Life, Once Again! - Chapter 308
“So, did the matter at your school end well?”
“Yes, thanks to you, it all ended well.”
“That’s good. Are the bullied kids still going to school like normal?”
“I haven’t talked to them after that. From how I see them from time to time at school, I think they’re doing fine.”
“That’s a little unexpected. Usually, they’d come up and say thanks.”
“It’s not something I wanted them to thank me for. Neither they nor I have a reason to get close to each other, so it was only a matter of time before we became like strangers.”
“To me, that sounds like you didn’t do all that out of pity.”
“Did the bullies get on your bad side then? Or did they bully you as well? No wait, you definitely aren’t the type of guy to be bullied.”
“There’s a guy that crossed the line. Honestly speaking, if he didn’t cause any problems for me, I would’ve just let them be.”
“I don’t say this to young people that much, but that’s actually better. You need to draw the line between where you want to interfere and where you don’t. I don’t recommend being kind to everyone to people.”
Maru nodded as he sliced the t-bone steak. His life philosophy was similar to that of lawyer Park’s. Well, many people probably had similar philosophies with minor differences.
“Oh, lawyer Park.”
Just as he was biting into a piece of bread after applying butter on it, a lady who seemed to be in her early forties greeted lawyer Park. Next to her was a pretty child. She seemed to be in elementary school.
“Hello. I didn’t know I’d see you here.”
“The owner of the store is a friend of mine. I came here to visit, but then I saw a familiar face. Yeji, you have to say hello, don’t you?”
The little girl politely greeted lawyer Park. The way she put both of her hands on her belly button and bowed was adorable and cute. She then turned towards Maru and greeted him as well. The girl’s mother looked at her daughter with satisfaction.
The woman faintly smiled and had a look at Maru. When she did, lawyer Park introduced Maru to her.
“He’s someone under a company that a friend of mine runs.”
Since lawyer Park introduced him, Maru couldn’t stay still either. He stood up and greeted the woman.
“Oh, it looks like I interrupted your meal.”
“Not at all. We were feeling desolate since it’s just two men here. Rather than that, Yeji has grown a lot since the last time I saw her. Is she in her 2nd year of elementary school now?”
“She’s pretty like her mother.”
“Sheesh, there you go again, lawyer.”
The little girl was blinking and staring at the table. She was looking at the piece of bread. She gave a glance to her mother and the lawyer before reaching out to the small piece of bread.
Seeing that, the girl’s mother calmly scolded her. The girl made a dejected expression before taking away her hand. The mother crouched down and met her eyes on the same level before stroking her cheeks.
“I told you that you shouldn’t put your hand on other people’s things without permission, didn’t I?”
The girl nodded. Seeing that, lawyer Park smiled and grabbed the bread with a napkin before handing it over to the girl.
“What do you have to say to lawyer Park now?”
The girl bowed after receiving the bread. The mother told her ‘good girl’ before patting her head.
“Lawyer, may I treat you to a meal next time? My husband wants to meet you.”
“Sure. Call me any time. I’m quite free.”
“Okay then, I’ll see you at a later date. Enjoy your meal.”
The little girl then bowed again before leaving.
“That’s when girls are the cutest. You have less to care about and they are so adorable. They’re obedient too.”
“That’s true. After a couple more years… gee, I don’t want to even think about it.”
Maru showed an awkward smile to lawyer Park, who was staring at him. He blurted that out loud since he was reminded of his own daughter. After their meal, they went to the counter to pay, and the employee told lawyer Park that their meal was already paid for.
“Oh, is that so?”
Lawyer Park put his credit card back inside his wallet. It seemed that that lady from back then had paid for their meal.
“Looks like I have to go to their next invitation no matter what,” lawyer Park spoke as he walked out of the restaurant.
Maru got in the car when he told him that he’d give him a ride home.
“That was a decent meal, wasn’t it?”
“I really had a nice time. I’m even thinking about bringing my parents here next time.”
“That’s good. The dressing isn’t that strong, so a.d.u.l.ts like it as well. The steak seasoning is also tailored to fit our taste buds.”
“But how much does it cost to get a course meal like the one we just had?”
“Around 300 thousand.”
“Then that’s 150 thousand per person, huh. How expensive.”
“No, I meant 300 thousand per person.”
