Life, Once Again! - Chapter 345
Was there any news more joyous than the news that one’s former company went out of business? He pushed the cigarette filter with his tongue to the edge of his mouth before puffing once. He saw the cigarette turning red in the corner of his vision.
“I knew he’d run one day.”
The internet news company, Mint News went out of business. He got this news through a junior that he used to work with. He tried visiting their website just in case, but only a ‘404 Not Found’ error greeted him. That was yesterday. His junior insulted his now-ex-president for not paying him for his manuscript over some booze. That was his junior’s way of asking Dongwook to pay for the booze. Although Dongwook was never close to this junior, he sympathized with him since he was suddenly thrown out onto the streets, so he paid for the alcohol and paid for the taxi as well. He was worried if that junior went home safely, yet his ego also wished for that junior to never contact him again.
Dongwook put out the cigarette that he had only puffed by about a half before standing up.
“Auntie, bill please.”
“I’m busy, so leave it over there! Also, you aren’t allowed to smoke anymore in the shop, so keep that in mind.”
“I can’t even have one after my meal?”
“I’m not the one making decisions. What am I supposed to do?”
Dongwook took a piece of crispy rice candy which was placed under the counter, before leaving the restaurant. In front of the restaurant, which looked like it would disappear into nothingness after a typhoon, was a tall building covered in glass. This place was where the slums and the city met.
“Looks like single-story buildings will disappear in a few years in Seoul.”
By that time, this restaurant, as well as the stores nearby will probably disappear. It was good to eat meals in sparkly and shiny restaurants without a single bug in sight, but Dongwook was more comfortable with eating in a restaurant like this one where it was filled with the auntie’s shouts and the smell of oil. It was more of an emotional thing rather than a hygiene thing. He bought a 200-won milk coffee from the shabby vending machine with its acrylic window broken. Whenever he bought coffee from machines like this, he wondered what the difference was between ‘high-class coffee’ and ‘normal coffee’ which was on different levels, even though they both cost 200 won. He tried both of them before, but there was no difference in taste. Perhaps it was a matter of feeling?
The ‘hot’ sign did not go off yet, but Dongwook opened the cover and put his hand inside. This was like a ritual every Korean had to do. He pulled out the cup immediately after the last droplet dropped into the cup.
Just as he licked a drop that fell on his fingers, his phone, which was in his left pocket, started ringing loudly. He put the coffee in his hand on a table in front of the restaurant before picking up the call.
“Yes, president. Have you had lunch yet?”
-I just did. Rather than that, about the advertising news article for the movie.
“I’ll have that done by today. I’ll upload it after getting some information. Some of my former juniors said they’d write the article as well, so it’d go into the search term rankings the moment I upload it.”
-Then I’ll go through it once you’re done. Didn’t you say you were going to visit Soul today?
“Yes. The appointment is at two, so I should get going. Rather than that, have you seen the news yesterday? That Lee Hyuk fella seems to have joined Soul as well.”
-I did. It seems like they’re on the offense. They’re reaching out to many people under the rug.
“I found out through a junior of mine that someone huge from the entertainer section will move to Soul as well. They just started off, but their power is not ordinary.”
Dongwook held his phone between his head and his shoulder and took out a notepad from his back pocket.
“Also, the CEO of Soul has quite an interesting background. I did some investigation beforehand, but he actually turned out to be an executive of a big company, not someone who used to work in this industry. I heard he was quite capable in YM Logistics.”
-And yet he’s suddenly charged into the entertainment business?
“I’ll have to probe him out through the interview today, but Hong Janghae, this man is not ordinary. The fact that YM, Soul’s parent company, is marketing the company heavily should mean that he has gained a lot of trust. I’ll try to find some things out through some friends of mine that work in the financial section. Well, this isn’t the first time that the financial world had connections with the entertainment world, so I might get something interesting if I look into it.”
“Yes. Someone you know?”
-I do know someone with the same name, but they’re probably two different people with the same name. He despises the entertainment industry. Anyway, try to look into it moderately. Don’t go in too deep. Also, can you investigate the cancellation of Geunsoo’s movie?
Junmin asked in a small voice. Dongwook groaned.
“I’ll see what I can do.”
After finishing the call, he wrote down ‘Geunsoo movie investigation’ on his notepad.
“Let’s get going, then, shall I?”
