Station Officer Oh and the Civil Service Exam

There was once a man named Oh Yeong-Gwan who was very courageous and loved to joke around. He is known today as Station Officer Oh. One year, he went up to Seoul to take the civil service examination. He needed to go and introduce himself to the chief examiner to take the exam, but there were already scholars from all eight provinces of the country gathered in front of the man, so there was no room for him to sit. Station Officer Oh was incredibly strong and daring. He abruptly went right into the seated crowd of scholars from the eight provinces, pushing each one out of his way with his feet until he made it in front of the chief examiner. 

Just as Oh bowed down deeply, prostrating himself in front of the chief examiner, he let out a fart. Swiftly turning around and glaring at the scholars, he thundered “How dare you break wind in front of His Eminence?” As the scholars seated in front of the chief examiner were on their first trip to the capital, having come to ask permission to take the civil service examination, none of them dared speak up and challenge Station Officer Oh. The chief examiner stared at Oh and shouted “What do you want?” Oh replied “Sir, I want to humbly request that you allow me to take the examination.” Being granted permission, he expressed his gratitude, bowed again and left.

None of the scholars from the eight provinces who were still seated there had dared to request that the examiner allow them to come forward next, having waited instead to be called forth. But as soon as Oh had thanked the examiner and turned around to leave, they all opened their mouths. “I wish to entreat you, sir, to grant me a seat.” “I, too, greatly desire…” On and on they went, saying “I also …” “I, no less …” until the chief examiner kicked them all out, saying “So, none of you bastards says a word about the flatulence, and now what? You’ve completely forgotten your manners? What do you want from me? There are no more seats available.” The examiner eventually gave Oh a passing grade in the scholarly section and made him a civil servant, giving him the position of station officer. Oh also became known as Station Officer Fart.

After Station Officer Oh had received his civil service assignment, he went out and found a sunny spot to sit down and relax. He had come up from Jeju wearing his cotton-padded trousers, crossing hundreds of miles of land and water, and was still wearing them as he proceeded to lie down and roll around in the sun. As he did so, lice started dropping to the ground. These were not regular clothing lice; they were as large as grains of barley. Since it was rather warm out, Oh decided to turn the crotch of his trousers inside out and remove the lice one by one. His legs were the size of large wooden rollers used to press cloth, and they were covered in hair.

The scholars from all eight provinces and a number of playboy aristocrats came up in a crowd to gang up on Station Officer Oh and teach him a lesson. They couldn’t just stand by and do nothing after what he did. Oh just took a quick glance at them and continued to pick out the lice. One of the scholars said “Wow, how much would a Jeju bumpkin pay for a pig with legs that size?” Keeping himself composed, Oh replied “Any of you big city bastards’ mothers would sell themselves for a pig this big.” He stopped picking out the lice, and calmly said “Let’s go over to that sandy shore and have a wrestling match, little piglets.” 

The way he spoke absolutely enraged the crowd. “All right, let’s go,” they agreed. Everyone gathered at one of the sand dunes. Oh decided that he would have to play a little trick on the scholars, there being just one of him and dozens of them. After getting all prepared to wrestle, he studied their expressions and said “It’s getting dark now. Do you think we’ll have time to finish the wrestling match?” The scholars looked up at the sky, and decided among themselves that it would be best to wrestle him in the morning. Everyone split up and left.

Later that evening, Station Officer Oh went back to the sandbank and found a boat tied up there. He called over the ship’s cook and begged him for a favor. He requested that during the night the cook shred the inside of two parts of the ship’s anchor cable so that it could be ripped apart. The next day he was to produce the rope on Oh’s signal. Oh promised the cook that if he did all this for him, he would pay him back well for his trouble. The cook agreed, and the next day Station Officer Oh arrived at the wrestling match as promised. 

The scholars from Seoul and all eight provinces descended on Oh like a swarm of bees. They had come that day secretly intending to kill him. Oh stepped straight out in front of them and called out “Cook!” “Yes, sir,” the cook answered. “Bring me something to use as a belt.” The cook replied “What do you think we have on this boat? There’s nothing but the ship’s anchor cable.” “Well,” said Oh, ”that will do. Bring it to me.”

It took a few men to carry the anchor cable over. Oh grabbed it and ripped it in two in one swift motion, tying one end tightly around his waist. He then ripped off another piece and tied it around his knee, calling out to the crowd “Come here, you dirty bastards. I’m gonna throw each and every one of you into the ocean!” As Station Officer Oh swung the cable around in all directions, every last one of the mob of scholars took off running. 

As recounted on March 3, 1975, by Mr. Go Seung-Du (62) of Jungmun-ri.

From 99 Legends of Jeju Island, a compilation based on accounts compiled by Hyun Yong-Joon.

King Hyeon-Jong (현종: 顯宗) reigned from 1659 to 1674.

Station Officer Oh : Oh Chalbang : 오찰방 : 吳察訪

   Station Officer Oh was a chalbang (찰방: 察訪). During the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897), each provincial government office had a chalbang whose job was to oversee the rest stations, horses and personnel involved in the travel of government officials and the delivery of official correspondence. Oh Yeong-Gwan : 오영관 : 吳榮寬

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