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"Never mind. It's fine. You can excuse us."

The staff withdrew his hand from President Cho Dae-ho's arm and bowed his head.

"Oh, by the way, prepare some coffee," Chairman Song said when the staff was about to close the door."

Chairman Song smiled awkwardly at CEO Cho, who was sitting on the sofa at the entrance, looking around.

"I'm sorry. I've been absent-minded lately."

"No, Chairman. I read the newspaper. It was my mistake to come unannounced."

"When was the last time we saw each other?"

"Two years ago, at the Automobile Association dinner."

"Oh, right. That's when we saw each other. When the association donation was made."

The hardened faces of the two men finally relaxed.

"How have you been lately? I heard you gave up your position as the motor company's CEO."

"I'm working at a packaging factory now."

"A packaging factory?"

Chairman Song heard he was demoted, but he never thought he'd become an exile.

Chairman Song frowned.

"Chairman Jin is too harsh. After everything you did for the group... It was cruel."

Having risen to the position of president of Sunyang Motor Company meant that he had devoted his entire life to Sunyang. He wasn't even responsible for ruining the company but was kicked out to an unknown branch because of wounded pride.

Chairman Song confirmed once again the viciousness of Chairman Jin.

"So, what's the sudden reason for coming here? It's probably because of this, right?"

Chairman Song shook the newspaper as CEO Cho nodded.

"Is it Chairman Jin's doing?"

"Most likely."

"Why? Is he trying to swallow Ajin Motors?"


He had enough influence to turn the media, Yeouido, and the Blue House in his favor. If it was Chairman Jin's doing, it was more than enough to make it happen.

"Why is he suddenly getting greedy?"

"Because fighting takes time and effort. He just chose to win without fighting, like he's done so far."

Then Chairman Song looked at Cho Daeho and asked,

"Why did you come here? I don't think any servant like you would have brought me suitable news. Or are you changing sides?"

"Isn't it obvious why a salary man suddenly came to see you on a day like today? I thought today would be the best day to ask for a job."

"We don't plan to hire experienced employees... What should we do about this?"

Chairman Song waved the newspaper like a fan.

"When it's urgent, you need to immediately hire private loans, but isn't it even easier to hire an impromptu staff?"

"You've become very brazen, our CEO Cho. My, my."

"When you're starving, you lose your dignity and self-respect. It's embarrassing, but that's the truth."

"An experienced employee should have something useful, what does CEO Cho have?"

"I cemented the Sunyang Motors' factory. I also signed the assembly line technical partnership recognition with my own hands."

"If that's all, I'm disappointed. We also have many skilled technicians."

"By the order of Chairman Jin, I buried my hands in dirt, blood, and dung. If I clean myself up and throw it back to Chairman Jin... The Sunyang Group will spend a year taking a shower."

"I guess our president Cho is thinking of cleaning up the smell of packaging factory bonds with this opportunity as well.”

CEO Cho Dae-ho rubbed his hands and smiled calmly.

"Do you like my resume now?"

"Your resume is good, but I'm not sure if there's a position that suits CEO Cho."

"Ajin Motors CEO is the right-hand man of the chairman... Being a vice president is enough for me. I'll be satisfied if my salary is at the level of Sunyang Motors' CEO."

When Chairman Song got up from the sofa, CEO Cho also jumped up.

"Are you planning to go to your hometown, CEO Cho?"

"I will pay my respects to my ancestors."

"Then let's talk again after you come back. Rest comfortably."

After CEO Cho bowed down and left the office with a smile, Chairman Song, who was left alone, took a long sigh and buried himself in his chair.

He lit a cigarette for the first time in a while. He had a lot of thinking to do.

"I never liked that bastard... I just can't seem like him until the end."

Chairman Song, who was murmuring to himself, summoned all the automobile executives through his secretary.

When the executives, who rushed in a hurry, heard Chairman Song's explanation, they were initially furious, but after calming down, their opinions were divided.

"If it's Sunyang, they'll push it with their financial power. We need to start buying stocks to defend our management rights."

