“What would I know? Especially compared to my seniors who work in the real world,” I say, deliberately emphasizing the word ‘seniors’ and hinting that I’ll be jumping into the world of business administration in the future.
The truth is that I have no intention of doing anything like that, but there’s no problem with getting a nice, twisted expression from Go Min-guk, is there?
“Still, you should have picked up a thing or two,” says one of his friends.
“You’re already twenty-six, so you have to be able to think for yourself,” another chimes in.
Look at these guys. Even bringing up my age despite the fact that they’re about the same age as me. There will always be idiots no matter where you go.
Everyone is looking at me with expressions of anticipation, waiting with bated breath to hear the stupid response I’m about to give.
Someone laughs. “I suppose it’s too hard for you to think of anything to say?” he asks.
“Then can I just say one thing?” I say.
“First of all, I think that the employment of disabled people is a good thing.”
My stance is the exact opposite of the majority of the people here, who have been criticizing the new bill despite the fact that the government has already announced it, and nobody can prevent it from coming into effect at this point.
If one looks at it pessimistically, it’s a bill that makes things that were previously accepted unacceptable.
“What I mean is, I can understand small and medium-sized businesses not being happy over the new bill because of the expenses it brings, but large businesses don’t need to worry at all. These people are already ‘there,’ after all,” I say, unable to stop a sharp edge from finding its way into the tone of my voice. “People who work despite being disabled are stronger-willed than the average well-off person. They’re honest and hard-working, you see. They have no desire to drink, smoke, slack off, or pocket things that don’t belong to them. They’re happy to just be doing honest work.”
You people would have needed to see this for yourself to know this.
I recall the disabled people I met while doing labor in prison. Every single one of them was sincere and diligent.
“And it’s something that isn’t normally visible that’s the most valuable,” I continue.
“Are you talking about its effect on businesses’ public images?” Go Min-guk says incredulously.
“No. The market.”
Go Min-guk frowns. It’s an expression that tells me that he has no clue what I’m talking about.
What would I know, huh?
If the best he’s come up with after thinking his hardest is the public images of businesses, he won’t have anything else to say.
“Do you know how many disabled people there are in the Republic of Korea?” I ask.
“How the hell would I know that,” Go Min-guk retorts.
“2,500,000. That means that one in every twenty people has a disability.”
“That’s less than I thought. You call that a market?”
I smile as I continue. “What if you include their families? There is a non-insignificant number of people who are related to disabled people. What’s more, disabilities need a combination of medical care and welfare. If the policy succeeds, the progress society makes towards the improvement of life for disabled people will create a new market. That will provide new opportunities for businesses.”
“There’s no point in freeing up money to try and earn money. You end up right back where you started,” says one of Go Min-guk’s friends in rebuttal, gritting his teeth.
“Do you need to free up money to offer them places to work? It’s just a reasonable wage for their labor. Money is only money if you know how to use it,” I say.
“What about the expenses that come with hiring disabled people? We’ll need twice as much time and money needed to train them, and the welfare we’ll need to provide will double as well. The numbers don’t add up,” someone else retorts.
I was right in that they only ever meet each other in their closed groups. They’re a bunch of shiny kernels that are completely empty on the inside.
“The expenses are monthly payments, and the welfare is a deposit,” I say.
“What bullshit are you talking about now?” says Go Min-guk.
“I mean that the expenses you pay every month is lost money, but the welfare you pay will definitely come back eventually.”
It’s not just Go Min-guk’s group here now; others have gathered around in interest. Like a mudfish turning clear water murky, I’m disrupting their world, little by little.
“Of course, if you don’t want to directly use disabled people or pay these expenses, it’s not entirely impossible,” I add.
“You’re saying there’s a way?”
“Make sports teams of disabled people. There’s an international competition called the Paralympics, after all. This would definitely improve your business’s image and form international relations. It also simplifies day-to-day business administration, something that you’re always so concerned about, while reducing the amount of welfare you need to pay to disabled people within the company.”
