A luxurious foreign car worth hundreds of millions of won.
I’ve been told that this is the car that Go Dae-man saves for when he needs to read documents on the move. The spacious interior and smooth leather seats don’t vibrate at all while the car is moving.
Everything about it is perfect, but it’s not completely comfortable.
I turn my head slightly and look at Go Dae-man. There is a stack of heavy files between me and him.
“We will arrive in ten minutes,” says the president’s secretary from the passenger seat.
That’s the first time anyone inside the car has spoken since we began this journey thirty minutes ago.
Go Dae-man finally closes the folder that he is reading.
We are currently headed for the Su-an Police Department. Today is the day of the conferring ceremony where I’ll receive my award and plaque. I’ve also been told that some active police officers will be promoted at the ceremony as well.
“… Is your arm feeling better?” Go Dae-man asks me.
It seems that he is still bothered by the fact that he didn’t notice it that morning.
I nod to ease his worries. “It’s almost completely healed.”
“Ji-hun,” he says, calling my name in the most affectionate tone he can manage.
This is the most gentle tone that I’ve ever heard him speak in. It once again reminds me of the fact that Go Ji-hun is me.
“Yes?” I say.
“I am sure that you have heard about what the atmosphere inside the company is like right now.”
I kind of know and kind of don’t.
I’ve heard that it’s in a festive mood, unlike the atmosphere in this car. The exclusive contract with Amazin is already a cause for celebration, and the company has also attracted positive public attention for its stance on social issues on top of that. The company has ranked second on company popularity polls for many years, but it’s now ranked first for the first time. The trend of people jokingly telling each other that they should all buy one of the Gogwang Group’s products has become like a movement, increasing sales by 20% from the previous month. There’s a huge buzz surrounding the company, which is reflected in the stocks as well.
I don’t know how long the excitement will last, but it’s not a bad thing to enjoy it while it’s here.
“I have only heard good things,” I say politely in response to President Go Dae-man’s question.
He hands me the report that he has been reading. It’s an analysis of all the various benefits that the Gogwang will receive as a result of this whole incident.
“When I first joined the company,” Go Dae-man murmurs, closing his eyes as if reminiscing about the past.
He is talking about a time that was at least thirty years ago.
A small smile appears on his face. It looks like his dormant memories still stir his emotions.
“Do you know what Gogwang Electronics used as its main driving force?” Go Dae-man asks.
“Televisions. Of course, all of the other electronics companies were producing them furiously as well,” I say.
The Chun Doo-hwan government. Under the 3S policy, cultural enterprises experienced explosive growth, and screen-manufacturing businesses expanded alongside them.
TLN for background context: Chun Doo-hwan was president of South Korea from 1980-1988. The 3S policy (the 3 S’s being Sex, Screen, Sports) was a large political reform under his presidency to appeal to the Korean public’s political demands. It involved forming professional sports teams, beginning the broadcasting of color television across the entire nation, decreasing censorship on dramas and movies, making school uniforms voluntary, etc.
Gogwang Electronics was late in getting involved, but it was a case of burrowing into a niche market. It broke the notion that televisions were for family use, manufacturing both miniature televisions and extra-large-screen televisions.
To this day, this remains President Go Dae-man’s greatest achievement.
“Everyone was skeptical,” Go Dae-man continues.”It was known that 16-inch screens were the most common in Korea, and 25-inch screens were the most common in the United States. People asked me why I was taking my eye off the ball when these were selling so well.”
“That point does make sense,” I remark.
“Indeed. It does make sense. But I thought differently. I proclaimed that without failure, there is no innovation.”
“I’m guessing you were able to do that because you weren’t the president at the time.”
Go Dae-man gives a laugh that is thoroughly infused with the emotions of years of experience. “You are right. I was too young. I thought that anything I did would work. And at that time, your grandfather said one thing to me.”
“What did he say?” I ask.
“He said, ‘Do it. It is my duty to give you opportunities.’ My father has never looked as great to me as he did that day.”
Go Dae-man falls silent for a moment and looks into my eyes, as if to draw out everything from inside me.
I make no attempt to avoid his gaze.
