Side Story 10: Iljoo Group, Choi Cheol-Min
Choi Cheol-Min was the leader of the Iljoo Group. If he were to rank the people he was grateful for in his life beside his family, the first was a mysterious foreign investment company, and the second was a young customer from a long time ago who introduced him to that investment group. To him, these individuals were more precious than figures called Odin or the heroes.
Thanks to them, he lived a life without regrets. They were truly the heroes and saviors of Choi Cheol-Min.
“About an hour ago, after He and the heroes finished their speeches, they left for the World Awakened Association headquarters. Yet, the crowd was still gathering here where the speech took place, filling the air with excitement. Visitors are overjoyed by the returned peace, hoping to share the breath of Him and the heroes. Everyone is smiling and…”
As Choi Cheol-Min got up from the couch, his daughter Ga-Yeong quickly asked, “Are you planning to go there, Dad? The roads must be jam-packed. There could be safety issues.”
Her voice sounded cheerful. Who wouldn’t be shocked at this moment? But her father seemed more overwhelmed. He blinked repeatedly, then seemed lost in thought, but now he looked like he had finally regained his senses.
When Ga-Yeong gestured, Secretary Kim, who was waiting on the sides, started to move.
There used to be many permanent employees in this large house, but other than Secretary Kim, the rest were with their families. It was not a time to blame them for it. Even their private security person, who always acted as if he would sacrifice his life for their family, had been mobilized by the martial law army. Choi Cheol-Min had not heard the news about him for weeks.
Ga-Yeong took the cup of water Secretary Kim handed over and checked on her father’s condition again. He looked dazed, as if entranced by something. Fortunately, he didn’t seem to be that lost in thought.
“Dad, have some water first.”
“Nah, don’t worry. Hey, I have hands, too. Thanks, Kim.”
“You’re welcome, sir.”
Choi Cheol-Min told the secretary, “You should go see your parents, too, Director. They must be waiting. I am sorry for keeping you for so long. I won’t forget the recent events and will repay your dedication.”
The reason Kim could not respond immediately was due to the sudden change in her title.
“Congratulations, Director Kim. Please help me a lot in the future. I don’t know how the situation will turn out, but I believe it will flow in our favor.”
The woman, whose title just changed from Secretary to Director, bowed her head respectfully.
“I should make you new business cards, but there is no time today. I will see you tomorrow. You should really head home now.”
They began talking again after Director Kim left.
“Then, I will try contacting the association headquarters. We might get a chance even from afar.”
The excitement was evident in Ga-Yeong’s voice. Although business related to outer space had completely halted due to sudden changes, they had consistently maintained a cooperative relationship with association officials. Ga-Yeong also wanted to see the real appearance with her own eyes instead of through monitors.
The leader of the Awakened, and the subject of fear… Odin…
Even from the rumors of the engineers who went to build infrastructure in the stronghold of the Awakened, Odin’s status was remarkable.
Outer space was a place where the laws here did not work. No one could dare to look into Odin’s face. If they did, they had to tremble in dread from the way they were kicked by His aides.
The one who seemed forever hidden behind a veil had now revealed himself. He was Korean as commonly known. He had the physique and face of a young man, but one should not assume his age based on common civilian understanding. Especially if one were to speculate about his abilities.
“Stop that and look into getting a helicopter.”
“Even if it’s you, you cannot go there without permission. That place is not our country. It is a piece of land that Korea has donated to the association, and it operates under the association’s own rules. Even its airspace is governed by their rules.”
“Stop treating me like an old fool. Also, when did I say I am going there? I have another place in mind.”
“Not the headquarters?”
“I am going to Mars. Mars! I said Mars.”
After arriving at the landing area, Choi Cheol-Min took a car he had arranged for in advance.
“No, no. Go back. It’s not this way.”
Ga-Yeong was the one driving.
“Hey, stop! Just listen to me! Read out the address so that I can search it up on navigation. Read out the address,” she raised her voice.
He complained, “You have such a temper like your mother.”
“Let’s not talk about mom unless you want to see your daughter cry.”
“She had lived a good life. Do you know whose doing that was?”
She rolled her eyes. “There you go again. Where from here?”
“Over there? Only thing I see is trees.”
“No, not there. Further down.”
“So, turn there? Don’t change your mind later, okay? You have done that so many times already.”
“Hey, get out. Stop the car. I will drive. What is so great about you holding the wheel?”
“Ask anyone out there. They would swear at me. Who in their right mind would let an old man like you drive, especially when you have a perfectly capable daughter?”
“Then stop nagging! Also, who is old? I am still young and healthy!”
Choi Cheol-Min closed his mouth after grumbling. It seemed like they had come to the right place from his memory. Familiar sights began to emerge. The two-story village community center was quite run-down, but its appearance matched his memories of when the construction had just been completed.
“Stop here for a bit.”
There seemed to be a celebration at the community center because the sound of music was quite loud. Choi Cheol-Min got out of the car and said hi to an elderly villager passing by.
“What brings someone from Busan all the way here?”
He actually came from Seoul, but that was not the main point.
“I wanted to ask you something. Have you lived in this village for a long time?”
“What is it?”
“There was a big construction project here about twenty years ago, and I was wondering if you know anything about it.”