Of course, this is a trick that companies actually employed after the bill came into effect. Many companies actually did get around the bill by forming sports teams. But this isn’t a solution that the people gathered here would easily think of.
“From a personal standpoint, I hope that companies will just do as our nation tells them and take responsibility for creating a united society. We are currently on a cruise ship, drinking alcohol that is worth hundreds of millions of won. Is it not thanks to the citizens that we can enjoy such luxuries?” I add.
Even the music stops right at that moment, and my surroundings are completely silent.
Everyone is probably thinking about how they need to rush home and tell their parents about the alternative method that I just described.
Someone tips his glass towards me. It’s Nam Sae-ha of Gunbaek Construction, the host of this party.
“Responsibility for unity. These are great words, but they are also terrifying,” he says.
“Don’t pay too much attention to my shallow insight,” I say.
“I hope to see you more often at future parties. Interesting ideas always bring progress, after all.”
“I prefer soju.”
Nam Sae-ha laughs. “I like soju myself.”
Go Min-guk and his friends gulp down their drinks without a word. They can’t say anything, not with everyone’s attention on us.
You sons of bitches. No matter how much you’ve struggled, I’ve gained a lot of experience. If you take into account the time that I’ve been in prison, how much experience do you think that would be?
“Well then, Hyeong-nim, please enjoy yourself. I’m a little tired, you see,” I say.
With that, I stroll leisurely out of the room with my glass in my hand.
Out on the deck, I find Chief Kim talking on the phone with a smile on his face.
It’s definitely his girlfriend.
He spots me, hastily ends his call, and runs over.
“It’s cold out here; why did you come out?” he asks.
“The person I came here with wasn’t around, so I came looking for him,” I reply.
Chief Kim laughs awkwardly. “My apologies.”
“It’s fine, you can continue your call. I’ll just be over here,” I tell him.
Chief Kim sheepishly returns to his corner and takes out his cellphone.
It looks like things are going well for him. I’m jealous!
The wind outside is cold, but I’m a little tipsy, so it feels refreshing. Seoul’s night cityscape is wonderful.
I finish my drink in one go and then take out a cigarette.
As I do, I hear someone behind me.
“Hey,” a voice says.
I turn around and see Go Min-guk. I can smell the stench of alcohol coming from him, carried in my direction by the wind. He’s completely drunk; his face is bright-red, and he’s struggling to keep his eyes open. He was actually getting dangerously tipsy even before he gulped down his last drink.
“You motherfucker. You’re not even gonna answer me?” he spits.
“It looks like you’re quite drunk,” I say.
“Why is a son of a bitch like you, who fucked around in the corner of his room for half his life, arguing and talking back?”
“I was just answering the questions that I was asked.”
“You piece of shit. Did your brain swell up when you fell in the water?”
Talking like a tough guy.
I ignore him and lean against the handrail. From my experience, having a conversation with a drunkard is one of the most foolish and tiring things you can do. It’s better to spend that time smoking a cigarette instead.
The ship slowly changes direction. It seems that the party is drawing to a close. The night’s just getting started for the young people, though.
“Why? Why didn’t you die?” Go Min-guk shouts.
“Hyeong-nim,” I say, trying to calm him down.
“Hyeong-nim my fucking ass, you filthy half-blood.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about your whore mother.”
What the hell is he on about now?
I frown and raise my chin a little, indicating for Go Min-guk to continue.
“She went and seduced our father with her body, just as you’d expect of a dirty actress,” he says.
“You speak too harshly,” I tell him.
“I speak too harshly? And what are you going to do about it?” Go Min-guk says loudly, and then he spits in my direction.
“I suggest you stop.”
A strand of saliva drips from Go Min-guk’s chin.
How out of your mind do you have to be to speak so cruelly about someone who’s dead? I feel a twinge of sympathy for Go Ji-hun’s birth mother, whose face I don’t even know. How guilty must she feel for leaving her son in a family like this?