“I followed in my father’s footsteps, and I am now in the position of giving opportunities,” he says. “That is why I have entrusted Dae-han with being the director of Gogwang Electronics and Min-guk with the launch of the Passion brand. I am giving them opportunities.”
He has good intentions, but there’s a problem. There’s no hope for the Passion brand.
“But you are the only one that I have not been able to give such an opportunity,” Go Dae-man continues.
“That is because of my own foolishness,” I say.
“If you wish for it -” Go Dae-man says, but then he stops mid-sentence.
A forest of tall buildings passes by behind him. I can occasionally see the bright sky between the buildings.
There is no child that is not dear to his parents. This is the kind of son that Go Ji-hun is to Go Dae-man.
His gaze is direct, but warm. Like sunlight.
“Mr. President. We will be arriving shortly,” says the secretary.
The car smoothly pulls into the Su-an Police Department’s parking lot.
There are quite a lot of reporters and people who have come to watch. Due to my request, the photography area is off in the distance.
The moment one of the bodyguards slowly opens the car door, I hear the clicking sound of camera flashes and the shouting of reporters.
“Mr. President! I have a question here!”
“Is Director Go Dae-han’s succession confirmed?”
“Do you support your third son’s choice to become a police officer?”
“Next to him! Go Ji-hun is the one next to him!”
“Mr. Go Ji-hun! A word about the incident, please!”
President Go Dae-man gives a small smile and heads towards the Police Department’s main building.
I wonder how many businessmen ever receive welcomes like this in their lifetimes. In front of a police station, no less.
Naturally, I follow behind him, but –
“Just one moment!” shouts a woman as she runs through from the photography area and grabs my arm.
A bodyguard removes her hand with ease, but she is still frantically reaching towards me with both hands outstretched.
“I need to tell you something!” she says desperately.
“What is it?” I ask, stopping the bodyguard from forcing her back.
She doesn’t seem to want to harass me.
She suddenly takes hold of my hand. “I’m the mother of one of the Spaniel’s victims,” she says with a trembling voice.
“Ah,” I murmur.
“That’s… I…” the woman stammers.
More camera flashes.
“Mr. Go Ji-hun! Please look this way!”
“Please don’t push!”
Having seen one person get through, everyone else is running in after her.
Reporters and cameras have surrounded me in an instant, and the woman’s voice is drowned out by the camera flashes and chaos.
I shield the woman’s back and lower my head towards her so she can speak to me.
The woman’s rough hand reaches up to my shoulder, and tears fall from her eyes.
“My daughter shut herself inside her room, not listening to anyone or saying a word. She barely slept and ate. It was as if she were just waiting for her body to eventually stop breathing,” she says.
I can hear her voice clearly, and it feels like time is slowing down with every word she speaks.
She pauses for a moment. “But when she heard that the criminal was caught, she cried out loud. It was like she had come back to life.”
“Thank you. Thank you for saving my daughter.”
I suddenly feel something hot rising inside of me. The sound of everything around me slowly begins to return, like winter turning gradually into spring. People’s voices and the sound of the wind brush against my ears. I can feel the woman’s warm hand.
I realize that this is the moment that I’ve been waiting for my whole life. The moment that I can hear someone thanking the nobody that is me. The moment that I find my own role to play.
I feel alive.
Over the woman’s shoulder, I can see Go Dae-man standing in front of the Police Department’s main building, as if waiting for me to follow him.
But a moment later, he turns back around and heads into the building without me.
In the multipurpose room on the sixth floor of the main building, the staff look busy as they make preparations for the award ceremony. With the exception of a few reporters, everyone is related to the police.
“Mr. President. Over on that side. The third-born young master will be the first to be called upon,” says a secretary, directing us to seats right at the front.
Go Dae-man and Go Ji-hun’s names are on cards attached to the two chairs on either side of the chief of the National Police Agency.
As the chief spots us, he straightens his clothes and smiles as he approaches. “It has been a while, Mr. President,” he says.
It looks like the chief and Go Dae-man are acquainted with one another, though it’s as if they’re no more than alumni of the same school and only barely recognize each other’s faces.
In any case, both of them are aware of each other’s existence, so they shake hands in a friendly manner.
