Empire of the Ring

Chapter 8
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Chapter 8: CIA (3)

Park Jongil had worried for nothing.

Edward was even happier when he heard one more instructor was coming. He had been excited after seeing the two new instructors’ training in the assault course.

Because it was just too complicated if Youngho and his friends all stayed in the hotel for such a long period, the militia provided a place for all of the instructors to live within their secret house, and even hired a housekeeper. The amount of their everyday laundry was overwhelming.

It had been fifteen days since they started training.

During gymnastics training, Edward the CIA agent was knocked down, and in the rappelling course, Hulk, the bodyguard of the militia commander, almost peed in his pants after saying that he was acrophobic.

Walking on a single rope, double rope, and triple rope were just basic skills. When he taught a special skill, killing with bare hands, which was effective in close combats, all of the trainees became pale and looked at the instructors as if they were reapers.

They could not do underwater training just because the place only had mountains and valleys around without any deep water. It looked like if they had done it, all of the militants chosen as warriors would have gone home already. It seemed like Koreans were just spiteful.

Youngho’s friends were breathing heavily after just finishing mountain hiking.

“Youngho, what kind of place is this? I feel like I developed mountain sickness.”

“Dude, It’s just 1000 meters high above the sea level. What mountain sickness?”

Cha Insoo, who joined them in Armenia later, scolded Park Jongil’s exaggeration.

“I’m out of breath, man. I don’t have enough air.”

“You just smoke too much.”

“How can a man quit smoking? Are they even human, huh?”

“You don’t have to quit, but you need to smoke less. You have one in your mouth now.”

“It’s my only food preference. Don’t get on my nerves.”

“You stupid, cigarette is not a food.”

“Americans even chew cigarettes. If it’s not food, then why would you chew them?”

While Park Jongil and Cha Insoo were having this stupid conversation, Cho Chulhwan commanded them to resume hiking.

“Time’s up. Back to your positions!”

“Oh man, who gave him that title? Take it from him!” Jongil nagged as Cho Chulhwan ordered.


After a month, Youngho dealt with the clearance process for the imported goods at Poti Sea Port in Georgia. Margos signed the receipt and faxed it to Seoul.

Now, all Youngho’s friend in Korea had to do was to pay the mountain equipment suppliers and Yongsan Electronics Market for their products.

From this order, the merchant made 500 million won. His friend, Cho Sangchun, must be crazy over the money they earned. Youngho sighed to think about his friend being happy when this was actually a price for his beating. He could not ever tell the truth to anybody until death since it was too embarrassing for him; not to mention, the Yunsuh and Sangchun couple would never even touch a single penny if they knew about it.

Liking the Korean mountain gear, the militia ordered more of the winter outdoor suits, top and bottom pieces, with 15,000 each. Youngho’s heart almost leaped to his mouth.

American money was not only overflowing, but was also streaming down all over the place here. Although it was weird that they were ordering supplies five times more than needed since they only had 3,000 militants to Youngho’s knowledge, he did not question it. He just figured that it was because of the nature of the supplies, which were disposable. If he nitpicked and asked more questions, then they might reduce the quantities they were ordering, and Youngho would lose money.

They wanted the khaki color just like the backpacks they ordered. He made an international call to Cho Sangchun and asked to check their prices. The Armenian militia had estimated the price of the suit, which was 400,000 won each, but they asked for the quality of the 600,000 won suits in the market. Even though they were asking too much, Youngho was willing to meet their demands.

A sample product from Korea arrived in haste. It was from a Korean brand B that became a large corporate firm by selling mountain climbing equipment. The militia ordered them after checking that the suit was more efficient compared to other famous foreign brands.

Yunsuh’s voice was as soft as a spring breeze since Chunho Merchant received two successful deals in a row. Trusting Chunho Merchant from the last successful business, the B brand started their production as soon as they received the LC.

The factory price was 370,000 won, and Cho Sangchun bragged that he had even negotiated the price to include gloves. It was a deal that would make 450 million won for them. The gloves were just a gift to the militia from Chunho Merchant, which was to show that Chunho Merchant did not only care about profits, but also cared about their clients.

As the special warfare training program was settling down, the US CIA paid ahead all of the instructors’ annual salaries at Youngho’s assurance. Youngho’s friends were not doing well financially, so they all needed to send money to their families in Korea.

“Youngho, can we really take this?”

Park Jongil, who had just received a deposit slip to his account, was making a fuss.

“It’s yours to take. Do you have any idea how much the US CIA’s yearly budget is? I don’t know about other things but the pure information budget is more than 40 billion dollars. We are just taking a tiny bit from the information expense. Don’t feel sorry.”

“I get to earn 100 million won all because of you. Youngho, my man! I will treat you tonight.”

Park Jongil’s annual salary when he was in a security company in Korea was around 30 million won at most. And to get that, he had to work day and night. But now, if he could earn this much just by training and bothering the militants, it seemed like he could do it for decades.

“Treat who? I’ve got to treat you. I get to earn money for trading on top of the instructor salary.”

Youngho was also told that he would be paid more from the information cost. He felt full already.

“Then treat us good! We will eat up the whole place.”

Laughter broke out from everyone at Jongil’s remark.

It was not like it was free money. It was for their hard labor, but they were still happy to have the money in their pockets. Youngho was a bit bitter hearing his friends’ laughter.

