Forming Contract (1)
The Jaegyeong Group was known as one of the top five major corporations in Korea and a leader in the IT and electronics market.
The uncanny leadership of Chairman Hwang Jeong-Hu as a legend of commerce served as the foundation for this giant company to reach its current unshakable position.
Unsurprisingly, people called the Jaegyeong Group an indestructible fortress.
Some even believed that it was only a matter of time before it became the de facto representative company of South Korea.
It was on its way to rising beyond the limits of being a simple Korean corporation to conquer the global stage, but then…
Its wings were clipped one day after Hwang Jeong-Hu, the man who seemed unstoppable, proved that he was a mere mortal with his illness.
His collapse led to several leaks springing up within the group.
The fortress-like company slowly began disintegrating as Chairman Hwang's three sons contested for the right to assume control, eventually devolving into an all-out war amongst themselves.
The unshakable, impregnable company was only possible thanks to the presence of Chairman Hwang Jeong-Hu.
His absence was an unblockable fatal blow to the Jaegyeong Group.
Without him at the top, it was no longer considered the object of fear or envy.
No, it was merely seen as an oversized disorganized group.
The three sons had at least agreed on hiding Hwang Jeong-Hu's health for the sake of propping up the crumbling empire.
Which resulted in the old man being confined to his own hospital room.
Evading the eyes of the media and other onlookers forever was impossible, but the people involved had agreed that keeping everything secret was better than letting the world know.
This explained the iron-tight security detail surrounding Chairman Hwang Jeong-Hu's room around the clock. The VVIP room went through a costly modification to reinforce the security, while two 'security guards' were deployed to strictly prohibit anyone unrelated from entering at all times.
“Whew…” One of the so-called security guards, Jo Gyu-Min, sighed softly.
His eyes took in the all-white hospital corridor, a sight that had become a part of his life over the past year.
Yes. His job for the past year or so was to 'guard' Chairman Hwang Jeong-Hu's hospital room.
At first, he was deeply proud of this job.
He was protecting the Chairman's private chamber, after all.
But the same routine repeating itself for over a year made it so that his enthusiasm had long been replaced by sheer boredom.
'How long am I supposed to keep doing this?'
The truth was…
Jo Gyu-Min didn’t have a background in security.
Hwang Jeong-Hu’s health was one of the most important issues the Jaegyeong Group was currently facing.
As such, it wouldn't be a good idea to entrust the protection of such important information to a third-party security company.
Jo Gyu-Min was a talented individual with a promising future in the secretary department once upon a time.
Hwang Jeong-Hu's eldest son, Hwang Min-Jae, deeply trusted him, meaning it was practically a done deal that he would get the promotion to the No.1 Secretary spot sooner or later.
But Hwang Jeong-Hu's illness turned Jo Gyu-Min's life upside down for the worse.
The matter of hiding Chairman Hwang Jeong-Hu from the public and monitoring his health had the potential to impact the fortunes of the Jaegyeong Group.
That was why the eldest son saw fit to assign the task to his most trusted subordinate, Jo Gyu-Min.
This job offer was even sweetened with the promise of the position of the Chairman's secretary, not the president's.
Jo Gyu-Min was obviously over the moon when he got this important gig.
There was some risk involved, but as long as everything went well, he could even become an executive director within the group.
The other security guard, Kim Seung-Hwan thought the same when he got assigned to this job.
The only difference between the two men was that Jo Gyu-Min had followed Hwang Min-Jae's orders while Kim Seung-Hwan had answered to Hwang Min-Su, the Chairman's second son.
In the beginning, these two didn't even speak to each other.
They were basically enemies serving different bosses even if they were doing the same job.
But spending one year together changed their relationship quite a bit.
“What time is it?” Jo Min-Gyu asked, hoping his shift would end soon.
“It's only six in the morning.
A long way to go before our shift is over.”
“What? It's only six?”
When they first arrived here, they thought they were doing something very important.
But the passage of time gradually changed their situations.
Everyone believed Hwang Jeong-Hu would get better soon, but he showed no signs of improvement.
Those who had long accepted the inevitable had gradually turned their backs on the Chairman, and as a byproduct, the ones protecting the old man were also gradually forgotten.
The report lines were directly connected to the Chairman's aka Hwang Jeong-Hu's sons, but as time went on, the ones answering the call gradually went lower on the corporate ladder.