Maru felt as though the food inside his stomach was suddenly expanding in size. He ate 300 thousand won’s worth of food in one sitting? It wasn’t like he drank any alcohol either. All he had were some vegetables, bread, soup, seafood, a steak and some dessert. So even the bread cost five digits?
At the same time, he was reminded of the lady that paid 600 thousand won. Perhaps she asked her friend that she said was the owner of the restaurant?
“Are you thinking about what kind of person she is to pay such a huge sum?”
“Was it that obvious?”
“You’re quite sensitive when it comes to money. You will go bald if you like money too much when you’re still young. Hm, her husband is a managing director at DK, and she herself is the granddaughter of the chairman of the Korea Daily. In one word, chaebols.”
“That’s easy enough to understand. Chaebols, huh.”
Maru remembered the mother and daughter that he saw at the restaurant as he put his seatbelt on. Chaebols. It was a word that appeared very frequently in the news and popular magazine journals. It was also a word that brought the public outrage of the ordinary people. Maru himself did not have any good feelings towards the word chaebol either. It wasn’t a surprise, since all the news about them were about embezzlement, business malpractices to gain illegal profits, secret funds and mostly any crime related to money.
However, a real chaebol he saw for himself was just like anyone else, no in fact, was more polite than most people. Maru wondered if it was because she was talking to a lawyer.
Lawyer Park drove in reverse as he started speaking. Maru just looked forward without showing any expression. He couldn’t say bad things about people who were positively acquainted with lawyer Park.
“Not many people see chaebol families in a good light.”
Maru glanced at him.
“The irony is that everyone wants to become one, yet they despise them. It’s the chaebols themselves that created this contradiction, so they shouldn’t be that surprised. I mean, the chairman of Sungjoo Corp. appeared on TV in a wheelchair. His effort to not get arrested was tear jerking.”
“I’ve seen the news as well. It was about the stocks, wasn’t it?”
“They got caught shooting a movie which they did in order to avoid taxes. It’s interesting. The families that are known as chaebols can dictate a corporation with stocks that often amount to a single digit percentage. I don’t know who came up with the idea of circular shareholding, but I’m sure that person is a genius,” lawyer Park chuckled.
“In any case, chaebols have a lot of problems, but they mostly try to stay quiet. When problems surface like that, it’s mostly because they didn’t do the groundwork properly.”
“Whether it's shady deals or market manipulation, they have to cover their tracks, but details that shouldn't get leaked come out anyway, and then the CEOs suddenly come out in wheelchairs. Oh, I’m not saying this as a lawyer, but as an ordinary person.”
“Problems do get found because when you’re the leader of a super large corporation, you will get exposed to the media one way or the other, but their families usually do their best not to be exposed. Do you know what people in power fear the most?”
“Well, losing their power, probably.”
“Yes, it’s simple. That’s why the people with power watch out for themselves in order to not let go of the power in their hands. The era is changing. The people that supported companies in order to revitalize the country by buying in-house products have started to look for ways to survive on their own. It’s especially becoming like that ever since the IMF crisis. Thanks to that, the companies watch out for themselves in order to appease to the public and not get on their bad side. They might be able to wield power in places with guaranteed secrecy, but they will have to act very politely in places without it.”
Lawyer Park made a very peculiar expression. Maru found out why through the next words he spoke.
“I earn money by going around doing work so that they don’t lose any money. I don’t like chaebols, but they make up the majority of my clients at our law firm, so I can’t exactly hate them. My wife and eldest daughter’s travel expenses, as well as my younger daughter’s tuition comes from their pocket after all. That’s why I really can’t scold other people. I’m not in a position where I can speak, so how am I supposed to talk bad about anyone?”
“Everyone has to deal with something like that one way or the other.”
Insulting people in better positions, yet dreaming to become one; complaining about society yet doing their best to be a member of one. This couldn’t be helped since the world was one where they would starve to death if they were excluded by others. Chaebol was the ultimate objective of people going to good universities and getting good jobs. Of course, some had other objectives as well. These people usually pursued their own unique goals. However, the underlying system of this nation was geared towards producing laborers that were less defiant and more mechanical, and a laborer’s dream would be to become the head of laborers.
Maru reminded himself of the celebrity prostitution issue that he saw on RBS. An actress claimed that she was called to a successful CEO to have s.e.x.u.a.l intercourse. It seemed that businesses and the entertainment industry were actually joined together whether it was the good things or the bad things.
