11.92% Empire of the Ring / Chapter 13: On the Move (2)

Chapter 13: On the Move (2)

Youngho visited the headquarters of the H Porcelain and Dongdaemun clothing factories to get acquainted with his business partners, and also to discuss about the taxation processes. The CEOs of the clothing factories pampered Youngho as a VIP partner. Youngho was almost like a savior since it was hard for clothing factories to meet a business partner that accurately counted and paid the material and designing prices. Moreover, in order to bring in business, they often had to pay high costs to bribe traders.

However, Chunho Merchant was a fair business partner, who did not nitpick on other things in the process after assigning them what materials and designs to use.

Chunho Merchant's role was only to sell the clothes after paying for their designs. The quality was the factory's responsibility. Because their roles were different, they did not have to deceive each other. As the high quality products were selling well in Baku, the production companies got benefits from it. The cycle of business between the clothing production, Chunho Merchant, and the customers in Baku ran smoothly.

After his New Year's break, Youngho came back to Baku in Azerbaijan. His friends had to take the long way, getting connected in Istanbul and again in Georgia to get to Baku. Now, the first class of the militia trainees completed the training, and the second class was next in line.

From then on, the militia decided to have special warfare training with 300 militia trainees every six months. The skills of the first class of trainees had improved dramatically since it was almost close to one-on-one training. Youngho's friends welcomed the militia's decision with a joyful dance because the fact that they had more than 2,000 untrained militia members left to shape up was a job guarantee for them for at least four years. The job provided them meals and a living place on top of one billion won of annual salary. It was a dream job. Not to mention, the girls were beautiful in here. Youngho's unmarried friends loved the place.

Edward from the US CIA contacted Youngho, letting him know that Korean helmets and night vision goggles were confirmed for militia supplies. Youngho negotiated the price of the products from a defense industry company in Changwon, Korea. It was 1.5 million won for each piece, and the quantity was more than 3,000. Surely, it was not a little price for a defense industry company to sell 4.5 billion won's worth of products to a private buyer. With the cooperation of the defense industry company, Korean Ministry of National Defense, and the CIA, Youngho was able to successfully trade non-labeled, all-in-one helmets and night vision goggles. The defense industry products were not taxed, whether they were sold for national or international trade.

The defense industry company in Changwon suggested that they give Youngho 100,000 won as commission fee for each of the products. They were trying to lobby Youngho, thinking that Youngho was a military trader supported by the CIA. They even paid him in US dollars. Youngho was glad for the commissions because he wanted funds that could not be touched by Korean financial authorities. Now, suddenly, he had 300 million won in his hands.

He did not use Chunho Merchant's name for military businesses anymore but used his own name, simply because he did not wish to continue doing military businesses for a long time, and he never knew if there were any spies in the militia. It was not good if Chunho Merchant's name was exposed, especially to Baku's clothing retailers.

Youngho's friends worked hard as drill instructors. They picked out outstanding trainees from the first class to foster them as future instructors. Not wanting to get exposed as Koreans involved in the militia, they wanted to raise future instructors fast.

Because they did not want to be seen as Koreans involved in ethnic disputes or religious conflicts of the region, they introduced themselves as former soldiers of the Foreign Legion of France.

Youngho also helped to cover up their identities. He opened a second branch office of Chunho Merchant in Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, the autonomous region, and hired all four of his friends as his employees. By doing this, he solved their visa status and identity problems. Edward mentioned something about making them temporary field agents like Youngho, but Youngho thought one person was enough.

From the beating in the militia, he received many business orders, but Youngho wanted to do more than just business. He wanted to do proper business in the regions of Azerbaijan and Armenia, and he wanted to do something to help out the people here.

During his stay here, Youngho became fond of the local people. Except for their ethnic conflicts, they were kind and innocent people. Coming from a divided country, their problems did not seem like others'. Youngho was not a philanthropist, but if there was even a small way to be of help, he wanted to do it. He felt sorry for the people since he was living off doing business with them.

Then what needed to be done was maintaining the balance of power between the two groups. The reason that he was helping the militia was that he wanted the two regions' powers to be balanced since the militia's side had relatively weak military power.

***

"He must be crazy."

"I'm saying, these people gave orders to kill him just because the guy scored a goal, didn't they?"