“Yes. It has been a while,” says Go Dae-man.
“We meet due to one of your exceptional sons once more,” says the chief.
“You flatter me.”
With the polite greetings finished, the chief leads us to our seats.
“Still, I did not think that Go Ji-hun would want to join the police,” the chief remarks.
“Even I only learned that recently,” says Go Dae-man as he looks at me with an expression that conveys his inability to understand my choice.
I’m sorry. I’m doing this because I’m not Go Ji-hun.
The chief pats my shoulder proudly. “How unfortunate it must be for you. He would have been such a great asset to your company.”
Go Dae-man said something similar before. He told me to stop things here, to just join the company and take the opportunity he was offering. I think he did that because he feels that Go Ji-hun only has one precious life, and it was nearly lost.
“Serving the country is also an honorable thing,” Go Dae-man says calmly before I can speak.
“You are absolutely right,” the chief agrees.
“Chief,” Go Dae-man says suddenly.
“We met five years ago. It was when our company made a pledge to donate communication radios to the police, was it not?”
“Indeed it was.”
“Electronic devices must be replaced over time. This is necessary to ensure safe usage and drive their continued production.”
“I am not so sure as to what you are talking about,” says the chief, looking confused.
“The Gogwang Group and I will provide support to the police in any kind of equipment they may need, such as radios and stab-proof vests.”
“I’m sorry?” the chief and I say at the same time in surprise.
But the president doesn’t elaborate. He simply finds his chair and sits down.
He is a father. A father who has seen his son venture out into the world for the first time. This is his own way of saying that he is willing to let go of his son’s hand, one that he has been tightly grasping all this time.
“It does break my heart, but he is still my son, is he not? I cannot put a hole in his ship,” he says.
The chief gives a small laugh. “That is a good one. I will remember that expression to use in a future speech.”
The award ceremony begins soon after, and the chief goes up onto the stage and gives a short greeting to the audience.
His well-organized script will change slightly to include news of the Gogwang Group’s offer to provide equipment.
As he gives his speech, Go Dae-man leans in towards my ear.
“Do me proud,” he whispers.
This is the first time I’ve had a father, someone who is always watching over me from behind. I have never felt so reassured and confident.
“If there is anything you need, just ask. I will let Chief Kim know,” Go Dae-man adds.
“Don’t worry. I will do my best,” I say.
I hear the master of ceremonies saying my name.
“… The Citizen’s Award. Mr. Go Ji-hun, please come onto the stage.”
I straighten my necktie and go up onto the stage.
The lighting, shining on me directly from the front, is blinding. The chief’s voice echoes around the room as he reads my award, and I’m soon holding my certificate and a bouquet of flowers.
And so, I become a police officer.
One year later.
The Criminal Affairs Division on the second floor of the Su-an Police Department.
Feeling restless, I straighten my necktie.
I came here for the first time as a suspect and for the second time as a witness. But this time, I am neither.
As I try to control my breathing, I hear a voice from behind me.
“Ah, you’re here.”
It’s a warm-mannered, well-built man who gives off a friendly-next-door-neighbor type of impression. This is Hwang Joong-Woo, the leader of Violent Crime Task Force 2.
“Why aren’t you coming in? Have you committed a crime?” he jokes as he walks past me and opens the door to the Criminal Affairs Division.
Nothing in the Criminal Affairs Division has changed – not the detectives running about, not the suspects making a fuss, not the endlessly ringing phones.
The detectives of Task Force 1 notice me.
“It’s a good morning.”
“Oh. Is it a new recruit?”
“He’s damn good looking. What’s a guy like that doing here?”
“But I feel like I’ve seen his face a lot somewhere.”
“Ah. The Spaniel? The one from Gogwang.”
The year I spent in police school was enough to erase the memory of me from most people’s minds. Still, I’m recognized by the detectives, who need sharp eyes to earn their money.
The public’s love and attention for me have faded long ago.
I duck my head down and walk past Task Force 1.
“Now then. Attention,” says the task force leader.
“Huh? What’s this you’ve got following you?” says a detective I recognize.
It’s the beast-like detective I gave the Spaniel’s box cutter to.