“I can barely remember what happened yesterday, so it’s impossible for me to recall something twenty years ago.”
“Think carefully. It was a big project. A hospital building.”
“Oh, that one. You should have said that earlier. But why?”
“I was the one who built it.”
“...I don’t really know, but if you can get in touch with your boss, let them know our village’s position. It is so creepy. It seemed to have been maintained well for a bit, but…”
“Did something happen?”
“A few years ago, maybe? After some high officials visited, it was completely abandoned.”
“Oh, shoot. I am sorry to hear that. I will go check it out immediately. Do you know which way to go? A lot has changed, and I am not familiar with this place anymore.”
Choi Cheol-Min came back to the car.
“What is this place?”
“You have been well-fed, and your mother received the best medical care. Where do you think all that money came from? I told you. I worked hard to raise you.”
He could never forget. Every time Choi Cheol-Min thought of the 1997 IMF crisis, he still felt dizzy. The younger generation, who had not experienced it, did not understand. Therefore, they only complained about the Stage of Advent.
However, 1997 was hell to everyone doing business, whether it was small or large. There were no jobs, and loan interest rates skyrocketed every day. Banks demanded repayments instead of extensions.
It was somewhat fortunate if the CEOs in the same industry declared bankruptcy and disappeared. When he received funeral notices that they had ignited coal briquettes or jumped from rooftops to commit suicide, even those with nothing had to contribute condolence money.
But a miracle happened to me.
The small construction company, Iljoo Construction, managed to escape the bankruptcy crisis and grew into a conglomerate with over ten subsidiaries. It all started with that miracle.
It was painful to admit, but he would have made a regrettable decision if he went bankrupt. Who would want to die? What about the remaining family? But when the world pushed one to the edge, they could completely lose their mind.
Many had gone that way…
“Dad? Are you listening?” his daughter asked.
“What did you say?”
“See? I told you. Dad, you are not okay. Shouldn’t you go to the hospital? You seem really shocked.”
“Stop with nonsense. I think we need to turn there. Take a left.”
The trees that had not been touched by people in years had grown thickly. Even the small thorny bushes were sprawling out onto the road.
“Don’t worry about the scratches. Just go straight.”
Choi Cheol-Min hurried, and Ga-Yeong sensed her father’s urgency by then and kept silent.
When they turned, the destination Choi Cheol-Min was looking for finally appeared. He got out of the car first and walked, reminiscing about the past.
“I heard they built a castle here.”
Ga-Yeong looked around. There was a massive wall hidden by the trees. It was a smaller version of the wall at the World Awakened Association headquarters. The only entrance into the area was a door made of thick metal plates.
Ga-Yeong looked at the plaque attached to it.
「Medical Corporation New Hope Hospital」
“You built this, Dad?” she asked.
He replied slowly, “I got a contract… from Him.”
Ga-Yeong knew who the ‘Him’ her father mentioned was. It was not the guy that people universally called ‘Him.’ Her dad had his own ‘Him.’
She had heard countless times about the benefactor of the Iljoo Group throughout her life. They were a mysterious foreign investment company, and there was also the young man who had connected her dad to them.
However, she could not think of a reason why her dad would visit this place now. Was he reflecting on his past life after the evil god revealed its terrifying form?
It was only natural for her father to value the company that invested into the Iljoo Group. There was no other investment company like that in the world because they never interfered in the management. Even if there was a lot of reserve money in the company, they never asked for dividends. Rather, they willingly gave up their voting rights for their shares.
People praised Jonathan Investment Finance Group as the defenders of the world, but for the Iljoo Group, the unidentified investors were the greatest heroes. It was an undeniable fact.
But in reality, their existence is like a thorn in one’s mouth.
When Ga-Yeong went into the washroom, she thought that the top priority problem to resolve was their shares of the Iljoo Group. If the business in outer space revived, the Iljoo Group had the potential to become a global group with its unparalleled domestic business capacity.
We also have connections with Mr. Caliber…
While Ga-Yeong was deep in thought, she noticed her father standing still. Choi Cheol-Min had moved from the entrance and was staring at a place on the outer wall. There was a small metal plate with a warning sign attached to it.
Civilian Restricted Area
This area is under the World Awakened Association Membership.?Unauthorized entry is strictly prohibited.
World Awakened Association」
Ga-Yeong was surprised as she did not expect to see a warning from the association here. Such warnings usually meant two things. It was either donated land or land where there was or is a dungeon.
“Ga-Yeong, do you know about this?” he asked.
“Yes, of course.”
“Then, you tell me. What do you think this is?”
“It is unlikely that there is donated land in such a remote place… It seems there was a dungeon here…”
Ga-Yeong was unsure. She could not remember ever hearing about a dungeon in this area.
“Anyway, it is related to the Awakened, right? Am I right or wrong?”
Just as Ga-Yeong confirmed, Choi Cheol-Min suddenly fell quiet. Ga-Yeong did not know why, but she could tell that her father had fallen into a deep thought. Therefore, she waited.
However, she could not hold back when her father’s shoulder started to shake.
“Dad, are you crying?”
1. Both Choi Cheol-Min and his daughter Ga-Yeong use heavy Busan dialect. It was hard to word that in English, so just keep in mind. 👈