Empire of the Ring

Chapter 16
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Chapter 16: A Destined Encounter in Istanbul (2)

The next day, Youngho had to be a photographer for Park Jongil, following after him everywhere.

Jongil asked the girls walking by to take photos with him and to Youngho’s surprise, they all kindly agreed to Jongil as if they were angels. Acting like Jongil would be considered crazy in Korea, but it was nothing to people living in Istanbul, a global tourist destination.

As they were resting in their room, Cho Sangchun called Youngho on his cellphone.

“Youngho. It’s a boy! I just became a dad.”

“What?! Can you speak slowly? Did Yunsuh give birth already?”

“Yeah. Everybody’s healthy. I can’t let you talk to her yet. She’s in the recovery room now. I’ll call you tomorrow.”

Sangchun hung up on Youngho after delivering the news. Youngho was still in a shock. Although the phone call was short, Youngho could almost feel Sangchun’s excitement from his voice.

“What is it? Was that from Sangchun?”

“Yeah. He said Yunsuh just gave birth to a son. He’s exuberated.”

“What an awesome news! His parents must be happy to finally have a grandson.”

“Man. I’m happy too.”

Youngho and Yunsuh were two years apart. When Youngho was serving in the military, their parents died from a car accident, leaving behind the two.

Sangchun, who was Youngho’s best friend since college, helped out with the funeral process since Yunsuh was young and Youngho’s break from the military was not long enough to prepare for the complicated funeral process.

Back then, Yunsuh had nobody to rely on except Sangchun, and as they were always together, they eventually fell in love. Sangchun’s parents happily supported the couple, and as soon as Yunsuh got out of college, they got married. The parents hurried to marry the two young lovers because not only they did not have any other son to carry on the family line but also they liked Yunsuh’s smart and keen personality.

Youngho felt strange that his little sister gave a birth. She became a mom already.

***

Youngho returned to Baku in his regular life after finishing up the business in Istanbul. While he was gone, the retailers who carried Chunho Merchant’s products were doing well.

Many customers in Baku preferred Korean middle-priced clothes for their affordable prices and high qualities, and the sales were overtaking the sales of other European brands.

Youngho’s direct stores near Main Police Department were the top-selling stores. A café near those stores was replaced with another high-class clothing brand store. However, Karajan told Youngho that their sales wouldn’t compare to the sales of Youngho’s direct stores.

Karajan was a nosy lady who wouldn’t let her friends or family members walk on the street wearing other brands’ clothes. She was extremely committed to Chunho Merchant.

It had been five months since Chunho Merchant’s direct, high-quality clothing store opened and four months since the H Porcelain direct store opened. The profit of the two stores meanwhile surpassed 200 million won already. The changing weathers would affect his profits, but Youngho’s stores were all settled that he would at least earn 500 million won a year.

Youngho paid his employees a big bonus pay as a commission for their job well done. Karajan became a competent manager that she could even make orders from the headquarters in Seoul, Korea by herself.

After the success of the two direct stores, Karajan wanted to open another one for business expansion to raise the company’s value. She looked for a location for the new store.

Because of the help from the head of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, whom Youngho was introduced by the executive director of Main Police Department, Youngho did not have to pay other extra fees except tax. His profit was being maximized.

Not being a member of WTO*, Azerbaijan had an ambiguous taxation system. They taxed each container of trade items $10,000 regardless of what was in there. However, Youngho found the system helpful for his case because his company sent clothes for his direct store by airmails which were not taxed. Although, items for H Porcelain and for other retailers arrived in containers by ship, which were taxed, he did not have to pay extra fees to customs officers. Paying unofficial extra fees during clearance process was conventionally done but knowing who was behind Youngho, the customs officers never touched Youngho again.

Youngho played a little trick to step up in the officialdom. He delivered a message to the director of Main Police Department, saying that he wanted to donate some of his profit from Baku for scholarship. After hearing that news, the chief of Main Police Department contacted him immediately, wanting to meet him.

He looked surprised that Youngho wanted to donate even though his company was small.

“Mr. Lee , I’ve heard about you from the executive director. I know you have gone through troubles because of us, but you are willing to return your money to our society. I thank you ahead on behalf of our government.”

“It’s nothing really, chief. The director helped me to a great extent. I just want to return some of the money I made because of the citizens of Baku to the people of Baku.”

Youngho intentionally acted modest and spoke highly of the director. He wanted to secure the director’s position, so that he could continuously use him as an exclusive information source.

