Chapter 13 – Old Steel (3)

After a moment,

The number of people in the conference room increased steadily. Jungwu glanced at few of the participant’s titles and began to feel his heart race.

The Professor of Department of Architecture of a big name college, the Korail Head of Technology, representatives of Major corporations ranging from Construction, Shipping, Storage and Logistics… the room was filled with nothing but high ranking specialists in the field.

‘This place is so full of intellectuals.’

The fact that he was sharing and participating in a space with such academics and professionals filled Jungwu with a swelling sense of pride. He wished Chan was here, to show that his brother was participating and contributing to society like this.

‘And who said that being 5th place in class was a big deal.’

Jungwu felt a pang of envy for a ranking he had never achieved.

One of the Government employees walked to the center of the room.

The early 40s bespeckled man tapped on the mic to test the sound before beginning to speak.

“The seminar will begin shortly. Those of you not in the conference room, please make your way in and take your seat.”

Dozen or so experts in the field with participation rights sat around the tables in the center. With the exception of Boyoung who was most definitely the youngest of them all, the rest of the core participants looked to be in their forties or fifties.

“My name is Gichul Yang, I am the Official for Facilities Planning department, and I will be overseeing the discussion for this seminar. I would like to welcome and extend a thank you on behalf of the Mayor to participants of various companies and organizations for coming here.”

Starting with Gichul’s greetings, the Standing Advisor to the Urban Planning Bureau Professor Soogon Hwang continued with the briefing on the topic of the seminar.

“…Rust collapses bridges, makes storage space unusable, and rapidly wears out homes, cars, and fuel tanks…it is something akin to cancer…”

While listening to the briefing, Jungwu skimmed through the documents supplied for the seminar.

He realized that the scale of restoration work taking place within the City of Seoul in a single year due to rust and the resulting expenditure was absolutely massive. And to combat this, there were many redundant preventative Structural Reinforcement constructions, application of Corrosion Inhibitors, and new layers of paint.

In other words, it was a market where Companies like Construction firms or KG Chemicals could generate a large profit.

“Next, we will present the comprehensive report on the current state and management of Han River Bridges.”

As soon as Gichul finished speaking, Head of the Bureau of Bridge Safety Sangseok Yi stood up.

“As you can see, of the 22 bridges standing above the Han River in Seoul, 8 are managed by external companies. We will cover the bridges in the order of their need for reinforcements.

Jungwu saw on the projected screen the same Han River Railway he had crossed this morning.

‘So that greenish paint was from Yujin Chemical.’

Yujin Chemical was as famous and well known as KG Chemicals. Since the report was on a competing company, he couldn’t help but pay attention to the detailed account on costs or effectiveness.

“We will open the floor for question and answer. Please feel free to speak openly.”

The first one to speak up was from the School of Architecture, Structural Engineering Department Professor Yungtae Kang.

“Bureau Head Yi, are you going to apply Corrosion Inhibitor on just a few of the bridges and call it good again?”

“The budget has not changed from last year so we will do a similar level of reinforcement work as last year.”

“How unreasonable. Corrosive Inhibitor applied in a humid location can only last about a year or so. If the monsoon season lasts longer than expected, you can expect Jamsugyo Bridge to form rust right away. If you don’t even have enough budget to reinforce all the bridges, how can you expect to properly manage them?”

Jungwu stared at Professor Kang in surprise due to the latter’s confrontational attitude against the City hall from the very start. It would not be surprising if the Official directing the Seminar was currently sweating from his pointed question.

“I think it’s about time for a paradigm shift and start considering long term benefits. If we reinforce the bridges with a high strength Inhibitor, we won’t have to worry about them for another 30 years. If we take 30 years worth of expenditure into consideration, wouldn’t this be a far better investment? It would certainly reduce wasteful spending of tax dollars.”

“…The city will take all suggestions into consideration.”

“Especially that Han River Railway. I worry about it every time I look at it. Do you really think a bridge built in 1994 will be fine with just adding another layer of coating? And your excuses won’t work anymore; I heard that something fell off today.”

Everyone’s gaze gathered on the Korail representative after Professor Kang’s accusations.

“I am Korail’s Head of Technologies, Daechul Kim. The accident this morning was resolved without problem. There was no injury.”

“And the cause?”

