Young-ho explained: ‘Girls, you have the keys to your rooms. You’ll take your family suitcase to your room, take your own gear to the room wardrobe, but leave your husband’s gear in the suitcase. Your husband may not share the same room with you. We will experiment with the idea of swapping either wives or husbands’.
Young-ho paused so all could understand, then continued: ‘What do the gentry want here—wife swapping or husband swapping? Should men choose their partners or should women choose their men for this week?’
‘Why don’t we choose same-sex partners for the week?’ Chun-ja asked. ‘Each girl would be paired with a girl.’
‘No, we’re not homos’, most retorted.
If a tiger gets a live animal in his cage, he is delighted to taste blood. Almost everyone in this camp wanted to have the taste of someone else’s spouse in his or her own cage.
‘Okay, then’, Said Young-ho. ‘Who would choose—men or women?’
‘Women should choose’, the women shouted in unison.
‘No, men should choose their women’, countered the men.
‘Okay, let’s have a toss. What do you want, girls—heads or tails?’
‘Heads’, Hye-jin said. The other women nodded in support.
‘Let’s see …’ Young-ho tossed a coin in the air. Everybody rushed to check and found it was tails.
‘Hurrah, the men have won!’ Woo-jin said in song:
‘My dear ladies,
Please stand at ease,
In birthday suits please’.
‘Sorry Woo-jin,’ Young-ho interrupted, ‘it’s always the prerogative of an individual to decide how the person will pose and act. However, the toss is won by the men; we will swap our wives. Now let’s select which man will pick his woman first. Here are six visiting cards, let’s write the initials of the men on the back of the cards. Chun-ja, please shuffle these cards and pick the top card’.
Chun-ja picked the top card and it was ‘Y’, so Young-ho had the first turn.
‘Before I use my turn to select my partner, let me provide you with a few details. You may select any girl, but please don’t do anything illegal. You remain legally bound to your wedded partner even if you aren’t with them this week. Please don’t do anything here that would spoil your married life or dishonour your friendship with other couples.
‘In your rooms, there are no TVs, no internet connections; we expect room-sharing partners will try to know more of each other and share themselves. You may read books, if you have any. You may also write, draw pictures and sing songs to entertain each other. There are two mouth organs in each room and one piano. There’s plenty of food in each room, and you will find a microwave, fridge, toaster and electric kettle.
‘You will spend 22 hours in your room each day. Which two hours you can go out will be specified in your room. No more than one pair will be outside the hotel at any time. This is to ensure you meet only your room partner and no-one else from this group when you go outside. Okay, let me now select my room-partner.’
The women stood in a row with expectations and apprehension, all showing off their faces and their cheesy-smiles. Young-ho was the most handsome and the richest man in the group, and every woman wanted to have him in her bed for a week.
Young-ho gazed at the women, standing anxiously, each trying to measure and compare herself with the others, guessing who would be picked.
Young-ho pronounced his judgement. ‘I choose Min-ji, please.’
Do-hyon felt concerned. He said, ‘Young-ho, Min-ji is six months pregnant. She needs lots of care’.
‘Of course, I know, Do-hyon. Please let me know what care you usually take. I promise I’ll ensure that Min-ji won’t suffer because of my negligence. Min-ji, please come with me.’
Young-ho then picked up the next card—‘D’.
Do-hyon came forward and had a cursory look at the five women standing in front of him. He said, ‘I love to spend the week with my pregnant wife, Min-ji, but Young-ho has relieved me of the errands of Min-ji. I therefore choose none else but dazzling, darling, Hye-jin’.
I still had the traditional mindset and tried to shift my eyes towards the ceiling lights. Amidst applause from the women, Hye-jin walked towards Do-hyon, who picked the next card—‘J’.
I moved forward and looked into the eyes of the four remaining women. All of them seemed inviting. Had Hye-jin been still available, I’d have chosen her as I couldn’t shun my traditional outlook and I needed to establish empathy with Hye-jin first before any other girl. I didn’t like to miss the opportunity of knowing her intimately for a week. I wanted to wake up and see her face, spend the whole day together, hand in hand, arms around her till we went to bed together, closed our eyelids and fell asleep looking forward to being close to her again the next morning for another day, for the whole week.
I readjusted my vision for the week. I wanted to establish rapport with any woman across family boundaries, not to spend a week in a brothel. I knew that I had a soft corner for seeing the skin of women. I often wondered how breasts are so soft, even though they look firm in shape. I looked at the four women to select the one wearing the least revealing clothes. I wanted to choose a woman dressed conservatively, to discover who she is on the proverbial inside. Soon-ja was wearing a tent-like frock. I could see nothing but her eyes. I reckoned she was too devoted to her husband, Young-ho. It would be hard to come through to her in this week. Next conservatively dressed was Chun-ja. I said, ‘Chun-ja, I invite you to spend the week with me. Would you please?’
‘Thank you, Jie-won. It’s my great pleasure to be with you.’
I picked the next card—‘M’.
Min-jun came forward and had a close look at the eyes of all three women standing in front of him. To him, all women seemed equally interesting, but he beckoned Soon-ja.
‘Ladies, I’d be happy with any one of you. Please allow me to choose Soon-ja. Let me explore her from the mystery of her long frocks. Please join me, Soon-ja.’
‘Thank you, Min-jun,, I won’t disappoint you.’ Soon-ja proceeded towards Min-jun, who picked the next card—‘W’.
Woo-jin rushed forward and looked at the two women standing before him.
‘Look at my luck’, Woo-jin said. ‘I’ve to make a simple choice between two ladies—one is my 46-year-old Myung-sook, the bandit I captured 25 years ago and the other one is young Su-bin who hasn’t completed her first wedding anniversary. I’ll live with my healthy full-bosomed plump wife for the rest of my life, but for this week let my plump beauty enjoy crispy Kun-woo while I have Su-bin. I’ve won my trophy for the week as I dreamt in this camp. My darling Su-bin, please come to my arms.’
‘Paedophile you are, Woo-jin’, said Kun-woo. ‘Why can’t you take care of your beloved wife, with whom you’ve just celebrated your silver jubilee?’
‘You’re to go with Woo-jin’s decision, Kun-woo’, Young-ho interrupted. ‘When we started this game we knew any of the girls would have to go with any one of the six men when picked. Su-bin, please proceed with Woo-jin. Kun-woo, you’ve been left with only one woman—Myung-sook. Please invite her.’
Su-bin walked up to Woo-jin and stood there. Kun-woo walked to Myung-sook and said, ‘Let’s go to your room, Myung-sook’.
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