Jungwu had his eyes closed, but he was simply in the middle of rolling about the Living room lazily.
‘It’s great that I have weekends now, but…’
It was a leisurely morning for once. But being completely alert from early in the morning due to disruptive sleep schedule made him slightly peeved.
He was always drowsy and sleepy in the morning when he was unemployed and had nothing better to do, but now that he was employed for once… There was only one answer he could think of for why he had a worse rest than usual.
“Work Addiction. Doing whatever it takes to advance my career, ruthlessly seeking my own advancement… I must have entered a new chapter in my life.”
Jungwu made some exaggerated claims about himself that would have been embarrassing to utter in public, and ended up laughing.
“What did you say? You weirdo.”
He looked up in reaction towards the voice coming from the direction of the kitchen. Jisook was starting up the fire in the kitchen while yawning.
“Ah, mom. Good morning.”
“Why are you sprawled out in the living room? Have you drunk yourself to stupor and fell asleep there?”
“I didn’t drink that much. I couldn’t sleep in the morning so I watched some TV. Mom, I’m hungry. I’m craving some warm soup.”
“I don’t care.”
Although she said that, she took out some bean sprouts which she had trimmed ahead of time. She must be preparing to quickly make some Hangover Soup*.
“My mom is the best!” shouted Jungwu and then he continued to enjoy lazing about the floor of the living room as he swept it with his back. At that moment, he heard the mobile go off on the floor next to him.
“Who is it this early in the morning?”
He grasped the phone, praying it wasn’t Boyoung or Doctor Moon. Luckily, the sender of the short text was a childhood friend he was close with since Elementary school.
The moment the text was sent, the phone began to ring. The name “Soochan Park” came up on the screen.
“Hey, Soochan, what? You wanted to drink tonight?”
– The hell you mean drink? I’m busy as hell because it’s weekend. Do you wanna work part-time? You told me to call you if anything comes up.
Jungwu couldn’t help but laugh. He had been desperate at the time, but now he finally got an upstanding place of employment. Although he wanted to brag to no end, he couldn’t do that.
Jungwu snuck a glance at the kitchen before walking over towards the bathrooms.
“I’m not in such a position anymore.”
– Hmm? You work now?
“I work, of course. I worked hard during the weekdays, doing overtime, so isn’t it only right that I take the weekends off and rest like a proper member of the society?”
– Do you even realize how recently you cried to me about your unsuccessful job hunt? So what job is it?
“Don’t be shocked by what I say.”
Since the fact that he works at KG Chemicals would be revealed sooner or later, Jungwu revealed everything except for the pills he had taken.
– Wow, what the hell, you work for KG Chemicals?
“I was lucky. I shall tell you in greater detail in the future.”
‘About a year later.’
Although Soochan was a close friend with whom Jungwu had shared the same Elementary, Middle and High School, he could not violate the Non-Disclosure Agreement.
– I guess it can’t be helped then. I was going to go help set up the stage at Yeondeungpo TS, but I guess I’ll have to go alone.
“You mean that job where you have to move materials and chairs, the intense physical labor one? Hey, I was always against hard labor to begin with.”
– Today is the finale of the event, so I made an exception. I guess because it’s the weekend event, the list of participants is amazing. It even has that, what was the name, the group you like, ‘Girlfriends’.
Jungwu’s expression transformed in an instant.
“What did you say?”
“I…I’ll be able to see Yulhwi up close? If I go help set up the stage, can I get an autograph too?”
– It should be possible. You just need to be careful about the manager. Only the staff are allowed close to the rehearsal room so there should be plenty of chances.
It was a very tempting offer.
– If you’re lucky, you might be able to take a picture with them. Do you remember the picture I took with ‘Punky Line’ and posted on group chat?
“That caused a commotion I remember. The girl doing the V sign next to you was so pretty. How envious.”
– You don’t even know Osora? You North Korean Spy*
“I was too busy trying to be employed and didn’t have time to watch TV.”
– But you still somehow know about ‘Girlfriend’. Those guys are still new.
“Actually, I only know about Yulhwi. I went to the Celebrity forum and, is it called selfie? I saw one and instantly became a fan.”
Once his friend began a conversation about celebrities, Jungwu who was already fully alert felt his mind become even clearer.
Although he didn’t have much interest in Idols, the one and only Album he had ever purchased was Girlfriend’s 1st release. He fell in love at first sight.