And now, the report on the Chairman's status devolved into some regular check-in made to some random section chief.
A job that should have been a golden opportunity to turn their lives around instead became a quicksand gradually sucking in both Jo Gyu-Min and Kim Seung-Hwan.
Jo Gyu-Min knew better than anyone that his current situation wasn’t very good.
Someone else should have taken up his old post by now, and it would be unrealistic to expect a meaningful task to fall on his lap after leaving this place without much to show for all the wasted time and effort.
His sole lifeline, Hwang Min-Jae, didn't seem to care about his plight anymore, either.
Since the Jaegyeong Group was to be split into three entities, it would no doubt start a large-scale reshuffling of personnel in the company, which would also be a massive problem for Jo Gyu-Min doing an off-the-book task like this.
What were the odds of him emerging unscathed from the chaotic confusion arising from the reshuffling when no one knew what he was doing? Practically zero.
Kim Seung-Hwan glanced at his partner.
“Hey, did you hear?”
“The reshuffling is about to happen soon.”
Jo Gyu-Min tasted bitterness in his mouth at Kim Seung-Hwan's question.
Both men were in the same boat, it seemed.
“Yeah, I heard about it.”
“I called the department chief at the human resources earlier.”
“You got his direct number?”
“Yeah, he's my school senior, you see.” Kim Seung-Hwan chuckled wryly.
Jo Gyu-Min sneaked a glance at the man next to him.
Having the human resources department chief as a school senior could somewhat improve the latter's situation.
However, Kim Seung-Hwan's complexion wasn't exactly bright at the moment.
“He said that he's also unsure.”
“…Absolute worst, then.”
Jo Gyu-Min quietly tutted away.
Unsure, huh…? Of course, the department head would know something.
It wasn't 'unsure,’ but more like, 'not much to say.’ It could only mean these two men no longer had a place left in the company.
We shouldn't have accepted this job in the beginning.”
We never expected our Chairman to be sick for this long, though.”
“Yeah, that's true.”
Only bitterness remained in their mouths.
This unexplainable camaraderie now existed between these two men.
Their talent had gotten them this gig.
Their talent earned them trust and, in turn, earned them opportunities.
But now, their talent could be the reason for their abandonment and being forgotten in this place.
What a cruel irony that was…
What frustrated them more was that there was little they could do to change their situation.
'Son of a b*tch…'
Jo Gyu-Min groaned, then fixed his sunglasses.
But then, he was jolted awake from his thoughts by the sound of the door urgently opening up.
He turned his head and looked at the person emerging from the doorway.
“Auntie? Where are you going?”
It was the caregiver auntie tasked with looking after Chairman Hwang Jeong-Hu.
Seeing each other's mugs for over a year meant they had grown close enough to say they were friends now.
The caregiver, who usually grinned good-naturedly and greeted Jo Gyu-Min, was making a very stiff expression today.
Was she not feeling well?
The caregiver auntie spoke in a trembling voice, “Uhm, I…
think you two need to step inside for a minute…”
“What happened, auntie?”
“Just step inside and see for yourselves.
Both of you.”
Jo Gyu-Min narrowed his eyes.
“In that case, let's go in, then.” Kim Seung-Hwan nodded and unhesitantly stepped through the doorway first.
Jo Gyu-Min followed suit right afterward.
The sound of doors locking behind them could be heard before they were allowed through the triple-doored doorway and into the hospital room.
“…Heot?” A gasp leaked out of Kim Seung-Hwan's mouth.
“Auntie, where's the Chairman?!”
The Chairman's bed where the sick old man should have been…
No wonder Kim Seung-Hwan was freaking out.
“No need to raise a ruckus, fellas.”
Suddenly, they were stopped in their tracks by an old man's voice coming from next to them.
Jo Gyu-Min and Kim Seung-Hwan turned their heads and discovered the owner of that voice.
The shock made their eyes open even wider and their jaws hit the floor.
It was Hwang Jeong-Hu! And he was relaxedly sitting on a couch meant for visitors…
That old man had been confined to the bed, unable to lift a single finger until last night.
So, how could he be sitting on a couch and speaking without any impediments?!
Jo Gyu-Min noticed Hwang Jeong-Hu's eyes just then.
Those hollow, empty eyes of yesterday were now burning in resolute flames of life.
Hwang Jeong-Hu stared at the security guards.