“So you should have just died. Why didn’t you? When you got to the afterlife, did your dear mother tell you to go back?” Go Min-guk continues.
“Look here -“
“You’re a useless piece of shit. A retard who can’t even kill himself properly. A son of a bitch who has brought nothing but humiliation and instability to the family.”
“Perhaps my oldest hyeong-nim has the right to say that, but I don’t want to hear it from you.”
“What did you just say?”
“It was funny to see you being so conceited about your education when you paid your way into university. It’s because there’s nothing inside that head of yours that you got torn down even by an insignificant piece of shit like me, isn’t it?” I say with a smirk.
“You son of a bitch!” Go Min-guk shouts.
“And you should pull out of the Passion brand’s launch. Having only confidence and no ability is a one-way street to ruin. Even if the money isn’t important, how will you regain our father’s trust? It’s a job beyond your ability, and if you’re honest with yourself, you know it as well, don’t you?”
The Passion brand, the only brand of Gogwang Produce.
It was launched ambitiously with Go Min-guk in charge of it, but it ended up in total failure. The project was immediately scrapped, but Go Dae-man absorbed Go Min-guk’s losses and handed Gogwang Produce over to him.
It was an entity that was too large to be done away with, but it wouldn’t have brought in enough revenue to make the capital investment worth it even if it were continued. Go Min-guk was not allowed to join the main company and was forced to stay with Gogwang Produce.
Of course, the bastard standing in front of me now would never believe me.
“What the hell are you saying? You’ve really lost your mind, haven’t you?” he shouts, scowling at me.
“Just mind your behavior. Your fiancée night not be pleased,” I tell him as I toss my cigarette out onto the river.
There’s no value in engaging in this conversation any longer. I’ll just have to stand between some people and try not to get talked to.
As I try to go back inside, Go Min-guk grabs my shoulder.
“Y-Young Master!” shouts Chief Kim as he runs towards us and grabs Go Min-guk’s arm. “You mustn’t do this,” he says.
“Chief Kim? You’ve grown big, haven’t you?” says Go Min-guk, staring at the hand that’s holding back his own raised fist.
“M-my apologies,” says Chief Kim as he lets go.
“If you don’t want me to hit this bastard, you can take it instead,” says Go Min-guk.
He throws his fist into Chief Kim’s face.
Chief Kim clutches his cheek and staggers.
Go Min-guk lets out a satisfied sigh. “Hey, Go Ji-hun, try getting under my crotch.”
“Second-born Young Master, you mustn’t do this…” Chief Kim groans.
“It’s only getting between a guy’s legs, just like your whore mother did. No big deal, right?”
Go Min-guk, you piece of shit. Did you always live like this?
My patience reaches its limit. I hit the son of a bitch in the face with all my strength.
He shouts in pain. I might have hit him pretty good; there’s blood dripping from his right nostril. His lower lips trembles.
“Y-y-you son of a bitch!” he screams.
“Please calm yourself!” shouts Chief Kim, wrapping his arms around him.
“Let me go! Let me go! Fuck! Chief Kim, do you want to die first?!”
Jeez, shut the fuck up.
Chief Kim is clinging onto Go Min-guk’s waist with everything he has. Go Min-guk’s so frantic in trying to escape his grasp that his pants are about to come off.
Good. Very good.
“Chief, please keep holding him like that,” I say, and with that, I throw out another full swing.
My target this time is his left nostril. I’ll make both nostrils bleed.
My fist connects.
Chief Kim gasps, lets go of Go Min-guk and puts both hands over his mouth in shock.
Go Min-guk groans and falls to the ground, clutching his nose. Blood flows steadily through his fingers. The ivory carpet quickly becomes stained, and the air is quiet, the only sound being his pained whimpers.
Chief Kim looks at me with a thunderstruck expression.
I’m sure Go Min-guk is going to be wide awake after taking a punch from someone who’s been through the hardships of prison.
