Chapter 25: Another Family (3)
Zeynep’s legs were shaking at the immigration office. She realized that she was now in a foreign country, and she got worse after seeing a few people being escorted to interrogation room by policemen.
When Youngho showed his passport to the interviewer, he changed his attitude and treated him politely, saying why he was in the line for common travellers. When he tried to take them to a separate room, Zeynep tried to explain things in English nervously. She thought that he was taking them to be interrogated and even started to breathe heavily from nervousness.
Youngho and the interviewer had to convince her with a candy. The party was escorted to a reception room. Because of Youngho’s diplomat’s status, they were treated as VIPs. Even though Azerbaijan was a country that had a strict entry process, they were easily passed by the immigration officers.
When Zeynep’s condition got better, they went to Gerhardt who was waiting for them.
“Boss, did something happen? You took long to come out, I even called the director to ask for help.”
“It was no big deal. My young guests are tired from the trip, can we go to their lodging right away?”
“Yes siree, boss!”
Because she has been learning English, Fatima understood most of their conversations. After seeing how the airport staff and Gerhardt treated Youngho, her curiosity about him grew more because she did not know a lot about Youngho, she had thought that he was a just a small businessman who owned one or two stores.
Youngho got extremely busy the next day, and he asked Karajan to look out for the siblings while he took care of his business. The first thing he did was visit the hospital where the injured employees were hospitalized. He apologized to the employees and their families and gave them money for compensation. He also visited the site of the accident and had a conference with construction company staffs to talk about responsibilities and countermeasures.
The accident happened because the safety railing collapsed when workers were working on the rooftop of a grape storage unit. The construction company had full responsibility for the accident but the public opinion was going bad about this issue. The press was bashing on the government giving privileges to foreign investors.
If Youngho could not resolve this, he would be in a situation where the money he invested was going to be wasted due to public criticism. Youngho asked the director of Main Police Department for an advice but nothing special came to their minds. They had to act carefully because they did not know how the public opinion would react, especially as an official, the director had a lot of limitations to his actions while trying to spare himself. Everything seemed to be going wrong for Youngho.
“Boss. It looks like the construction company turned their back against us. They shifted the responsibility about the accident to us. They must be behind all this.”
“Did you find something weird, Gerhardt?”
“Yeah. It’s just normal to talk about safety issues after the accident at the construction site, but none of the press is mentioning that. They only focus on privilege of foreign investors, which is pointless. It was a wasteland anyways and now it is being developed by a foreign investor. It’s an absolute plus to the government and employees. I don’t get why they are bashing on you.”
Gerhardt’s remark was reasonable. By developing a wasteland, Youngho was making employment opportunity and he would be attracting foreign currency from exporting grapes. The grape produced from the region was considered sweet due to its weather that had great daily temperature ranges, so the grape prices were high.
Youngho suddenly had an idea, using the public opinion to overcome the impasse, he asked Gerhardt to contact the most popular newspaper company and arrange a meeting with a staff from the advertisement department. The staff from the newspaper’s advertising department visited Youngho immediately for they were curious about his business and related issues.
“Mr. Lee, I am Hardy, the director of advertisement department of AzerNews.”
“I didn’t think you would come directly, Mr. Hardy.”
“I have been following about you. Baku is big but a small place at the same time. Because you made a call directly without going through an agency, I wanted to see you.”
From then on, Youngho explained about the accident for the next hour. Hardy made a phone call after listening to him. After a while, a journalist and photographer came to Youngho’s office, they took pictures of the blueprint of the development site and interviewed him to talk about details of the business. When they were done, they left the office leaving Youngho and Hardy alone.
“Mr. Lee. How about putting up an advertisement of your farm project at the bottle of our newspaper’s first page? We can help your situation. We’ll write an honest article about your situation. I thought running an article on the newspaper was the best way to help you since you are trying to develop our lagging agriculture.”
On the next day, an article favorable to Youngho’s business was put on AzerNews’ economy section with an edited image of his farm. On the day after that, an article about how construction companies’ faulty work was harming national interests was put on with another article that reported his visit to the hospital to comfort his injured employees. Because two articles telling about Youngho ran on AzerNews for two days in a row, many journalists from other newspaper companies visited him for an interview. Youngho thought it was an opportunity for him to turn around the public opinion. He made interviews his priority leaving his business work behind.
Similar articles were on major newspapers the next few days, which wrote about how developing agriculture would make them a rich country that does not have to rely on oil production profit. Many public readers agreed to the opinions of the convincing articles and some officials were interviewed to add on to Youngho’s opinion. Now the public opinion about foreign investor’s privilege was nowhere to be found.
Kamal, the head of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was praised as an official who came up with an effective method to use a wasteland. When the public opinion turned to his favor, Kamal treated Youngho for dinner.
“Mr. Lee. You’ve drawn the public opinion to our favor even though we couldn’t actively help you. I should thank you.”
“Kamal, the public moved themselves. It was hard. I thought my money was going down in the drain when I paid almost a million dollar.”
Even though the construction company’s fault was obvious and Kamal seemed to know about it, Youngho saved his words.
“Mr. Lee, I know that the construction company made some mistakes, but you should keep it as if nothing had happened. The company has many connections with high officials, I’m afraid if you get rid of them from the construction, you might get disadvantaged. I wanted to see you to tell you this.”
“I get what you are worried about. I don’t want to make enemies because of the construction
worth of $100,000 only,” Saying this, Youngho was thinking otherwise. He would not let them go easily. They tried to ruin him for their own sake. If the public opinion had not turned to Youngho’s favor, his business would have been dead.
Youngho could not focus on Fatima and the siblings because he had been busy trying to turn back the public opinion. Hearing that Youngho took care of the problem well from Karajan, the siblings were carelessly enjoying their visit in Baku. They sometimes helped out with the sales staff at Youngho’s stores and they visited popular places of Baku.
They drove Youngho’s Benz car around the city, he did not need a Benz but because he needed to look good as a foreign investor for his business, he had bought a used Benz, and now the siblings were enjoying it.
It was a miracle that Youngho could make it this much after a year in Baku. It all started from being misunderstood as a spy and now he became a foreign investor who runs a large-scale farm. Even though there had been moments where he seemed to be in danger, Youngho kept encouraging himself.
He had made it this far despite many hardships but the construction company tried to shake him to conceal their fault. He could not let them pass like this without any consequences. He calmed his mind and tried to find a way to get even with them.
Use arrow keys (or A / D) to PREV/NEXT chapter