“Oh, that is just admirable. So, what kind of students would you like to support?”

“I will make $100,000 each year for scholarship. Since the director has helped me greatly, I’d like to donate this money for children of police families.”

He picked police family to impress governors and officials.

“Mr. Lee, this sounds like a lot of money to you. You only have two stores here, how would you make such money?”

“Hahaha. If you feel uncomfortable, please come to my store and buy some from us.”

The news spread fast among government officials that Youngho donated for children of police family without hesitation. Naturally they became very favorably inclined towards Youngho, so he was invited to many different events of high officials. This made it easy for him to collect a lot of information from communicating with core officials. Not to mention, the director’s position was secured because of Youngho.

The chief in return for Youngho’s generous donation, assigned Youngho as a honorary police officer and issued him a certificate, telling Youngho that this would help him live with ease in Baku.

Youngho knew exactly what he meant. There were no officials who would be in Youngho’s way anymore.

Learning about this news, Edward praised Youngho that he made a smart move using an unprecedented method to step into the mainstream society and he promised to compensate Youngho’s donation with information payment. Therefore, Youngho was able to plant himself in Baku’s mainstream society without paying a single penny.

Karajan, the manager of Chunho Merchant’s Baku branch, realized the change in the officials’ attitude toward Chunho Merchant when she recently went to submit trade documents.

Previously, the officials used to turn her down when she submitted necessary documents, with strange reasons that she needed to submit extra documents. However, now they easily let her go telling her that they would take care of any issues with her documents without even checking.

Although the population of Baku was 2 million, the number of government officials was not many. Having the officials helping him meant that Chunho Merchant’s position was officially secured.

Youngho’s efforts to step up resulted in increased sales. The direct stores had more customers than ever, that the sales representative Stephany, Karajan’s cousin, even requested to hire a new salesperson.

Instead of hiring one more person, Youngho promised to use that money for his employees’ professional development. He promised that he would send all of his employees to Korea for a training course in the winter.

***

The more popular Chunho Merchant became in Baku, the higher the number of orders they received. The season was changing to the summer, and the retailers boldly batted and ordered about $60,0000 worth of clothing, expecting people would buy new designs for the new season.

Cho Sangchun got busy as he could not get any help from Yunsuh who stayed home with her son. Yunsuh’s friend in college, who was now a designer of Chunho Merchant, had to work double as she took over Yunsuh’s job. They were happily busy to see how well their company was doing.

“Youngho, stop pushing orders in. Man, I think I might suffocate under a pile of money.”

“Man, you’ve got to quit if you can’t handle this much. Just hire some more employees, we will have more orders in the future. How long are you going to take advantage of Yunsuh?”

“You don’t have to mention that. I’m planning on hiring two more people. It’s overwhelming now.”

“Well good then, and can you tell the designer to send clothes as soon as possible? We are almost out of stock.”

To the women in Baku, the consistent designs of Chunho Merchant were appealing. The fact that Chunho Merchant did not make a lot of quantities for each design was also a selling point. They liked the uniqueness.

“Are you doing that well? Where do you use all those clothes, not for your fireplace right?”

“Dude, I think I might make more money than you soon. If you need money, just tell me. I’m your big bro. I got your back.”

“I have a plenty in here, man. You can take care of yourself with that. We didn’t even support you from here, how can we take your money?”

“Finally you’re thinking like a person.”

“How dare you, an unmarried man, say that to a dad?”

As the company was doing well, his voice was even brighter.

“Sangchun, I’m planning on having a training course for our employees in Korea in the winter. Can you look for a place for that?”

Sangchun loved the idea. He was excited to get to see the employees in Baku. He was curious about Karajan whom he had been worked with through the phone.

“Okay, don’t worry. By the way, we’ll be earning more than 70 million won for this order. I’m extremely busy but it feels good to make money.”

“Dude, you now know the taste of money. You’ve got to make some herbal tonics for your parents who are helping out with the kid, under my name, alright?

“You are making me look like a bad son again, aren’t you? Anyway, I’ve got to go. Yunsuh will give me an earful if I’m late.”

“Man, you miss your son already.”

“That’s why you should get married too.”

Feeling somewhat empty inside after hanging up, Youngho lit a cigarette. Youngho missed his newborn nephew whom he had never met.

*WTO- acronym for World Trade Organization, regulates international trade between nations

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