t have parents? I raised my hand.”

“I had always envied kids who go to public baths with their dad. I don’t remember if I went to a public bath with your grandfather. That is why I love to go there with you guys.”

“I have felt like I am swimming all alone to find happiness in the sea.”

“When I can’t stand my life, I just go fishing with an empty hook. I throw the hook into the sea and sit for hours and days.”

“Does it look too empty? Isn’t it better than last year? I don’t want to be stressed but I can’t. You will understand what I am saying when you start working in society.”

“I think your mom is being cold to me because I don’t have a job anymore.”

“My cousin’s mom took care of me when your grandfather died and your grandmother left me. When I miss her, I buy bottles of Soju and go to meet her in the cemetery.”

“I am not an alcoholic. I just feel calm when I drink and it helps me sleep well. That is it. I can control myself.”

“Always feel sorry and grateful. I love your mom the most in the world.”

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