She was underage.
And they wouldn’t grant her a visa.
Even the Russian guys with their samovar
business were given visas.
I’d met them earlier,
in my search for the ideal space.
They had set up a stall
in a stairwell
and were showing off a samovar
it seemed to defeat the purpose.
Still, they had a legitimate reason
to come to Korea and were given
I’d just been talking to an official
about the second-floor rooms
in front of the office.
She came in holding her visa
application and, as if this was
a regular occurrence, the official
looked at his counterpart.
She shook her head.
That was all she had to do.
The poor girl argued her case
for a while. And although I could see
it was hopeless I cut in to try and help.
The only explanation given was
that she was underage.
‘What about travelling as an
unaccompanied minor?’ I asked.
It appeared that the Korean government
did not look kindly on such things and,
besides, she had no legitimate reason
for visiting Korea.
The space was large
and well-lit, dusty from disuse,
with wooden floorboards
and sash windows giving out
onto the street below. These
were streaked with grime,
still, the light shone through
in yellow beams.
If the rent was high
it was a café, but,
if the rent was low enough
it was a rehearsal room.
It was securing the space itself
We arranged to meet
and I filled out the application
‘How many times have you done this?’
She looked at me dejectedly,
as if to say, ‘More times
than I care to recall.’
‘Are you a relation?’ was the first question
when we presented the application.
‘No,’ I said.
Several failed attempts followed.
One day, the official took me aside.
‘Look,’ he said. ‘Do you have a legitimate
reason for visiting Korea?’
‘I’m very interested
in the films of Park Chan-wook.’
‘Why didn’t you say!’ He said.
‘Now we can grant your visa application.’
‘But it’s for her,’ I said.
When she was sixteen,
I married her.
Together we made our final application.
‘What is the reason for your visit?’
asked an official
I had not encountered before.