“Your name is Jo Gyu-Min, is it not?”
“…!” Jo Gyu-Min's shock prevented him from verbally replying.
The Chairman seemed amused by that response, as evidenced by the corners of his lips curling up slightly.
“You have any smokes on you?”
“I'm sorry? Ah, y-yes, Chairman! Here it is!” Jo Gyu-Min hurriedly shoved his hand under his jacket and yanked out a packet of cigarettes before presenting the whole thing to the Chairman of the Jaegyeong Group.
Hwang Jeong-Hu accepted the cigarette, then turned his head.
“You, stop right there.”
Kim Seung-Hwan froze on his spot at that stern warning.
Hwang Jeong-Hu leisurely ordered.
“Take your hand out.”
Kim Seung-Hwan made a sheepish face and eased his hand out of his pocket.
It seemed that he was trying to contact somebody using his phone just now.
The Chairman spoke up again.
“Light this for me.”
Jo Gyu-Min nervously swallowed back.
He handed over the cigarettes in a panic but now that he had calmed down a little, Chairman Hwang Jeong-Hu was still a patient who had just gained consciousness.
Was it okay to let someone like that smoke? “Sir…
Excuse me, Chairman.
But smoking is a bit…”
Hwang Jeong-Hu turned his head and stared at Jo Gyu-Min.
“I said, light this for me.”
What a weird thing it was… Hwang Jeong-Hu wasn't yelling at them nor was he displaying his anger.
No, he was utterly composed and calm, yet his words sounded like the supreme order from a god that should never be ignored.
It felt like one should never, ever go against this old man's commands.
Jo Gyu-Min swallowed nervously again.
He carefully took out his lighter, then lit up Hwang Jeong-Hu's cigarette.
Once he ascertained that the unhealthy cigarette had indeed caught fire, Jo Gyu-Min took a step back and stood at stiff attention, waiting for the Chairman's response.
That was all he could do in this situation.
Now that he and Kim Seung-Hwan were in the room, they simply had to wait for Hwang Jeong-Hu's next order.
Hwang Jeong-Hu took a puff and frowned a little, perhaps finding the taste of a cigarette a bit too much after not having smoked in over a year.
The gray smoke slowly drifted in the air.
Jo Gyu-Min noticed a forgotten ashtray found in a distant corner of the room and smartly placed it before his Chairman.
Hwang Jeong-Hu observed this before speaking in a sharp, clear voice, “My eldest sent you, did he not?”
“I'm sorry?” Jo Gyu-Min inadvertently asked back in surprise.
How did Chairman Hwang Jeong-Hu find that out?
“No need to get that shocked, fella.
I wasn't some cadaver on a stretcher that couldn't hear anything, after all! Indeed, I've heard all the conversations of every punk that came into this room.”
“…!” Jo Gyu-Min's complexion was instantly drained of all color.
It had been a year since he started working here.
Most of his time was spent in the corridor outside the room, but it was still a year.
Waiting around that long meant that you would inevitably spend quite a lot of time in the room, too.
And Jo Gyu-Min and Kim Seung-Hwang mus have talked about a few stuff while here.
And as it turned out, Hwang Jeong-Hu had been listening all along.
Jo Gyu-Min's mind was jolted awake by the flitting image of Director Baek Yeong-Gi.
That man's insistence on coming here to see Hwang Jeong-Hu was so unwavering that it verged on being moronic. Whenever he showed up, he would diligently report the situation in the company to his boss!
Didn't that mean Hwang Jeong-Hu had been listening to all of that man's reports? Every single one of them? Baek Yeong-Gi was a director of the board, so the level of information he could unearth was quite serious.
In other words, Hwang Jeong-Hu was fully aware of how his three sons had been greedily fighting over the control of his company.
'This is bad!'
Jo Gyu-Min needed to contact his boss somehow. Before it was too late, he should dash out of here and call President Hwang Min-Jae, and…
“I can hear your gears turning, young man.”
Hwang Jeong-Hu smirked derisively.
“Who do you think I am?”
Jo Gyu-Min’s mind went blank from the ‘power’ contained in those words.
Yes! This man before his eyes was none other than Hwang Jeong-Hu.
The giant of commerce, a businessman who would go down in Korea’s history as a legend!
The giant who built the Jaegyeong Group from the ground up had finally woken up from his slumber.
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