“In dramas, 2nd gen members of chaebols are portrayed as super condescending people, right? Trying to solve everything with money, blackmail, beating people up… There are people like that as well. I can’t say that there aren’t any people like that. But the people I’ve met were all nice people. No, going beyond nice, they’re naïve.”
After stopping in front of a red light, lawyer Park put a cigarette in his mouth. He didn’t light it up though. He just held it with his lips like a lollipop.
“I used to be in a prosecutor’s office before I entered a law firm. I had to deal with criminal cases like mad. I’ve seen how malevolent humans can be, numerous times. I can’t remember the number of times I shook in rage as I wrote indictment bills. Someone that killed their parents, someone that killed their child, someone that ran over a person in a car, rapists, assailants, etc. From what I saw, people raised in harsher environments tend to commit more extreme crimes. There are exceptions, but they just stop caring since their very reality is hell. Also, in cases of homicides, most non-accidental murders were related to money problems.”
Lawyer Park moved his lower jaw to fidget with the cigarette in his mouth before throwing it on the ashtray. Maru saw that the ashtray was filled with cigarettes that hadn’t been burned at all.
“I think I get what you’re saying.”
“Yes. Why are the 2nd generation members of rich families pure and naïve? They might change once they start learning about business in order to participate in it, but they must be really pure and naïve before that. I mean, they get to be raised in the best of environments without lacking anything, right? They would never have to deal with the problems that would be common for people born and raised in ordinary households.”
“Yes, that’s what it is. They are people that grew up with the best of everything, including education, so they’re fundamentally polite and kind. It’s harsh trials that create the flaws in personality, but they don’t experience things like that. Though, like I said before, there are those that just act whimsically, but they’re immediately put to rest with pressure from their older family members.”
A big wobble could be felt. It seemed that they drove over a speed bump.
“Do you about know the celebrity prostitution story that’s in the news these days?”
“Yes. I’ve seen the news.”
“It’s not something I should say to a kid, but I’ll say this to you since you’re a part of it… don’t get involved with people from companies as much as possible. In the entertainment industry, the ones with power are the advertisers, and advertisers belong to businesses. Meeting them for business is okay, but don’t get close to them personally.”
“I’ll first become famous and then think about it.”
“Haha, I guess that’s also true.”
Just then, a phone bell rang. Lawyer Park answered the call with the hands free mode.
“This fella, you just called at the perfect moment. I’m with Maru right now. Why are we together? Things happened. Why did you call me? You want to drink together? You should really watch out for your health. Why don’t you drink ginseng tea like you always do? Alright, forget booze. Why don’t we go indoor fishing after all this while? You know, like when we were young. Alright, see you then.”
Lawyer Park ended the call. Maru looked outside the window. He saw that he was just passing by a subway station.
“It sounds like you got an appointment, so I’ll get off here. It will be quite a hassle for you to drive to Suwon and then back to Seoul.”
“I wish I could drive you home, but I guess it will be quite hard on me once it starts getting congested.”
Lawyer Park stopped the car at the edge. Maru got out of the car and said goodbye. He was thankful to him since he had a nice meal and got some help from him as well.
“Good luck with acting.”
“Thank you. Be careful on your way.”
Maru turned around after watching the car drive off for a while. He got on the subway and leaned against a pole. He was slicing steak in Cheongdam-dong less than an hour ago, but right now, he was in a crowd of people who were going home from work. He experienced for himself that people could be so physically separated in this small land of South Korea.
‘What chaebols. I’m fine as long as I can feed my wife and my child.’
He thought that he would have no relations with them. They lived in a different world after all. Maru thought about the future as he looked outside the subway. The acting competition was about to begin, so he had to concentrate on that. The play was looking much more complete than before, so they would be able to get a prize as long as they did well on the big day.
The subway shook according to a certain rhythm.
 Most K-drama fans will know that chaebols refer to extremely rich families that run super large companies as ‘family business’. Wikipedia for more info.
 Apparently, this is what it’s called in Korea specifically, and I don’t see any foreign uses of this word outside of Korea. Basically, as the name implies, ‘circular shareholding’ is basically companies having shares in each other in a ‘chain’ format. For example, let’s say there are companies A, B and C. In this case, ‘circular shareholding’ will mean A has B stocks, B has C stocks, and C has A stocks. Meaning, these ‘chaebols’ are monopolizing all the money. “Cross ownership” came up when I looked up the word, but it seems to be slightly different in its purpose.