"Where do we get the funds to buy stocks?"

"We will look for loans as much as we can with the stocks we hold as collateral."

"That's right. We'll be flexible with bank loans and quick cash, and shake up the stock market with that money. If the stock price goes up, Sunyang will also falter."

Opinions were divided, but there was no powerful solution. Even after a bloody fight, one could not be sure of the result.

Chairman Song posed a more difficult problem to the executives.

"Look at the media now. Today is just the beginning. Do you think they won't shake me up in the future? If they make an issue of my ethics, it's obvious that I'll be called in by the prosecution."

No one was immune to criticism. Even a large corporation CEO in the professional management system had been covered in dust.

An indictment would be a piece of cake even if one prosecutor snapped his finger.

"Why are you silent? We must protect the company, is it okay if I get caught?"

"No, of course not, Chairman."

All the executives jumped up waving their hands. Seeing their reaction, Chairman Song smirked and released another piece of information.

"I've heard enough of your sincerity, you can stop now. Actually, the reason I called you all here is that Cho Dae-ho paid a visit and has left. Remember him? He was the president of Sunyang Motors."

"Why did Cho Dae-ho...?"

"He asked for a position. He said being a vice president of Ajin Motors would be enough."

Vice president. This position was like a double-edged sword. It could either be a strong candidate for the next president or just a figurehead who only occupied the position.

However, the vice president that Cho Dae-ho mentioned was just a figurehead who wanted to make some money.

The executives welcomed him with open arms.

"Thank goodness. Cho Dae-ho was Sunyang's confidant and a close aide to Chairman Jin. He must know all about Sunyang's corruption. If Cho Dae-ho becomes our Ajin family member, then Sunyang won't be able to act recklessly."

"If we all start attacking each other, the dust from Sinyang's corruption will be ten times worse than ours, so they'll withdraw."

Once a way to stop the opponent's attack was found, they all seemed to breathe a sigh of relief. If the opponent's attack stopped, they could release their funds and move quickly to consolidate their control over the company.

"Just now, Cho Dae-ho said he was Sunyang's confidant, right? A dog doesn't change its master. Why do we think Cho Dae-ho is on our side?"

At Chairman Song's words, all the executives became dumbfounded again.

They were no different from the Trojans who took the wooden horse left behind by the Greeks and brought it into the city.

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* * *

"Why isn't our Dojun saying anything?"

"Oh, no reason."

My quick-witted grandfather had already noticed that I was flustered.

"Are you already in your teenage years?"


"Now you have things to hide from this old man? How sad, haha?"

As he aged, he became sensitive to trivial things, although he was laughing, there was a hint of bitterness on his face as well.

Since it turned out like this, I might as well ask him.

"Today’s newspaper… it was too noisy…"

"About Ajin Motors?"


“Why? Do you find it strange?"

"Um… it’s always been like that. Whenever our Soonyang Group is mentioned in the newspaper, grandfather would get angry and ask who was responsible, demanding we found out.”

"That’s right. You remembered."


The chairman took my hand and sat me down next to him, and began to give me a slow lecture.

"Dojun, how do newspapers make money?"

"Isn't it through advertisements?"

My grandfather flicked his fingers.

"That's right. Everyone thinks so. But newspapers make money by selling words."

"Words? Articles?"

"That's right. Do you know how many words there are in one page of a newspaper?"

"No, I don't."

"It's usually about 5,000 characters long. Each of those words is converted into money."

I felt foolish for asking a question that I already knew the answer to. But I had to listen to the "new information" attentively as though I was excited to learn something new.

"I see."

"Articles that seem unrelated to money, such as articles on traffic congestion in Seoul, can become the basis for road expansion projects in the jurisdiction. Who do you think makes money from these articles?"

"The construction company that does the road work?"

"That's right. You know it well. Hehe."

My grandfather stroked my head, recognizing my quick-wittedness. Then he explained how to read the true meaning of an article by citing various examples.

When would he answer my question?

"Then who is the Ajin Motors article for?" I asked.

