“What happened to Item 3?”
“They took it.”
Kaufman did not even ask who they were and instead scowled and crossed out the third entry on the list. It was a Korean construction firm that made a good profit, but the real estate in their possession was the real treasure.
They had bought land that was certain to be redeveloped, and the site would be a priority for Korea when the country overcame the IMF crisis.
“I told you to work on item 3 in secret many times.”
“It’s not my fault. I believe our chairman needs to meet the powerhouses of Korea.”
“That’s not the problem. We’re losing all the assets in the bay we were trying to get in secret, and we’ll end up with nothing!”
Kaufman began to wish for alcohol since the situation suffocated him. He had heard the name Jeonil Investments for the first time when he came to Korea. He had never heard of them before, and he found through research that Jeonil Investments had successfully lobbied to quickly open the real estate market.
He would have just applauded if things ended like that, because when everyone was focused on Thailand, Singapore, and Hong Kong, Jeonil Investments showed its expertise as an investment firm by entering Korea faster than anyone else and building connections with the government.
However, they were greedier than Kaufman’s expectations, and they bought anything that came up on their radar with twice the money. They simply could not compete with funding that Jeonil possessed. As Jeonil had opened the real estate market to foreign investors, they obviously had deep ties with the current regime.
Therefore, Kaufman suspected that Jeonil Investments’ funds came from the Dictator’s slush funds, the man who had ruled over Korea during the sixties and seventies. That answered some of the questions.
“The Chairman has to come. Don’t you think this mess needs to be straightened out?”
“I’ll think about it.”
“It’s worse than you think. He has to come to say things that the Korean government wants to hear and request that Jeonil Investments be muzzled and get people in power to oppose Jeonil. They’re trying to buy up this country’s market with a bigger wallet, and we have to attack this point.”
Kaufman thought things over, and his team member’s request was logical. The real estate that came out in the market was for the private sector, but Jeonil had changed the rules. What was the name of that Korean CEO of Jeonil? The family name was Park, which was also the dictator’s family name.
The CEO had somehow managed to have the Korean government change the pre-declaration system for high price real estate to enable Jeonil to place the first bid on all assets that came up for sale. It was an alliance between the government and business, and Kaufman was annoyed because he regretted not entering the market first. Jeonil Investments’ position should have been Bluestone’s and his.
“Jonathan Hunter has come. Why can’t the Chairman?”
Kaufman heard the name of that lucky [email protected] While his gaze was still on the list, he could not read the letters anymore, thinking about the unfairness of life.
“We will lose Daehoo in this case. Haven’t you checked my report?”
“Calm down first, and let’s think things over. What are our priorities in this situation?”
Kaufman asked the entire team, and the answers were the same. The team wanted the group’s Chairman to visit Korea quickly and voice his opinions along with other investment firms in this country, and they had to hire the power brokers who had connections to those in power. The meeting became more heated, and at the end, someone said that they had to denounce the relationship between the current government and Jeonil and publicly ask that the origin of the firm’s dollars should be revealed.
That was going too far, as it was taboo to touch the hot money that would soon belong to the rich in this country. Jeonil Investments would not be the only one hurt by that. The reason that they, who were the elite of the elite in Wall Street, were being pushed to the extreme was that they could not gobble up the prey they saw everywhere. Kaufman slowly nodded at the desperate team members’ faces.
“There are a lot of you who want to be a journalist. Let’s go make some noise.”
Kaufman spoke, and the team members agreed. Except one.
“This is not about our team.”
“There’s something else we could do with approval from above.”
“What is it?”
“An alliance between Bluestone Group and Jonathan Investments. Jonathan Investments has the best cash flow, and that’s what this country wants the most.”
“Jonathan had come to Korea yesterday. Would he meet us? I’m pessimistic.”
“Jonathan also understands the situation, and he would also go empty-handed at this rate. He would not like that.”