“Rather than a structural failure, we have come to the determination that it was caused by the decrease in durability which resulted due to the increase in the rail throughput over the years. And the Han River Railway in particular was chosen as the test site for the newly developed Corrosion Inhibitor made in collaboration with KG Chemicals…”

As soon as the new Inhibitor was mentioned, Boyoung’s eyes began to sparkle.

“Head Kim, that’s not my point. My problem is, how can the question of corrosion be solved by simply applying a bunch of coating.”

“That’s…”

“I am Researcher Boyoung with KG Chemicals. I’ll be explaining that part.”

Boyoung took to the mic and intervened. A lot of people in the room began to murmur when such a young woman spoke up in the middle of the discussion.

“Please go ahead.”

Professor Kang said to Boyoung, with a face full of confidence that he could refute anything she had to say.

‘Wow, so much pressure.’

Jungwu felt anxious from just watching the proceedings. After seeing Professor Kang shut up the Government Official as well as Representative of Korail one after the other, he couldn’t help but be worried for Boyoung.

Boyoung held up her papers.

“The new Corrosion inhibitor material we developed is a quasicrystal coating that is more slippery than Teflon and harder than stainless steel. The minimum life expectancy is not one but three years, and the material cost and cost of manufacture is half. Unlike what Professor Kang was worried about, we believe that we can significantly reduce the total cost with the new material.”

“Quasicrystal? That’s the first I’ve heard of it. And I don’t even know if it’s true or…”

“Yes, it’s true.”

Boyoung’s timing for cutting off Professor Kang’s mocking words was on point.

“KG Chemicals’ Central Research Laboratory’s experts have personally conducted and verified the effectiveness of this material. Furthermore, this material is already being used in half of the government structures after being accepted by the US Department of Defense Corrosion Management Bureau.”

Boyoung smiled sweetly for a moment before she dealt the final blow with an unforgettable closure.

“In other words, the compound we created through a chemical process is as reliable as a steel based product.”

Professor Kang, who was unable to respond to her, stopped giving his opinion. The Korail head of Technologies gave Boyoung a light bow to express his gratitude
Once she was done expressing herself, the Government Official, the Construction & Shipping Company representatives, and the representatives of other organizations present showed great interest and began to look through the reference material.

“Ah well.”
Boyoung gave a slight cough and shrugged before looking over to Jungwu.

‘How was I’ her eyes seem to say.

Jungwu gave her a quiet applause.

‘She’s really good. She’s not intimidated being in the midst of all these experts.’

Boyoung was a member of Lab 1, a lab full of only aces. Unlike Jungwu, she had reached her position by studying diligently and accumulating her knowledge of chemistry slowly over time. So it was only natural that her experience and knowledge of chemicals was on an extraordinary level. Gitae who sat next to Jungwu had been giving her an incredulous look the entire time she was speaking.

The Officer in charge of directing the Seminar began to speak.

“If there is nothing else to be added, then we’ll move on to the next point…”

“Wait.”

Just when it seemed like the conversation about the Han River Railway was about to be over with Boyoung coming out on top, someone picked up their mic.

“It’s just that the issue of Railway came up.”

A man in mid-forties wearing an elegant suit took a look around the conference room. Jungwu checked his nametag and flinched.

Yujin Chemical Head of Research Division

Unlike KG Chemicals which sent just a regular researcher, the Competitor had sent someone quite high ranked to the Seminar.

“My name is Jaegil Yoon. Nice to see you again, Professor Kang. You argued with me last year, and you argued with a pretty lady this year. What a fighter.”

Professor Kang looked away seemingly displeased.

Jaegil’s one comment had instantly captured the attention of everyone in the room. He followed the momentum and pointed to the Projected image and said,

“Please check the prepared image. Bureau Head Yi, if you please.”

The Slideshow showed various unsightly images of rusted railways and support beams, as well as the steel beams of the overpass.

“This was a year ago. And these are images after our Yujin Chemicals removed all the rust and applied a fresh layer of paint, one year after.”

Han River Railway appeared on the screen. The images showed a clean looking bridge with green colored paint coating. Looking at the images, Jaegil began

“As you can see, the paint is completely preventing rusting. And what about the insides? According to a thorough test conducted by Yujin Chemical, of the tens of thousands of rivets on the bridge, only 0.1% were loosened, none of them were found to be rusted.”

