Chapter 2: < Protect – Episode 1 – Kim Dae Chan  >
“You have quite a unique background. Treasure hunter and wilderness survival expert?”
The personnel manager of Daesan Group had a peculiar look on his face. Besides having a bulky and large build, the man in front of Ahn Soo Ho didn’t have any special characteristics. He did have the advantage of being tall, and could therefore be considered handsome in Korea. After all, Koreans liked everything big besides a big head.
As a personnel manager, he was strangely shocked by his interviewee.
“I don’t remember your face.”
Ahn Soo Ho felt awkward. Both him and the manager had already met each other when he submitted his documents the week before, so why did it seem that they had only met for the first time? Did he make a mistake? But how? For a personnel manager known for his good memory, it was quite astonishing.
“You dropped out of the Naval Academy… May I ask why?”
“I just woke up one morning and didn’t like the uniform I was wearing.”
“Because most Korean men don’t like the military.”
The personnel manager just laughed. It was the truth, though. Most Korean men didn’t like the military. There was so much distrust regarding the front-line forces that they would rather volunteer themselves as a conscripted policeman. But did that mean conscripted policemen had it easier? Well, every Korean man thought their military experience was the worst.
“Since you dropped out when you were a senior, you only have half a year left to serve.”
“I guess I should be relieved.”
According to the Military Service Act, if a cadet dropped out of the Naval Academy, they must join the military with the rank they had before entering the academy or serve as a public service member. However, if they dropped out after a year of training, they could be appointed as an active duty officer. That meant the duration of their training in the Naval Academy would be counted to shorten their period of service. Therefore, if they were a senior cadet, the duration of their training exceeded the mandatory period of service, meaning they must only reenlist for six months.
With a past like that, Ahn Soo Ho’s background headed toward a stranger direction. The personnel manager has met many interviewees before. It might sound silly, but even if he was so competent that he could become an executive 10 or 20 years from now, he was nothing but a newbie at the very moment. To simply put, he was completely useless.
“He’s not intimidated at all.”
He was a type that was hard to come by in the Korean society where rank was very important. He wasn’t even born in another country, meaning he was just another Korean on paper. But then again, ten years was a pretty long time to be abroad.
“The vice-chairman strongly recommended you… How do you know each other?”
Kim Dae Chan, who was a second generation executive and the only son of Kim Dae San, the founder of Daesan Group, was set to become the heir. With a connection like that, it was no surprise that the personnel manager was called upon to conduct this special interview.
“I met him in Buenos Aires three years ago for matters regarding Daesan Group.”
“Three years ago in Buenos Aires?”
“I’m sure a man of your rank would know.”
“Are you referring to the hostage incident?”
“Is that what you call it here?”
“Then what do they call it there?”
“They consider it a terrorist attack.”
The personnel manager was startled. That wasn’t the answer he expected to a formal question.
“What did you do there?”
Ahn Soo Ho knitted his brows. With all that has happened in the last three years, it was hard to remember anything in detail. He might be the interviewee, but this was not something to chat about with a stranger. So he kept it short.
“I resolved an issue.”
“What issue? The hostage incident?”
The personnel manager muttered to himself.
While managing a large corporation, setbacks and a number of issues were bound to appear. And if one was influential enough to lead the Korean economy like Daesan Group, those issues would not be restricted to within the country—having an alliance with foreign forces was a necessity.
Ahn Soo Ho giggled.
“That’s actually not what my name means.”
It was clear that many differences existed between the alphabet and hanja. However, he didn’t correct him because he hated his real name. Thanks to the stupefied personnel manager, the interview ended just like that. As soon as he walked out, Kim Dae Chan welcomed him with a big smile on the face.
Seeing Kim Dae Chan accompanied by staff reminded Ahn Soo Ho of his general in the military.
“How did it go?”
“This is a lot of work just to be a villa caretaker… I don’t feel like doing this anymore.”
“I might be the vice-chairman, but we still have to follow the procedure.”
Kim Dae Chan dismissed his staff. The top floor of the head office had restricted access, so it wasn’t that crowded, but that meant more eyes were on him.
“How’s the old man?
“As good as ever.”
“Is he going to remarry?”
“Who’d put up with his horrible personality?”
“Why not? Young women these days are all about the money.”
“Don’t even bring that up unless you want a cane chucked at you. Oh yeah! My father said he wants to see you. Can you make time?”
“This is why I didn’t want to come back to Korea. What does he want to bother me about this time?”
Kim Dae Chan showed a bitter smile. How many people would be able to treat the great Kim Dae San like any old man? Even the mayor of Seoul and the members of the National Assembly treated him with care.
Ahn Soo Ho sighed.
“Fine, Dae Chan. Don’t give me that pitiful face.”
“You’re probably the only person who could see me as pitiful, Soo Ho.”
