[소설 Translation] My Name Is Kim Sam Soon Prologue

DISCLAIMER: I’m still not good in Korean. Please take my translations with a grain of salt (might as well take the whole salt shaker with you). I am just translating directly with no proof-reading. If you found errors in the translations (in case you have a copy of the novel) and/or my English I’d appreciate if you can give corrections by leaving a comment below. I’m just doing this for fangirling purposes and I find reading and attempting to translate the novel as another opportunity for me to learn Korean in a fun way. Also blogging the translations might push me to finally finish reading the novel within the year. 


The life of a Korean old maid

It’s easier to get hit by an atomic bomb than to find a man at the age of 30.
[Fanny Fink*]

“Mom! This is my lifelong wish! I definitely certainly absolutely MUST do this within the year!”

“Hmph! Fat chance! Just drop it, you brat!”

That was Sam Soon’s mom initial reaction as she heard, yet again, her youngest daughter’s objective for the year.

“And why EXACTLY can’t I?” asked Sam Soon with furrowed brows to her mother who had, once again, ruthlessly got in the way of her rosy dream.

“This is the thousandth time I’m telling you this, you brat! Do I have to remind you who gave you your name? Your grandfather did! So how can you change it as you please?”

“This is also the thousandth time I’m telling you this, Mom! You too should actually take responsibility. Was I born as your third daughter just because I wanted to? Why am I the only one given such a tacky and old-fashioned name?! Kim Sam Soon? What on earth is Kim Sam Soon?!!!”

“You… you..! Watch your mouth!”

Of all days, Sam Soon is showing quite a strong attitude today. Her mother glared at her and raised the rice spatula she has been holding – looking all ready to hit her as soon as she blurt out just one more wrong word. Usually Sam Soon would back-off with that kind of threat. But today was different. Of course, just to be on the safe side, she sees to it to take a step back for every step her mother made towards her. But she kept her head high and continued saying what she wanted to say.

“Is that so, Mom? If I was named Sam Soon then my sisters should’ve been named Il Soon and Yi Soon too, right? But why is it that eldest sister is named Il Yeon, second sister is Yi Young yet me, the youngest… ( – deleted sentence -) Why am I the only one named Sam Soon?”

Her mother was a bit startled with Sam Soon’s latest and incontestable argument. Seeing her mother soften a bit, Sam Soon gained more courage and spoke in a slightly higher tone.

“Right, Mom? Hurry up and get married within the year, you said? Huh! What to do? Every man I met struggles not to burst out laughing upon hearing my name. Why are you being like this to me and me alone? Am I adopted? Is that so? Is that so?!”

For 29 years, she carried the name Kim Sam Soon and suffered all the burden that comes along with it. Every time she introduces herself and says, “My name is Kim Sam Soon,” for sure 6 out of 10 people will burst out laughing. The other 4? Well, they were able to successfully suppress it.

Since she’s been suffering for almost 30 years now, Sam Soon just let it pass for the most part of the year. However there will be at least a month in every year where she hated her name the most. And it happens to be that month right now. She has a haunting feeling that the root cause of all the misfortunes and difficulties she’s been going through is none other than her unlucky and hideous name.

Suddenly, Sam Soon remembered the last phone call she received just last Christmas from a guy she used to love. The beginning of the string of misfortunes.

[Merry Christmas. Let’s break up.]

For someone who bakes cakes, Christmas is the busiest season of the year. Sam Soon was only able to endure the heavy works on her shoulders that season with the thoughts of seeing her boyfriend again the soonest. That call was something she least expected. At first Sam Soon wanted to believe that she’s just having hallucinations from exhaustion. Or, if not, maybe he’s just joking.

“Is that some kind of a joke?”

Yes, must be a joke. But still does he really have to ask this kind of strange things at Christmas? She was in the middle of this train of thought when she heard a heavy sigh on the other line. The guy on the other line continued talking.

(I have never been more serious as I am now.)

And that was how her 28th Christmas became her worst Christmas ever. ( – deleted sentece – )And that’s how, up to this date, she is a lonely 29-year-old single. She thought, “To hell with this corny name!”  If only her name is at least along the likes of, say, Kim Hee Jin, then these ill-fated things wouldn’t have happen, she thought.

While in the middle of her mutterings, Sam Soon entered the room she is sharing with her second eldest sister.  Her sister was watching a foreign movie and there on the screen was a really gloomy-looking woman. The woman said, “It’s easier to get hit by an atomic bomb than to find a man at the age of 30.”