“Hmm…we don’t need to bring the President in, as Jonathan could be our front man to the Korean government.”
“Then let’s go with that.”
Kaufman and his team members began to work hard again, as they were determined not to go back empty-handed from a country where they could make the best profit of their lives.
It was then a message came to their room from the hotel lobby.
<Someone named Jonathan has asked to meet you.>
I heard from Choi of Ilju Constructions that operations were going smoothly. While the construction was proceeding in the middle of winter, the fact that there was no snowfall helped.
The sharp tax audit on Daehoo had finished, and now the entire Daehoo workforce staged a walkout. Because the government was heavy handed with the financial authorities and the creditors, the walkout started a year earlier than the previous history.
There were no fancy events like before that celebrated Daehoo’s CEO’s retirement. Those outside of the president’s family maintained their positions and would not be thrown out. The phone rang at an inappropriate moment.
<You heard the news?>
<When will you buy?>
<There is competition, which is natural. However, it won’t be a problem since they would not even realize that they’re going to be bridesmaids, but not the bride.>
<Well, that’s nice. Do you know the Korean metaphor for that?>
<That our competitors will be the folding screen, right? There’s one in the Blue House…> (EN: Folding screen, or distraction)
The bell that signaled class started rang, and the cell phone I brought around was small enough to fit my inside pocket. Cell phone size continued to decrease, and after the PDA era started last October, it became easy to carry. (EN: Personal Digital Assistant)
After I came out of the bathroom stall, there were guys who were staring at me. I did not know who they were, but they knew me.
“Su..Sunhoo, did you speak English?”
“You have a cell phone?”
“I’m in the fourth class, as you are.”
The guys spoke quickly in my silence, and I felt another strange rumor coming. Between the winter and spring vacation, school was still a burdensome place. There was one more thing that was a burden, and my homeroom teacher had held me up after school ended. I had to go to her office.
The woman began to chatter about unnecessary matters, and I did not want to know what exercise she had taken up recently.
“I want to know you better, Sunhoo.”
This woman was strange. In my previous life, my homeroom teacher had not been someone who looked like a small animal but a middle-aged bald man. The guy who always looked unnatural due to being conscious of his wig was now the homeroom teacher for another class.
It was a small change, but still a change, and I did not know how this came to be.
“…You want to know me better?”
“I do. Since you’re mature, I’ll say things honestly. I’m worried a lot about you.”
“Please, look at me. Guys don’t make trouble for me.”
“That will make you stand out.”
She again talked by herself and smiled. She was in her mid-twenties and a passionate teacher. Early this week, there had been an incident that made her aware that she was the subject of sexual fantasies among the male students.
However, she went about school like before, and I could not understand why she acted like a warm-hearted puppy after calling me to the teacher’s room.
Come to think of it, my homeroom teacher had always been interested in me. She would be staring at me inside my classroom, from the corridor and quickly look away when I noticed and scurry back to her desk.
I was someone people would look at twice since I looked like an adult and did not play with other classmates. However, even taking those into consideration, it would not be too excessive to say that she was too interested in me.
My homeroom teacher seemed like she wanted to say something and was just chattering to build up to that subject.
“Do you have something you want to say?”
“Do you have to go to a cram school? Where do you go?”
“Sorry, I’m holding you up, aren’t I.”
“I just don’t understand this conversation. If it’s not important, may I go?”
“Wait a moment, Sunhoo.”
“What I want to say is that…school is a good place.”
“I know that it’s hard to adjust to you. But your classmates do not hate you but are afraid of you.”
What did she want to say?
“So, if you open up and come to them, you can make friends and know that school’s a good place. Let’s work on that during the next semester. Can you make a promise?”
She was saying things that I only saw on TV shows, and it was a talent to be able to say those words with a smile. She seemed to be only a new teacher, and I may have misunderstood her passion.
“It’s a promise!”
She shouted again behind my back as I went out, and she still had that bright smile.
Edited by Userunfriendly