"Probably for a competitor who wants to shake up Ajin Motors, right?" Grandfather replied craftily.

"Daehyun Motors… Or is it you, Grandfather?"

The chairman stroked my head again.

With this gesture, I was finally convinced that the article that was gunning for Ajin Motors was my grandfather's doing.

What a sneaky move.

God damn it.

My head was spinning.

I didn't expect my grandfather to go after the company I already had my eyes on.

My mind was overloaded.

Was there a way for it to slip out of my grandfather's hands after he acquired it and back into mine? 

Wait a minute!

Was it possible that this also happened in my previous life but I just don't remember it?

Ajin was definitely swallowed by Daehyun Motors.

If so, it was obvious that my grandfather's measures would be futile.

When the outcome was uncertain, I had to pave way for the future myself.

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* * *

When money overflowed, even paying respect to ancestors was done with the money.

Holiday syndrome, which Korean daughters-in-law usually complained about, was not in any way present in the household.¹

Several chefs and more than a dozen assistant chefs took over the kitchen and made all the food that would be served on the ceremonial table.

While the family prepared for the memorial service, they talked and exchanged stories, ending the honouring after several bows.

Breakfast was divided into two large tables. The chairman, his children, daughters-in-law, and sons-in-law sat at one table, and the grandchildren took the other one.

I sat closest to the adult's table and listened carefully.

"By the way, Yoon-gi. Your movie was released yesterday, right? How was it? How were the sales?"

Everyone was curious, but the second son carefully asked what they were all thinking, as they watched the chairman's reaction.

"Well, it's not bad, Dong-ki. One screening was full, and the other was… half full."

"Wow! That's great, our little brother. It's his first movie, and it's already a hit?"

"It's just the first day. I can't be certain until I take down the movie," My father said, but his expression was different. He couldn't hide his smile, and it seemed like he wouldn't lose money, at least.

What was funny was even the chairman silently ate his food without any negative reaction.

At that moment, someone spoiled the pleasant atmosphere.

"Hey, bring me some more soup," Dong-ki's wife ordered my mother, handing her a soup bowl.

That woman had a habit of making my mother do things for her. When the chairman started showing me affection, everyone began to tread carefully, but she was still being herself.

I think it was because of her complex. She was the only daughter of a rich family in Gangnam, but had a terrible face. She was obsessed with a sense of inferiority and jealousy and tried to get at my mother at any chance she got.

My father's face was twitching. I guess he was trying to be the head of the house now. As expected, men needed to work outside to gain strength to protect their families.

However, an unexpected person spoke up before my father.

"Second one, can you bring me some more soup?"


"Is the young one deaf? I said, bring me some more soup!"

At the chairman's outburst, the second daughter-in-law jumped to her feet in a state of contemplation. Grandfather was already sticking out the soup bowl.

She ran to the kitchen and got the soup, but her hands were trembling, and she even spilled some of it.

When Grandfather received the soup bowl and continued to eat, the whole house was so quiet that even the sound of his chopsticks could be heard.

Right then, everything was sorted out by my grandfather without delay. 

It was also the moment in which father was recognized as a proper child and mother, as a daughter-in-law.

I was moved to tears, but I had to betray my grandfather.

I was a little, no, I was terribly sorry, but once I had my eyes on something, I could not allow anyone else to have it.

Grandpa, I'm sorry.


[1] South Koreans are familiar with the term, “post-holiday syndrome,” which refers to a phenomenon of suffering from various symptoms due to the stress people feel around a long holiday like Chuseok. 

In this context, it simply means that no daughters-in-law would complain about the labor typically forced on Korean women during the Lunar New Year.

PS: Chuseok is a happy occasion to express gratitude to ancestors for a bountiful harvest during a season of fine weather that isn’t too hot or too cold. It is easy to understand an old saying about the holiday: “No more no less, may it always be like Chuseok.” In South Korea, Chuseok is one of the nation’s largest and most celebrated traditional holidays, along with the Lunar New Year’s Day.]

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