At that exact moment, that unknown woman’s words pierced Sam Soon’s heart. And she also felt a pang of panic. Of course, no one can really tell, but the chances will be slimmer when she turns thirty.

So on that night, she made an oath in front of her sister.

“Sis, I made a oath in the name of heaven.”

“And what is it?”

“I solemnly swear that within the year I will definitely apply and have a successful name change and I will meet and date a guy a million times more fabulous than that jerk who cheated on me!”

Her sister giggled upon hearing her oath.

“Ah? Reeaaally now, my dear little sister?” her sister said in a sarcastic tone.

“And also, if I end up dating a good-for-nothing-jerk again, I’m a Dutchman,” Sam Soon said in a determined voice. “Got it, sis? You stand as my witness, okay?” she continues. “So, the moment you see signs that I’m about to get tricked again by a good-for-nothing guy you must whack my head and bring me back to my senses, okay?”

“You are you saying that this time you’ll never fall for just looks and will date a really fine guy?”

Sam Soon nodded without batting an eyelid.

“Of course!”

♡      ♥      ♡      ♥

To escape the cursed singlehood, Sam Soon went to a matchmaking agency. The agent was reading Sam Soon’s bio-data and creased his forehead when he reached the section about body measurements.

Name: Kim Sam Soon
Birth date: July 25, 1975.
Zodiac Sign: Leo.
Blood Type: B
Father: Kim Bok Man. Self-employed
Mother: Park Bong Sook
2 older sisters
Occupation: Patissier (pastry chef)
Specialty: Making delicious cakes
Hobby: Eating those delicious cakes
Body measurements: ……

“Height 159cm. Weight 63kg. Hmm… hmm… this is a bit… …. No properties… savings is somehow…. Father is self-employed.”

Her body measurements has always been like a top secret and it has never been exposed like this to any guy. Now this agent mercilessly analyzed it just like how a butcher sorts out rotten from fresh meat. He looked up and Sam Soon met his eyes wiith furrowed brows.

After they exchanged piercing stares with each other, the agent eventually surrendered and looked again at Sam Soon’s documents and in a casual tone asked, “If you were born in 1975, how old are you then?”

Does he have to ask something so obvious and can easily be calculated? Nonetheless it leaves Sam Soon no other choice but to answered right away.

“Well, 29,” she said in a low tone.

“Hmm, age 29, occupation patissier, annual income… okay, body measurements…. uhm, uhm… ehem, ehem.”

 The agent keeps coughing as he scanned through Sam Soon’s personal details – age, height, weight and finances – making Sam Soon all the more uncomfortable.

“As you know it, in this not go great economic situation, female university students who can’t get jobs are flooding the marriage market. For every 100 female members, there are barely 60 male members. It’s highly competitive than college admissions.”

“So, is he saying that if those spring chicks can’t get married easily, it would be way more difficult for me?” Sam Soon muttered to herself.

“Fortunately you have a secured job and that’s a strong point. However, frankly speaking, your age, educational background, body frame, etc, etc puts off your chances in meeting a pair. That’s why…”

“That’s why what?’ Sam Soon thought. “Although I gained 12kgs while nursing a broken heart for 2 months, I’m not that ugly looking, and, as you’ve said, I have a stable job. So, what’s the problem?” Sam Soon continued her trail of thought.

But what the agent said next felt like a bucket of cold water poured over her strong self-confidence.

“How about being a special member until we find you a pair?”

The agent’s voice was one notch politer. He suddenly gives off an aura of a salesman who is hard-selling his products. She is 29 years old. And she haven’t heard of anything “special” that doesn’t come with a “special” price tag. But as was told by the agent earlier, she’s not that bad anyway. Sam Soon, also in a more polite tone, asked.

“If it’s a ‘special membership’, how much will the membership fee then?”

Well, even if the fee will be expensive, if this is the way for her to meet a nice guy then Sam Soon thought she shall take this challenge. But that thought only lasted until the middle-aged agent’s next words.

“It will be 7,900,000 won.”

“What did you say?”

Sam Soon’s eyes grew even wider and her mouth fell open. It’s as if the agent said that tomorrow’s the end of the world. The agent casually repeated what he just said.

“7,900,000 won.”

“7,900,000 won? Not 790,000 won? If meeting one guys is at 10,000 won… it’s 790 times more? Are you perhaps gonna introduce me to Bae Yong Joon, Jang Dong Gun and Won Bin?” Sam Soon shivered.

