Few days ago, North Korean state media pompously reported that North Korean soldiers put on a display of invincibility by way of charyeok demonstration, probably with the intention of demonstrating its military prowess. Charyeok, a dazzling display of physical acts, is more of an acrobatic movement than a martial art. Still, only those who are strong can perform it. Such performance of physical strength belongs to only a few strong individuals.
That said, can the weakest of the weak perform charyeok? Is there charyeok performed not by a chosen few but by an ordinary majority? Though I hope not, a poem says there is. A superhuman in Yoo Hong-jun’s poem “Superhuman” does not joyfully smash rocks; he does it woefully. He breaks rocks into pieces, crying inside, only because someone tosses them to him. The man wishes that he came to this world to love, not to smash and shatter. He is awfully familiar with us. The superhuman in the poem is a portrait of people grinding away through everyday life.
The word charyeok gives a sense of precariousness because it means to borrow power. A man who practices charyeok does not turn to his own power; he not only needs to borrow power from others, and in fact, they rely on drugs to withstand toilsome training. We long to live this life with our own strength, yet life is not such an easy game to play. We have to force ourselves to fight a fierce battle that involves smashing rocks and iron. A weary, fatigued superhuman is pitiful. Being a superhuman living by rocky riverside, we can only imagine how many more rocks we have to smash.