Although he had leaked a tear when he got a random photocard that contained the image of a different member than Yulhwi… anyway whenever he saw images of her gently smiling, he felt like all his troubles had melted away.
‘If I’m lucky, I can even take a picture with her?’
He would be given an opportunity one couldn’t buy with money, not to mention he didn’t have much money on hand for the near future either.
“Where do I need to be?”
The struggle was long, but the decision was quick.
– Ha, I knew you’d want in. Come to the Yeondeungpo TS Shopping Mall by 8. And if you bounce during the middle, it will make my position really awkward. The guy managing the staffing is really strict.
“Hey, Yulhwi is going to be there, no worries. Just wait for me, I’ll be there quick.”
Jungwu boarded the City Bus while humming. Because it was early in the morning on a Saturday, there were plenty of empty seats.
While he was absentmindedly watching the scenery outside the window, he quickly became bored.
‘Oh yeah, I wonder if there are any articles about me yet.’
Jungwu took out his phone. Once he entered ‘Jungwu Han’ a bunch of individuals with the same name appeared in the results.
‘Hmm.. not there.’
He even added ‘KG Chemicals’, and after a long time of scrolling around, he finally discovered a snippet from a small no-name news site.
[Meanwhile, Jungwu Han from KG Chemicals left the words ‘Metals have a limited lifespan’ to raise awareness about corrosion.]
[One Corrosion Expert warned ‘time cannot be rewound, the clock can be stopped’ and urged preventative measures against rust.]
There was no name mentioned, but Jungwu was elated on seeing himself be attributed the title of ‘Corrosion Expert’.
‘I’ll add that to my collection.’
He took a printscreen of his phone and left a reply [Thank you for the article]. Being called ‘the expert’ and having an article written about him, although his name was not revealed, felt good.
‘Now that I think about it, it’s been exactly one week.’
It was the day he had been looking forward to, being able to earn 1 million Won (Roughly 900 dollars) for taking some pills. He didn’t imagine even in his wildest dreams that he would act as a Chemist upon taking those pills. He thought about the Human Test Subject Specialist and wondered if he was doing well.
Once he was done checking articles and ran out of things to do, Jungwu entered a community site’s forum’s humor section and began reading through the entries.
Jungwu was giggling over Funny photos, pictures of grumpy cats, stories from the Army, Embarrassing Celebrity pranks and the like when he finally reached the 9th entry in the ‘Popular Today’ list.
[A Magician lives on the 1st Line]
It was certainly an attention-grabbing title. When he clicked on it, a video began to autoplay.
Jungwu had to swallow back a groan pretty soon.
The video was a closeup of an old man reading a newspaper, and someone’s hand hovering over him. The video showed the sight of the old man’s hair moving and dancing to the motion of the hand, with a lively music playing in the background.
‘That’s my hand!’
It was just the hand, and the image quality was so poor that not even the old man could be easily identified, but Jungwu was certain.
The replies were filled with a ton of [ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ]*
– Is he performing a magic show?
– That’s interesting. Did he use a magnet? Is there a string we can’t see?
ㄴ Can’t you tell? He must have put a pencil board or something in his palm with static
– Why is he bothering that old man?
ㄴ It’s written in OP. It was because he yelled at a sick kid to shut up and resumed reading his newspaper.
– That old man got off like that. Hairstyle so crazy ㅋㅋㅋ
Jungwu checked to see when this was recorded and searched around. But the uploader was just a reposter.
‘It’s not like my face has been exposed.’
It didn’t seem like he would have to take this very seriously, considering that the views weren’t that high on the video. Jungwu closed the screen and shook his head.
‘I should leave it be. It’s not like I’m going to be sent this video with a threat.’
Jungwu redirected his attention out the window.
In the distance, he could see the red morning sun rising between the tall buildings. He felt warm and comfortable despite it being winter; he felt that today would be a good day.
He heard the static as the bus driver scanned the radio.
– December 16th, Morning Radio! How is everyone doing this weekend morning? We will start the day with a song. The first song is a seasonal one that rises up the ranks about this time of the year. Performed by Isul Yoon and Friends, ‘Winter is coming’~
The song opened with the clear, optimistic sound of bells as the bgm.
It was an extremely uplifting music. Not to mention that the main vocalist was so full of life that it even seemed like someone was singing it live next to him.
‘They said it was winter’s seasonal song?’
It was the first time he had ever heard this tune.
Now that he thought of it, he had almost no interaction with pop culture in the last two years.