“I don’t know. Don’t you think people like me make life more interesting? It’s not fun to bow your head down all the time.”
“That takes skill.”
“Maybe you’re right. Haha. Does that mean I’m skilled?”
Kim Dae Chan, the only son of the great executive, Kim Dae San, was known to be just as malicious as his father. For that reason, not even his aides had seen him smile so brightly until then.
If the chief secretary hadn’t jumped in, they would have chatted and laughed all day long. Kim Dae Chan glanced at his watch, smiled, and said, “You’re not going anywhere far, right?”
“I’ll stay around Seoul today.”
“Okay. I’ll give my father a call.”
Ahn Soo Ho, who saw off the waving Kim Dae Chan and his staff members, ran into a slim and beautiful woman.
“Hello, Mr. Ahn. My name is Oh Joo Kyung.”
“Did they force you into this?”
Oh Joo Kyung widened her eyes to the random response.
“Did they make you escort me against your will just because you have the lowest rank?”
“Hm, it’s true that I’m the youngest in the office, but it wasn’t against my will.”
“I’m relieved to hear that. Let’s go. I don’t need an escort, but it’ll probably be good for the both of us to quickly get it over with.”
They took the elevator down to the first floor. Seeing how it didn’t stop a single time from the fortieth floor, it must be an exclusive elevator for private use. Since she was the vice-chairman’s secretary, all eyes were fixed on her as soon as she entered the lobby.
“Have a nice day.”
Ahn Soo Ho strongly declined the company car Oh Joo Kyung offered him and hailed a taxi. As soon as the taxi disappeared and she finished her bow, the executive from the information desk approached.
“Who was that, Deputy Oh?”
“He was the vice-chairman’s guest. He’ll be joining our team very soon.”
“Oh, the one I’ve heard rumors about?”
After the executive looked around for any eavesdroppers, she whispered, “The chairman’s love child.”
“Isn’t it true? That’s what everyone else thinks.”
“Tell them to get their act together if they don’t want to be scolded.”
The rumor was bound to be misinterpreted.
“He’s… not a lovechild.”
If that was the case, he couldn’t have been so close to the vice-chairman.
The taxi that picked up Ahn Soo Ho from Daesan Group stopped at a charnel house near Seoul. With Korea’s changed funeral culture and lack of land, burials were no longer feasible. He didn’t buy any flowers. He believed she would rather have a glass of rice wine over any kind of flowers.
“It’s been a long time, Queen Grandmother.”
Jung Mi Ja
1905. 3. 25. ~ 1989. 5. 1.
Ahn Soo Ho only found out the queen grandmother’s real name after she passed away. To be honest, he wasn’t interested before then. Who would go around to ask about the neighborhood grandmothers’ names? If she lived until past eighty years old, he would say she had a long and fulfilling life. Did that mean she passed away without any regrets? He was not sure about that. He wasn’t curious about anything else, but if he could meet her again, he would ask her this one question.
“Why did you save my life, Granny?”
The memories were way too vivid to call dreams, so he wanted to ask her. Why did she sacrifice her life to save his? Thanks to her, he got to live an enjoyable life, but another part of him always felt indebted to her.
“I wish you had a family of your own…”
Then he wouldn’t have felt such a heavy burden. However, she had no one else. As Ahn Soo Ho blankly stared at the urn, someone approached him.
Ahn Soo Ho observed the man before him. He looked oriental on the outside, but his pronunciation made it obvious that he had lived abroad.
“Can we talk for a moment?”
Ahn Soo Ho gestured for him to clarify.
“Empire Konzern would very much like to recruit you.”
The man passed him his business card.
“Brian Yoon? I’m sorry, but I’ve never heard of that name.”
“I’m sure you haven’t. It hasn’t been long since I started. To be honest, they only sent me because I’m of Korean origin.”
“Did you do a background check on me?”
“Then you must know that what you’re asking is impossible.”
“But didn’t you just sign with Daesan Group?”
“You’ve been misinformed. It’s not a long-term contract. It’s just a temporary position for one year.”
“Then if I offer you better conditions…”
Ahn Soo Ho cut Brian off before he could finish.
“That won’t happen.”
“You’re very firm.”
“I tend to stick to my word.”
He had returned to Korea on a sabbatical trip. It was only a verbal agreement made over a few drinks, but his promise with Kim Dae Chan was important.
“I’ll be sure to return with better conditions, Mr. Ahn.”
After exchanging nods, Ahn Soo Ho glanced at the distancing man before he picked up his phone.
“It’s me. Look into Empire Konzern. Yeah. Don’t go in too deep, though.”
He only said what he wanted to say and then hung up. Then, he looked at the urn one more time.
“I’ll remember to bring you rice wine next time. Don’t be mad, Granny.”
< Protect – Episode 1 – Kim Dae Chan  >