The agent gave Sam Soon a lousy smile and said, “Although we don’t handle celebrities here, in this time of adversity and the stiff competition to the altar…….”

Sam Soon suddenly stood up even before the agent finished talking. As she started walking towards the exit, she suddenly turned around, sat down, and snatched away her bio data from the agent’s desk. All the information about a woman named Kim Sam Soon is written on that information sheet. That place is not to be trusted with that kind of document.

Sam Soon tear the document apart and shoved it inside her bag. And in a chilly tone, she angrily snapped at the agent.

“Even if I starve to death I will never have that kind of money! Even if you ask anyone out on the streets they’ll say there are no deadlines in marriage. And 7,900,000 won can already cover the entire cost of a wedding ceremony!”

With no intentions of yielding, the agent snapped back at her.

“What you said may be true but, Ms. Kim Sam Soon, with your age, your body, and your face, baiting a guy off the streets will not be an easy feat either. Ah, not to mention that rustic name of yours! Ah, have you seen that German movie “Fanny Fink?”

Oh, how much she wants to strangle this ahjussi who keeps mocking her. But she shut her mouth and waited for what he was about to say about the movie that he suddenly brought up. After a few beats, the agent said, “It’s easier for women in their 30s to get hit by an atomic bomb than to date a guy. The honestly of that line was very impressive for someone like me who works in the marriage industry (?).”

It feels like the agent stabbed her chest with a kitchen knife. She imagined herself force-feeding him with a cake peppered with poison. Realizing it was impossible to do so, Sam Soon left the marriage agency office and banged the door shut. She’s just 29. Still single. Still a promising age. She can’t commit murder.



*Fanny Fink the main character in a 1994 German Movie Keiner liebt mich (Nobody Loves Me)

Korean Learner Comments:


Three days. It took me three days to translate 15 pages. Well, not 3 full days. If translated into hours maybe 15 hours? It’s a good start. I hope to improve my speed in reading and translation soon. It was very difficult, yes. But I enjoyed it so much! It’s the first time I read something and understood it almost 100%. Almost. There were a couple of sentences that I just can’t understand no matter what I do. I used the dictionary a lot as I read and translate. I’ve highlighted new words and marked confusing sentences. I input new words to my new anki deck.

The drama watcher me is more comfortable with conversational Korean. Thus the sentences in the books inside quotation marks were the easiest parts for me. The rest of the narration and descriptions are still very difficult. It’s also difficult to translate. Even if I understood a sentence already, sometimes it just doesn’t translate well to English. That, plus the fact that I’m not an expert in English either. There were many times I can easily translate some sentences into my native language, but not in English.

I enjoyed reading because I am not finally exposed to the “written Korean”. The style, most especially the unending embedding of modifiers, is still new to me and it takes time before I can fully absorb a sentence. After 15 pages, I can feel getting used to it YET I don’t think I can ever produce something like that if I’ll write. I hope now that I am starting to read more, I’ll be able to go out of my “conversational writing style” someday.

Words. Too many new words. And a number of them were pair words (uhm, how do you call them?) – words that can’t stand alone and can/must only be used with another word. I’ve used the 국어 dictionary a lot because there were many words that are not in the Eng-Korean dictionary. There were even words that are not in the 국어 dictionary that I have to google. Some were even have to be explained to me by The Korean Crush.


어림 반 푼 어치 없는 소리! – Not a chance!
인정사정없다 – ruthless, without mercy
모친 – mother
부친 – father
마른하늘의 날벼락
부들거리다 – 자꾸 몸이 부르르 떨리다. 또는 자꾸 몸을 크게 부르르 떨다
한이 없다
멋지구리하게 – 멋지게
나만 어디서 주워왔어?

Fangirl Comments:

Ekkk!!! Finally! Finally finally finally! After sitting in my bookshelf for 6 years, finally I get to read AND understand one section (one out of 22)! These scenes were not in the drama as they were. Her arguments with her mom about how tacky her name was were scattered on many “dinner scenes” in the drama. The scene in the marriage agency was just Sam Soon’s dream (well, was it?) in the drama. And as what novelist Ji Soo Hyeon said, Sam Soon seems more feisty in the drama. But both are lovable. In the drama her annual income is zero because she got fired after skipping work on Christmas because she had to stalk her cheating boyfriend – which was used as a strong opening scene of the drama. I love the funny tone of the novel. And I must comment writer Kim Do Wo and Director Kim Yoon Chul for carrying it all the way to the drama. Can’t wait to read the next chapter, but it may take time… loads of time.