Jaegil turned his gaze to Korail’s Head of Technology.

“And that was despite the repeated daily heavy Metropolitan rail use, vibrations and impact. I want to ask you, Head of Technology. Applying a new coating on a railway in perfect condition, isn’t that a waste of your budget?”

“This is for the sake of safety, so we do not consider this level of expenditure to be wasteful.”

“Even if the bridge received a higher safety evaluation score than any other bridge?”

Head of Technology Daechul was unable to respond.

“And pretty lady over there.”

Boyoung’s eyebrows began to twitch when Jaegil continued to call her by the title of ‘lady’*.

“You mentioned American Department of Defense Corrosion Management Bureau earlier. Do you know the famous anecdote that came out from there?”

“I…no, not really.”

Boyoung was forced to shake her head.

“So you weren’t even aware of the famous tale of the symbol of New York, the metallic structure ‘Statue of Liberty’, that it was once in danger of collapsing due to rust?”

Jaegil’s ability to point out flaws in Boyoung’s knowledge and reveal her weakness was not only masterful, but it was also highly effective in giving himself the superior position in the debate and dominate the discussion.

“The method used by the collective effort of the world’s most prominent corrosion experts to remove and protect the Statue of Liberty from rust; We have used the same method on the Han River Railway through a major construction project, and the Railway has operated without any problems until now.”

Jaegil used a line of logic Boyoung would be unable to refute and continued to speak.

The Zinc paint used by Yujin Chemical was originally developed by NASA, and we purchased special rights to replicate it. Its effectiveness was confirmed in humid and salty environment such as Hawaii. Thanks to its cost effectiveness, we have begun receiving many orders from buyers.”

The personnel in the conference room now began to look up the Yujin Chemical’s reference material with great interest.

“But…”

Boyoung was unable to make a proper response. She had only researched and studied articles related to her coating material; she had not prepared to respond to cost/benefit and comparative analysis for competitor’s products.

“Quasicrystal Coating. It’s great. It’s cheap. But it’s not the right fit for Han River Railway. The Reinforcement on this bridge is already underway, and it was already decided that the location would require total care from a specialization company like Yujin Chemical.”

The debate that began with Professor Yungtae now seemed like it would soon devolve into a battle of will between two competing corporations, the Official in charge of the Seminar picked up his Mic.

“Please remain calm and keep to a constructive criticism.”

“You mentioned constructive discussions so I have been wondering. Why did KG Chemical send an inexperienced researcher to such an important gathering? Shouldn’t they have minimally sent someone of an executive position or higher?”

“How rude.”

“If you say speaking the truth is rude, then I have nothing to say.”

Boyoung’s round eyes became even rounder when Jaegil raised both of his hands to gesture the sign for surrendering.

Jaegil displayed overwhelming confidence throughout the interaction. Jungwu couldn’t help but be impressed by Jaegil’s demonstration of his debate experience and knowledge

‘Since this involves understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of competitor’s products, it’s really merciless.’

Because of this, Boyoung’s eyes were filled with rage that couldn’t be compared to the time she had leered at him.

‘What can she do though. It’s not like the other side is wron…mmm?’

Jungwu who was looking at the image of Han River Railway had to swallow back a gasp.

He noticed that the unfamiliar chemical formulas and the constellations of the atoms had appeared before him like a hologram.

The appearance of the small galaxy floating in the Conference room was not all that different from the time in End of the Week Meeting. And this time, he noticed a very interesting compound among the constellations.

‘What should I do?’

Jungwu scratched his chin as he watched Boyoung tremble with her fist held tightly under the desk. It wasn’t like this Seminar was meant to determine winners or losers, but Boyoung’s loss was KG Chemicals’ loss.

‘Aw what the hell.’

Jungwu raised his hands.

“Mr. Official, I have a question.”

 


TL Note:

*
Lady is “Agassi” in korean, and usually is meant to be a polite term to refer to a young lady. But it could also mean child and be used as a way to look down on someone.

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6 thoughts on “Chapter 13 – Old Steel (3)”

  1. Thank you for the chapter!

    So he can now see the atoms & molecules of objects from just normal photographs of said objects? I think we’re beyond implausible pseudoscience and all the way into magic now 🙂

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