It looks like his body’s gotten even wilder since I last saw him. Even the smell of his feet has grown more terrible.
“Oh, the Spaniel?” he says as he recognizes me as well.
If someone were listening, they’d think that I were the serial rapist.
“Hello,” I say with a smile.
There’s another detective with pale skin that is in clear contrast to the skin of the beast-like detective that he’s sitting in front of.
I see his childlike face among the documents that are stacked up to his waist. He’s wearing a very excited expression, like he’s really enjoying himself.
Ah, it’s the youngest detective.
The task force leader looks across the office disinterestedly. “This is Officer Go Ji-hun, who has been assigned to our task force. That’s all.”
What? That’s it?
I give a confused look at the task force leader.
The beast-like detective looks displeased. “What are you trying to do, bringing a clueless kid here? We’re busy as hell.”
“We’re busy as hell, so we can use every hand we can get,” says the task force leader.
“So bring some good hands, not the hands of a newborn baby.”
“Hey, Black. How long do you want to keep talking back to me like that?”
‘Black.’ It seems that’s how people refer to the beast-like detective around here. It’s a nickname that’s fitting of his brown skin.
The task force leader and Black continue to argue fiercely… with me standing right between them. They seem to be close; they’re very busy swearing at each other.
It seems that the other detectives sitting on the other side are used to this situation. None of them are even paying attention.
All of their faces look so young. Dressed in my police school uniform, I don’t look any older than them.
“Nice to meet you. I’m Seong-joon,” says the youngest detective.
“Nice to meet you, Seonbae-nim,” I say.
TLN: Seonbae means ‘senior,’ equivalent to the Japanese term senpai.
A spark appears in his eyes in response to me calling him ‘seonbae.’ What a cute guy.
The Violent Crime Task Force 1 detectives come over around the dividers.
“Hey, Mong-Doo,” one of them says.
“Yes, sir?” the youngest detective responds.
It seems that his nickname is ‘Mong-doo.’ It rolls off the tongue, like the name of a puppy.
Hmm. If I were to rank everyone, the task force leader is the big hyeong, then it’s Black, then Mong-Doo right?
The detectives of Task Force 1 examine me closely and shake their heads.
“I’m saying this for your sake,” says the detective talking to Mong-Doo. “Stop dreaming.”
“About what, sir?” Mong-Doo asks, looking confused.
“This is a place that people come to from all over, but so many drop out because they can’t handle it. Do you think he is going to last?” the other detective says, looking at me. “I’ll give him a fortnight, max. How sad will you be to go back to being just the youngest again after being called ‘Seonbae?'”
“Hey. Manage your own damn team,” says Black, pausing his argument with the task force leader.
It seems that he’ll at least take my side in this, since we’re going to be working together from now on.
But another detective is quick to insult him in turn. “Wow. Tough, aren’t you? Just like the smell of your feet.”
“What did you say? Hey. Come over here and say that again,” Black says angrily.
I can understand the other task force’s detectives’ reactions. After all, it’s not like I’ve been specially appointed to represent the nation or anything; I’m just a guy who became a police officer after catching one rapist and pumping up the media. In a way, this is to be expected.
“I intend to devote myself to my work at this place,” I say loudly.
“Wow! That’s awesome!” Mong-Doo exclaims with shining eyes, clapping his hands.
“You’ve got to be kidding,” another detective sneers.
The other detectives from Task Force 1 are all smirking at me.
But I mean it. I am going to use every ability at my disposal to solve cases – whether it be through persistence, knowledge, or money. And I will make sure that the true criminal of the Hae-soo case is brought to justice.
Black stares at me in disbelief at my brazen words.
“In any case, please take good care of me,” I say humbly.
As soon as I finish this sentence, the entire office is filled with the sound of vibrating and ringing of phones. It’s not just a few of them – every single landline phone in the office and every detective’s personal cell phone is going off.
The laughter-filled atmosphere evaporates in an instant. Everyone has instinctively sensed that this is no ordinary event.
Black puts his phone back in his pocket and looks at me with a stiff expression. “Get ready. There’s going to be one hell of a rite of passage for you.”
Mong-Doo, on the other hand, is excited. “Rite of passage, let’s go!” he laughs.