Outside the window, I could see Seoul City Hall, which looked like a wave spread across the wide lawn.
“Ahem.” Reflexively, I adjusted my voice and arranged my collar. In a few minutes, I would meet Joo Sung-won, one of the most popular candidates in the presidential race. I’d rarely been nervous lately, but now I was a little skittish. The car Secretary Seo drove headed towards the parking lot of Seoul City Hall.
But in the meanwhile, Secretary Seo looked out the window and said, “Wow, that’s the same car as the boss’s.”
I turned my head and looked over. A Bentley Bentay was right next to our car. It was the same kind of car as my baby. Only the black color was a little different.
‘A three hundred thousand dollar car…’ It was a car that no one could run easily. I tried to sneak a look at the car through the window, but the shading was so thick that I couldn’t see inside.
‘Who is it?’ The moment I thought about it, the car pulled ahead of our car and drove into the parking lot first. I asked Secretary Seo, “Is there more than our company that is receiving today’s award?”
“I think there are about four of them?”
“That must be a president’s car for someone else.”
“Oh, I think so. Come to think of it, no one can easily drive the car like that.” Secretary Seo, who had driven into the parking lot, asked me, “Shall we go, boss?”
“Yes.” I started walking with Secretary Seo after we got out of the car, when a slightly familiar voice was heard in the distance.
“Who is this?”
I looked over there. To my surprise, there was Master T, Director Tak Joon-gi standing by the black Bentley.
“I did not expect to see you in a place like this, CEO Han.”
Next to him, I could see the giant bodyguard I had seen last time.
“Oh, yes, it’s been a long time.” I forced myself to smile and say hello to him.
He came up for a handshake, and I complied. “How are you? I’ve heard a lot about you from the news and from the people in the industry.”
“Oh, did you?”
“Yes, especially the Kai Games is amazing.”
He brought up the story of the Kai Games with a smile on his face. His mouth was smiling, but his eyes were not. It meant that even if he said so on the outside, he was burning inside. The stock price of Kai Games was up twenty percent more than last week’s gains, exceeding four hundred percent in gains.
‘Oh, yeah, you feel uncomfortable.’ I thought so on the inside, but laughed on the outside. “Yeah, well, I thought we’d make it good, but… it’s been more successful than expected. As you know, a movie or a game should be a good time, shouldn’t it?”
“Ha-ha-ha, that’s right! You’re very lucky, CEO Han.”
After I spoke with some humility, he turned it off as luck. It must have hurt his self-esteem that he sold his shares cheaply.
‘Yes, you think so, you idiot.’ I nodded as I thought. “Yes, I am. By the way, Director Tak, what brings you here today?”
“Oh, I’m here to get the prize today. The Youth… something.” He turned his head and saw the big secretary.
The man said, “It’s a Youth Employment Campaign, sir.”
“Oh, that. That.” He wasn’t a representative of Suyeon Travel, he was just a major shareholder. He had the title of director, but I didn’t know exactly what he did. Maybe it was just a title for the founder’s grandson, but he was here for the prize.
‘Aren’t all these awards given to the representative? No, maybe… Maybe these prizes might go to the Suyeon Group.’
“Let’s go, then. It’s nice to meet you like this, CEO Han.”
“Ha-ha-ha, yes.” I went up to Seoul City Hall with him, with some slight discomfort.
“Oh, good to see you, Director Tak.”
“Who are you?”
“This is Koo Chan-yong of the A Solution. We met before at an investment presentation.”
“Ah… I remember. You were in Internet security, right?”
“Yes, sir. Thank you for remembering me.”
Before meeting Mayor Joo Sung-won, Director Tak Joon-gi was quite popular among the businessmen who were appointed to get the prize. A white-haired man with a completely shaved head also came to bow his head.
“Hello, Director Tak, I’m Go Soon-gil of Jangmun Construction. How’s your father?”
‘To be sure, the influence of the chaebol on our country is enormous. If the nation’s total market value is eighteen hundred billion dollars, half of that is nine hundred billion dollars, said to be the total value of chaebol affiliates. When they try to do business, they have to be connected to a chaebol. Director Tak Joon-gi is supposed to be treated like this just because he was born with the surname Tak.
‘It’s not fair…’
Meanwhile, a woman with a neat business look approached and said, “CEO Han, and Director Tak, come this way.”
The five winners followed her into the mayor’s office. Inside, Mayor Joo Sung-won was waiting for us.
“Happy to meet you, everyone.”
Mayor Joo Sung-won was quite handsome, seeing him in person. He had a big nose and a big mouth and usually had a smiling face. I thought he looked like a popular middle-aged trot singer in the picture, but he was more than that.
‘Well, they say that a politician is not much different from a celebrity.’