They were talking about a Korean soccer player who was playing for a foreign team.

A moderately famous Korean player K was a hardworking soccer player. After getting scouted into a Turkey team, he recently scored an own goal by mistake while passing the ball to the goalkeeper of his team.

Then the gamblers who lost money because of him secretly made an order to assassinate him, and somehow it was leaked to the press. The press was broadcasting it as a main story. Park Jongil hustled around, saying that he would go save the soccer player.

The fourth biggest city in Turkey was notorious for its fanatic soccer fanbase. There had been many casualties in the past when the team played against its rival teams. The Korean soccer player K was allegedly hiding from the gamblers, and the press reported that he would soon return to his home country.

The Turks were famous for their passion for soccer. Even though they had a great relationship with Korea, the gamblers did not care about the nation's diplomacy.

Everyone tried to stop Park Jongil who was about to take a break to go save the soccer player.

"Hey, Jongil, what do you think the Korean embassy is for? They have their own armed forces protecting the embassy. K is already in good hands. Don't use your energy for nothing. You might lose your job if you keep acting reckless like now."

"Man, it's nuts!"

The saying must be true—that people become patriotic when they reside in foreign countries. Jongil almost became K's bodyguard on behalf of Korea.

Youngho visited his friends after a long time.

Since he did not work as a drill instructor anymore but only helped with the CIA's work, he now visited Stepanakert once a month under an excuse of looking after his second branch office.

After hearing his friends' conversations, Youngho suggested that Jongil come to Istanbul with him. Youngho figured it would be good for Jongil since Jongil seemed to be getting bored by the simple life. Jongil was excited to hear the news.

The militia commander asked for help from Youngho a few days ago. Because the commander was Armenian, he had many limitations in Turkey since the two nations were not friendly with each other. That was why he asked Youngho to go on his behalf.

Youngho thought it would be a tedious trip, but having Jongil with him made him feel better. The commander also agreed on it since it was a job for the militia.

***

Youngho and Jongil arrived at Atatürk International Airport. It only took twenty minutes to get to Beyoglu from the airport.

The region of Beyoglu was a business center in Istanbul. Merchants, consulates, banks, and travel agencies from different countries were all gathered in this region.

Jongil did not care for their job because he was already under the charm of beautiful Turkish women. Youngho felt like he was taking his baby brother on a business trip. Hoping that Jongil would not cause any problem was the only thing he could do. The two of them unpacked their belongings in a hotel located near Taksim Square.

In the afternoon of that day, Youngho met a carpet retailer at the hotel café. Mustafa was a tough-looking, dark-skinned merchandiser in his forties with a bulky body.

"I've never had business with foreigners. How did you come to know me?" his husky voice asked.

"I am from Chunho Merchant in Korea. I'm a branch manager in Azerbaijan. I'm not here for business."

Mustafa suddenly changed his attitude after hearing that they did not come for business. As a businessman, he had to hold himself in a strong manner, but he did not need the attitude anymore.

"For whose request did you come to see me? Please be honest if you want me to be serious."

"Good. Margos, the militia commander of Nagorno-Karabakh asked me to meet you for him. Mr. Mustafa, he said you are Armenian-blooded."

Mustafa seemed to know Margos well. After carefully checking his face, Youngho showed him his diplomat's passport. Mustafa investigated the passport for a moment. He got up from his chair and signaled Youngho to follow him.

"If you are staying in this hotel, let's go up to your room. Just to be safe."

Youngho followed Mustafa, saying out loud that, "The carpet prices are too high!" with exaggeration to look like they were having an argument. Realizing what Youngho was doing, Mustafa acted naturally as well.

Park Jongil, who was resting in his room, looked surprised to see Mustafa and Youngho coming in.

"What's up, Youngho?"

"Can you leave us for a moment? Maybe you could go walk around the town?"

"All right."

Ready-witted Jongil dressed up and left them without asking any questions.

"You can speak freely now. If you are being watched now, I won't contact you after today."

"No, I'm just being extra careful. Turkish ultranationalist organizations always watch for Armenians here."

Armenians in Turkey were afraid of Turkish conservative ultranationalists because not only there had been a tragic historical events in the past but also Turkey was a brother country to Azerbaijan, which was at odds with Armenia.

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