“Y-Young Master,” Chief Kim stutters nervously.
“Shh,” I say, putting a finger to my lips.
I’m signalling to him that we should keep this a secret. The skills I gained from fighting other prisoners without the warden knowing haven’t gone anywhere. If the Chief helps me out here, we can handle this without a problem.
Chief Kim nods his head up and down furiously to tell me that he understood.
Go Min-guk gets unsteadily onto his feet.
“Motherfucker…” he groans, fuming as he comes at me.
He’s drunk and angry. He can probably barely even see.
A fist flies towards my left side. I move my head to the right and give him a light slap on the cheek. Not hard enough to hurt, but hard enough to make him feel bad.
“Hey!” he shouts, throwing another fist, this time at my right side.
I dodge it and slap him again. Another punch to my left, dodge, slap. Another punch to my right, dodge, slap.
This son of a bitch is pretty drunk, isn’t he? He’s really swinging at me in earnest with both fists.
I’m taking a step backwards each time I smack his face.
Just as I’m considering hitting him one more time, I hear some voices in the distance.
“Wow, today has a really good vibe.”
“You’re coming for another round after this, right?”
“Of course. Make sure every single person is coming.”
Some people have come out onto the deck to cool off from the heat of the party. This changes things.
I stop hitting Go Min-guk and stand still.
“You – !” Go Min-guk mutters, perceiving this moment as an opportunity and charging at me with all the strength he has left.
I deftly turn my body out of his way, and his upper half goes over the handrail. He shouts in alarm; his center of gravity is off-balance. His legs flounder about and kick at empty air, and then his lower body slides over and vanishes over the edge of the deck.
There’s a loud splash.
“H-help me!” his voice screams from beneath.
“Oh my god! Is there nobody there? Please help!” Chief Kim shouts.
People gather around.
“Oh my. What happened?”
“It looks like he’s fallen into the water.”
The guards rush out from the party room in response to the commotion and fish Go Min-guk out of the water.
Go Min-guk lies limp on the deck like a wet cotton ball and throws up. Everyone can see exactly what he ate during the party.
Yuck. The people gathered around grimace.
He really has caused a lot of trouble.
“What is going on?” says a voice from behind me.
It’s Nam Sae-ha, and Park Hwa-seon is standing next to him. The party host and the fiancée have arrived.
Perfect, just perfect.
I grab the sobbing Go Min-guk’s arm and lift him onto his feet.
Park Hwa-seon’s mouth is wide open in shock at her fiancé’s unsightliness.
Ah, could it be that this is what changes her mind about him? From what I can see in her expression, she looks totally put off.
“I’m sorry. Hyeong-nim has had a little too much to drink,” I say.
“Is he alright?” Nam Sae-ha asks.
“I think so.”
It seems that we’ve reached the docks; the cruise ship comes to a stop.
Great timing, thank God.
“We’ll excuse ourselves now. I’m sorry that Hyeong-nim has spoiled the mood. Please pass on my regards to the other guests,” I say.
“Don’t worry about that. Please get to the hospital quickly,” says Nam Sae-ha.
Even with these words, there’s no way that there won’t be rumors. You can’t possibly have more interesting conversation topics than the second son of the Gogwang Group’s president getting drunk and falling into the river at a party.
They say that one bad apple spoils the barrel, but I think the Gogwang Group is going to have Go Min-guk take all of the shame.
Oh well. You reap what you sow.
“Thank you. We’ll take our leave, then,” I say, bidding everyone farewell.
Nam Sae-ha glances at the guards, gesturing with his eyes.
They take over for me and carry Go Min-guk as we go down to the docks.
The bastard is still spitting out the remains left in his stomach. Absolutely disgusting.
Park Hwa-seon has simply left.
I take my cell phone out to call an ambulance and see that I received a text at some point during the party.
It’s from Ho-un, the text that I’ve been waiting for.
‘I’ve found a man who matches the personal details you gave me.’