“Come here, please,” he beckoned to us and said.
Before he could say anything further, the beautiful secretary introduced us one by one.
“This is Director Tak Joon-gi of Suyeon Group.”
Mayor Joo Sung-won also opened his mouth right away when he heard the words ‘Suyeon Group.’ “Oh, you’re from Suyeon Group! Nice to meet you.”
Director Tak Joon-gi also bowed to him. “Happy to meet you, Mr. Mayor.”
‘He’s not a man who will bend his head to anyone… He acts like a king everywhere, and he seems to bow before power. Considering the relationship between former presidents and chaebol owners, it is somewhat convincing. Every administration has a close company and a non-friendly one. The political inner story is unknown, but a company’s rise and fall are determined as a result of its closeness and intimacy.
‘They say that he is the asshole of the Suyeon Group, but he is quiet here.’ While I was thinking about this, it was my turn.
“This is Han Sang-hoon, CEO of Invictus Investment.”
Mayor Joo Sung-won, after hearing my name, said, “Ahhh, CEO Han Sang-hoon.” He shook hands with me more firmly than before. “You’re amazing for your young age.”
“That’s too much praise,” I replied modestly.
“You’re from a poor family, aren’t you?”
“But it’s great that you have built such a great fortune. We’re from the same hometown.”
“What? The same hometown?” I thought of my hometown Chungcheong-do for a moment. ‘Is this person from Chungcheong-do?’
But he said, “I’m also from a poor family. Ha-ha-ha!”
The laughter was clear and cheerful. It seemed to be coming out of pureness that was not like a politician. I shook his hand with a smile.
After meeting with the mayor individually, we had an award ceremony inside the mayor’s office. If it had been a school day ceremony, students would have been the audience, but now reporters were the onlookers. Mayor Joo Sung-won took the award document and handed it to me, and I looked at the camera, holding that.
The cameras flashed. After the award ceremony, we had time to eat together. We had pizza and spaghetti together at an Italian restaurant near Seoul City Hall.
‘Get as close as you can get.’ As Jang advised, I talked to Mayor Joo Sung-won as much as I could. I didn’t know if Mayor Joo Sung-won came from the same hometown, but he talked to me throughout the meal, as if he favored me.
“Then, CEO Han, what do you think will happen to our economy?”
“It’s not going to be easy. I think the competition between China and the United States, our biggest trading partners, is going to get worse…”
Asking about our economy, not about the Seoul administration, he surely had a big dream to be a presidential candidate.
“Well, that’s a long shot. I hear politicians say that it won’t last very long because of the political elements in the United States.”
“No, in small terms it will be, but it is certainly going to be a long-term one because it’s a matter of 21st-century supremacy, beyond economic matters.”
Mayor Joo Sung-won was very interested in my words, so I gave out as much knowledge as possible.
“Over the next year, in fact, the pressure from the U.S. will intensify until China gives in with the white flag. The U.S. is bleeding, but it’s booming right now, so they’re going to try to beat China to the top even if they have to use their physical strength.”
It wasn’t just a prediction, it was from 12 Weeks After and 12 Months After, a mixture of what I had read on the news. Therefore, someday, he would say, “CEO Han Sang-hoon said that… It really fits.” There would be times when he would think about it over the next twelve months.
“Well, then it won’t be easy for our country, either.”
“Yes, but at the same time, a crisis is an opportunity. In the process, our country will also have a chance.”
After lunch, Mayor Joo Sung-won said goodbye to us, “Thank you again for your cooperation in our campaign. Goodbye, then.”
“Thank you, Mr. Mayor.”
“Goodbye, Mr. Mayor.”
Certainly, the power of the Seoul Mayor seemed to be enormous. I also looked at him eye-to-eye until the end. When I saw him laughing at me, the quest that Vice President Jang had given me, ‘Stay close to the current mayor of Seoul, the next presidential candidate,’ seemed to be finished completely.
‘All right, next time we meet, I can pretend to know more.’
While I was thinking about it, Director Tak Joon-gi greeted me. “It was nice to meet you again after a long time, CEO Han Sang-hoon.”
“Yes, Director Tak, I agree.” I also returned a formal greeting to Director Tak. But, when I said goodbye, the way he looked at me was a little strange. It was like a snake’s eye for prey, something creepy and sticky.
‘In some ways, he is an unpleasant guy.’ I walked toward the parking lot where Secretary Seo was waiting, thinking about that.
“You’re back, boss.”
I replied, loosening the tie I was wearing. “Yes, let’s go. I pretended to be nice in front of the mayor, and I’m tired.”
By the way, then, Seo said, “Boss, there’s a reporter here who wants to interview you.”
As he spoke, someone appeared behind Secretary Seo.
“A reporter?” I looked at him in surprise.
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