Dongwook finished the cooled coffee in one go before moving.
* * *
He scanned Soul’s company building located in Mapo-gu. The building was right in the middle of the golden land. He became curious and looked into the land prices from nearby estate agents, and just the land price was 40 million won per pyeong. If he lied down, the amount of land beneath his body was worth 40 million won. It was mind-boggling.
He turned his head when he heard a woman’s voice. There, he saw a female journalist that he got to know while he was still a journalist at a TV station. Her name should be Choi Miyeon. They were close enough to greet each other without being awkward when they came across each other on the streets.
“It’s been a long time. The news company I was supposed to do the interview with was yours?”
“Yes. Oh, but I don’t work for a news company anymore. I quit.”
“Why did you quit such a good place?”
“Then why did you quit the TV station, senior?”
“Because I was crazy.”
“I’m a similar case. I felt stuffy. Now, I work for a women's magazine.”
She rummaged through her wallet before giving him a business card. The name ‘Sharon’ was written on it. It was a place Dongwook knew of. That magazine company had released quite a few volumes of magazines.
“Where do you work right now, senior?”
“Me? I’m a freelancer.”
“Wow, a freelancer. You must be skilled.”
He shrugged and walked towards Soul’s company building. On the outer wall of the building, the photos of the three that exited ‘The Five’ were hung up. There was also a truck with a lift on the back, and it seemed that Lee Hyuk’s photo was going to be hung up as well.
Like a newly-constructed building, the insides were very clean. There were lights embedded on the walls, and they emitted light faintly. There were also red stones embedded on the ground like a red carpet. Just as he looked around at the eye-stimulating things,
“Journalists Kim Dongwook and Choi Miyeon, am I right?”
A lady with a bob cut turned around with a faint smile on her face. She seemed to be just an ordinary employee staff, yet she was very pretty. Even her back figure was pretty. He would believe it if she said she was an aspiring celebrity. The two followed her up to the fourth floor. The buildings in Mapo-gu could be seen beyond the huge glass windows. The lady turned left and continued to guide them. The people they saw on the way were all wrestling with their computers.
“Please wait a moment.”
The lady entered after knocking on the door. After a while, she opened the door again and told them to come in. Dongwook felt a strange sense of pressure. He buttoned his shirt up fully as he entered.
The one that greeted him was a healthy-looking middle-aged man. From what Dongwook knew, he had to be in his mid-fifties, but now that he saw him in person, he would believe it even if he told him that he was in his early forties. The neatly combed hair, and the purple shirt that was tailored to his body. He was in good shape as well. Dongwook was thinking of a chubby middle-aged man writing away at a doc.u.ment since he heard that the other party used to be an executive at a company, but his predictions were completely off. Even the stylish shoes attracted his eyes. His watch was also a brand-name expensive one, yet it gave off a youthful tyranny rather than a pressure stemming from age. He was someone who knew how to look good.
“I’ve never done things like interviews before, so I don’t know if I can do this well. Please tell me if you find anything lacking,” Hong Janghae spoke as he sat down.
He faintly smiled and pointed at the sofa, and just his actions exuded pressure. He gave off a heavy pressure despite being kind. He really was someone who was very high up.
When the two sat down, Janghae told them that they should start off with some tea. The lady that led them here gave them some tea. It was a green tea latte. It was a drink that he enjoyed a lot frequently. He looked next to him to look at Miyeon’s expression. Her expression also told him that the drink in front of him was a drink she liked.
‘Looks like I might not be able to get any info if I don’t stay on guard.’
There was no way this was a coincidence, meaning that he looked into their preferences beforehand. It was nothing much, but he felt like he was investigated so he didn’t feel that good.
“Is it to your tastes?”
“Yes. I like green tea latte.”
“I like kiwi as well, haha.”
Janghae locked his fingers and crossed his legs. Dongwook smirked a little. So the opponent may not have had any interview experience, but he knew how to handle people very well.
“Please drink at your leisure. Let’s continue the interview after you finish them,” Janghae lifted his coffee mug as he spoke.
* * *
Senior, we should drink together since we met after such a long time – the drinking occasion triggered by those words continued into the second round. The moment he tipped the soju glass over his mouth, he remembered how well this woman drank, but he couldn’t turn back now. He tried to escape after they finished drinking at the barbecue restaurant, but he was dragged by his junior to a nearby pojang-macha. They then had some mussel stew and more soju. They finished their work, so they could drink without restraints, but he found his junior a little scary after she finished two bottles of soju by herself without any changes to her face.