The problem was his preparation for employment. He almost couldn’t recall the last time he’s even been to the cinema. But a preview of the 3rd installment of the action movie he watched was being played on the Bus monitor.
‘Yeah, let’s take it easier next year.’
– We should sometimes run without looking back, so we can count our steps on the snow-
Jungwu who was humming and snapping his fingers to the music looked up into the sky.
It wouldn’t snow today.
Although it would be great to be able to walk through thick snow on a weekend like this.
8 AM, TS Shopping mall before opening hours.
Jungwu waited at the Terrace shared by a Cinema, Department store, and Restaurants for his friend to appear.
‘I have heard that this was the Yeondeungpo District’s main landmark. It sure is huge.’
The giant evergreen tree erected in the plaza was not lit up yet, but it still carried a very wintery atmosphere.
When he turned his head in response to the deep voice, Jungwu saw a highly muscular young man who jogged up to him while waving.
Back in senior year of highschool, he had picked a safe Business Administration college, whereas Soochan had picked HanYaeJin* or whatever to major in Stage Preparation. The pay was low but it was a very fun job, Soochan had said the last time they met for a drink.
Jungwu scanned Soochan up and down before saying
“You must work out nowadays. Your body is all chiseled up.”
“This is what you call occupational muscle. What about you, why are your dark circles so large?”
“Ugh, is it that obvious?”
Jungwu rubbed his eyes as he replied.
“I worked 5 days so far but did overtime on 4. I got so tired I couldn’t even sleep.”
“That’s crazy. Are all large corporations like that? Do they treat Interns badly?”
“I entered as a Parachuter, so I have to work extra hard.”
“Wow. How did Jungwu Han become such an upright citizen?”
Jungwu shrugged at Soochan’s reaction.
“I recently had a thought, maybe I was originally smart.”
“Don’t be surprised at my occasional acts of amazingness.”
Jungwu was already aware of what Soochan ate for breakfast, what shampoo he had used, and what was the chemical composition of his toothpaste. He just didn’t mention it thinking it would shock his friend.
Soochan handed a name badge which read ‘Temporary Staff’’ to Jungwu and motioned to go inside.
“Our event company doesn’t use outside help very often, but I put in a good word for you with the director, saying that you already have work experience. Keep it a secret that you’ve helped out just once during college and that’s it.”
“Will I really be able to get Yulhwi’s signature?”
“Just trust me. If there really isn’t an opportunity, I’ll speak with the director. I am known to be sensible and have some sway in the company.”
“Wow~ if you can do that, then thanks.”
Jungwu trembled when he thought of being able to get his next year’s diary signed by Yulhwi.
“You don’t want anyone else’s autograph? TOT’s teenage group’s last participants are really something.”
“Not really? I don’t really know any, and I refuse any male celebrities.”
“Agh, you stubborn donkey, do you even know who’s coming today?”
“You don’t know the ‘National sister’ Isul Yoon?”
Jungwu thought that the name sounded familiar and dwelled on it when he realized that it was the name of the main vocalist for the song he heard on the bus.
“Ah, I did hear one song. ‘Winter is Coming’ was it?”
Soochan sighed when he heard that.
“Do you have any idea how old that song is? I can’t believe Jungwu Han is a Pop Culture Eunuch. Don’t act friendly with me around here; you’re an embarrassment.”
“Hey, I have my reasons. Do you realize that your sportswear was treated with Diphenyl Ether and Thio Bisphenol to combat odor-causing bacteria?”
“Di? Psy? Gangnam star?”
“I give up. I also refuse to associate with a Chemistry Eunuch.”
“Did you lose your mind?”
The old friends bickered for the first time in a while as they headed towards the back doors of the shopping mall.
It’s called Haejangguk (guk meaning soup, so Haejang soup) also known as hangover soup, and is believed to help with dealing with a hangover. It consists of cabbage, vegetables, meat in a thick soup. It sometimes includes congealed blood or blood sausages. The name/type of soup originated from as far back as 14th century or before, so it is a soup with an extremely long history in Korea.
*North Korean Spy
It is common to say someone is a north korean spy if they are unaware of what people consider to be common knowledge
ㅋ is the korean alphabet for the K sound, and ㅋㅋㅋㅋ basically sounds like someone snickering (ku ku ku ku ku), so it’s kr version of ‘LoL’ I suppose.
*HanYaeJin – shortened name of Korea Broadcasting Art School 한국방송예술교육진흥원
*Isul means morning dew and is a very very feminine and cute name.