“People here have great physicals. There are no deserters yet even after three months of training. When we were training in the UDT, half of the people got kicked out.”

Um Sangtaek, who had joined them recently, said this while shaking his head.

The Special Warfare Unit’s basic training program was extremely hard, so much so that it only had a 40% completion rate in Korea. It could mean that the special forces was very fierce, but it also meant the trainees would be terrifying weapons if a war broke out.


Edward came to the secret house where Youngho was staying.

“Lee, we found a spy in the militia. This was revealed as I was investigating your incident and how the information about you got leaked.”

“Then the locations of the militia’s residences got leaked too?”

“Not true. The driver who drove you when you were being abducted was the same driver who released you to the hotel. The spy must have seen that at the hotel and it was only that part about the driver and you which was leaked.”

After finding that Youngho was abducted, the director of Main Police Department sent secret police to find out what happened to Youngho. Then Youngho made the deal bigger than it was by overly defending himself from the police when he could have just told them that he was a mere merchandiser and he was misunderstood as a spy by the Armenian militia.

About the guns that Azerbaijan’s secret policemen were holding, it was their conventional way to prepare for a potential danger. The militia had to cover it up because the policemen who were after Youngho were missing. It was revealed that Youngho was not suspected by Azerbaijan—he just became their object of interest.

Baku of Azerbaijan was a great market offering all sorts of foods. Youngho was just too hungry to focus on the autonomous region as a militia instructor or a temporary CIA agent. To get out of the Main Police Department’s watch and to make a connection point in Baku, he made a suggestion to Edward.

Because the US CIA was also working hard to improve their connections in Azerbaijan, they welcomed Youngho’s active involvement. The CIA immediately approved and provided an information expense of $100,000 to Youngho, who had suggested opening a branch of Chunho Merchant in Baku.

Youngho hurried and went to Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. In order to enter Baku, one needed to pass Georgia’s Tbilisi first, and then get on the train to enter Azerbaijan. It took a complicated route to get there.

The two ethnic groups were not friendly at all, to the extent that they did not even utter the other country’s name. So, if they knew that a person had been to the other country, they would deny your entry.

The director of Main Police Department remembered Youngho. Some people said that Asian’s faces were too hard to distinguish, but he must have remembered Youngho’s unique, westernized look. Although, it would have been weird of him if he did not remember Youngho since he sent secret policemen for him.

“Mr. Lee, you said you were going to Georgia. What happened to you?”

He looked very surprised to see Youngho. It was reported that Young had vanished after being released from abduction in Nagorno-Karabakh. But Youngho was standing in front of him as if nothing happened.

“Director, I came back alive from almost being killed. I was in Georgia, where my business was going nowhere, so I decided to go to Armenia. It was a terrible idea.”

Youngho complained, explaining how he was abducted and beaten for days in the militia. He lied to him, telling him that he had to trade in some backpacks and sleeping bags for them so that they would release him under the condition that he would not make it a problem.

Knowing Youngho had been released from abduction, the director listened to Youngho’s story sincerely.

Because the director could easily find out Youngho’s past whereabouts, Youngho told him the truth.

“Now you know how cruel Armenians are. They took our land by force and drove out our people. Around 800,000 people have nowhere to go now, and living a wanderer’s life. Mr. Lee, I’m glad you are safe and free. You are a lucky case.”

The director was agitated when explaining his people’s history.

“I made money from the orders in exchange for the beating, but I’m still shaking.”

The director was smiling at Youngho, who was unreasonably chatty. He thought that Youngho, who was disgusted with Armenia, could be a good information source for him.

The sly director did not tell Youngho about sending secret policemen after him until the end. He did not mind their disappearances since many of the policemen and spies went missing while working in the disputed territory.

Youngho had reduced the quantity of the order items he traded, but since he even told him about trading sleeping bags and backpacks to the militia, it was unlikely for the director not to believe him.

The director even laughed as Youngho went on and told him worrisomely to be cautious about the militia making him a target. To gain his trust, Youngho told him about the location of the safe house and the appearances of the people who had tormented him, although he did not tell him that the safe house was already closed down and there would not be a single life in there.

When Youngho said that he would open his own office in Azerbaijan and expand his business around Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh, the autonomous region, the director was delighted. He said he would help Youngho get his office and made phone calls to realtors. He was willing to help Youngho since he was tormented because of the connection with him. Also, Youngho could be a great source for him as he was going to start regular business with the militia.

Because Youngho was labeled as a foreigner whom the director of Main Police Department was helping, he could get everything he needed in lightning speed. Introduced by a realtor, he rented an office about 700 sq. ft. for $2500 a month, and the director also introduced him to a lady who could work for him.

The office rent and prices were as high as the level of those in Gangnam, Seoul. Youngho hired the lady named Karajan, who was distantly related to the director. The 23-year-old lady had majored in commerce and trade at Azerbaijan University. In an Islamic country, it was rare to find a woman who went to college, but in Baku, where women’s social activities were more common, you could easily find educated women like her.

Youngho used the director’s connection to gain her trust. He knew that Karajan, who was a distant cousin of the director, would report A to Z about him. But did he know that the darkest place was right under the candlestick?

The two nations hated each other’s guts to death due to ethnic disputes, but they seemed kind and warm-hearted. Youngho thought a foreigner like him could live here.

Not long after that, Youngho realized how naive he was, but that is life. It is hard.

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