“Haah, if I give this to my editor, she’ll probably slap my head for the pointless interview,” Miyeon sighed as she spoke.
Dongwook agreed with her.
There were generally two types of interviews.
One to announce, and one to pry.
The public that watches the stars on media become curious about their everyday life: what they do when they rest; what food they eat; what kind of pets they raise at home. They even become curious about trivial things. This was why journalists asked questions that would indirectly induce the star to bring out something special other than the information that’s already available to the public when they did an interview. In contrast, interviews of the people that are close to the entertainment industry, but are outside of people’s interests, for example, the CEO of agencies, producers, and scriptwriters, were considered successful if it just talked about the stuff they wanted to talk about.
In the case of Janghae, he was a person who belonged to the latter, but the case this time was rather special. He was the CEO of ‘Soul’ that was at the center of controversy. He brought the slave contract of ‘The Five’ to the surface and brought a huge storm to the entertainment industry. Due to news about s.e.x.u.a.l services, slave contracts, and huge superstars switching companies, the public’s interest in the CEO of Soul was rather low right now, but they would soon become very curious. Just what kind of person is he? – they would ask.
That was why he asked to do an interview ahead of most people and tried to probe into the reason why they decided to reveal the contracts, which was considered taboo in the industry, and proactively tried to recruit celebrities, but Hong Janghae, with his leisurely smiles and jokes, avoided all those questions.
He left no leeway at all. Even when he asked about the recently controversial ‘The Five’ matter, he just replied ‘why is there a need to question to fairly receive compensation for labor?’, leaving no further room for more questions. It was very hard to counter ‘right’ answers after all.
In the end, there was only a bland interview. He would first have to doc.u.ment it and get Janghae’s approval, but he probably wouldn’t have any requests for edits. It was just that clean of an interview. He seemed to be the model case for how to react when problems occurred in public relations. From his wits and attitude, it was clear that YM Corp didn’t just send him to that place to spend his time in leisure until retirement.
“You know that Soul has released a music program, right?”
“The public reaction is quite good.”
“Really? Don’t you have to pay to listen to music? Would people really pay to listen to music? It’s not like they’re getting CDs either.”
“The sites they’ve been downloading free music from all went out of business after all. On top of that, they’re using cinema ad times to air public service ads about their ‘Good Downloader’. And that’s led by Soul as well. Many idols and actors are all saying ‘Please protect the rights and profit of the producer and the consumer’ on screen, and it seems to be poking at people’s conscience. I also paid some money and listened to some music with streaming? Or whatever it was, and it wasn’t that bad. You can listen to most things as long as you pay a little money.”
“Then they settled the problem with copyrights?”
“It seems like they already finished talks with KOMCA. Physical logistics has changed to digital logistics. You can take it that way.”
“So it’s logistics after all. Did YM predict this? But it won’t work if people won’t pay for the music, right?”
“But YM has a firm grasp on telecommunication. I saw that they’re giving away a free month of service, and I think they’re using that as marketing. The internet is in the same position.”
She talked very smoothly. Dongwook looked at Miyeon. Was she drunk?
“Are there any useful stories these days?”
“Useful stories? Hehe.”
Miyeon chuckled. She took the bait. It seemed like she would talk about everything she knew when she was drunk. He felt sorry, but he had to make a living as well.
Dongwook perked up his ears. Magazines were sensitive to trends. Substantial rumors circulated around the magazine field almost just as quickly as the financial district.
“Let’s go for a third round!”
“A-a third round?”
“Before that, talk about that interesting….”
“Nah, let’s change places. How about some fried chicken? You know? I really had it hard recently because there was no one to drink with me.”
Miyeon shouted ‘bill please!’ before leaving the pojang-macha. Dongwook blinked several times before handing the owner some cash.
‘I feel like I was schemed against instead.’
“Senior! Let’s go! I’ll give you a big one over some beer.”
Her pronunciation was slurry, but she was walking straight. Dongwook was reminded of a movie he watched before. He had a look at his slightly thinned wallet before chasing Miyeon. She’d probably spit something out if he talked to her.
 ~1k USD per square feet.
 Korea Music Copyright Association