Jungwu stood before the twin buildings as he gaped at them. The buildings, which appeared newly built, towered over the surroundings.
[Domestic Employees 14,000. A global chemical corporation with 11,000 employees overseas. They worked with brand new top-of-the-line materials, such as batteries and displays, to everyday-life materials such as textiles health supplement and more. Establishing the foundations of almost all products manufactured by KG Group are …]
Jungwu walked inside the building as he remembered the article on KG Chemical that he had looked up on the internet.
He went past the lobby to stand in front of the receptionist desk.
“I am Jungwu Han. Today’s my first day as an intern.”
“Can I have your ID, please?”
The employee quickly looked it up on her computer and issued a temporary access card. He showed this to the security guards then passed through the glass doors.
KG Chemical’s buildings were divided into two; East and West sections. The Eastern section had state of the art facilities, where the main research took place. The Western section held the headquarters for Sales, Finance, and Operations.
Jungwu confirmed the location on the building’s map then headed for the western elevators to go to the HR on the 7th floor.
There were 10 operational elevators.
He really felt like being part of the workforce as he stood among all of the people waiting on the elevators to get to their respective workstations.
‘Starting today, I work at this company.’
As the doors opened, Jungwu stepped in with gusto.
“You can use your Employee card at the restaurants on the premises, and the amount will be subtracted from your next paycheck. Likewise, most of the convenience facilities within the company can be accessed with your employee card.”
A spacious meeting room took up space inside the Human Resource Center. At the end of it, an HR employee sat Jungwu down and comprehensively explained the policies regarding the use of company facilities.
“This is the card for going in and out of the research section. Unlike the employee card, there are different levels of access. If you happen to lose it, you will have to give a written apology to get another one, so please take great care of it.”
This is the kind of talk that’s usually given to a crowd of people selected from public recruitment or internships, but because only Jungwu was in the room, the mood in the meeting room felt a little awkward.
“This is quite unusual. They usually don’t give interns access to the research section. Well, a special hire must have been done for a special reason, right?”
The employee grinned as he handed over the employee card and access card.
“Do you have any questions?”
“We are going to call the tour guide, so sit tight for a moment. Would you like Mix Coffee?”
“Yes, thank you.”
He had heard from Dr. Moon last night about the standard operating procedures at the research lab. She had talked to him for nearly an hour as if she was giving out a lecture. It was fortunate that he was wide awake during that time.
– “From now until the end of the year is the training period for new-hire researchers. So, try to fit in and get a feel of the atmosphere.”
He had forgotten most of it, but he remembered the end quite well.
Excluding the holidays, there were about 15 days left. This was probably the amount of time needed to determine whether the effects of AF-12 were enough for him to help out on KG Chemical’s research project.
5 minutes later.
He turned his head as someone called his name while he was sipping on the Mix Coffee that an employee had handed to him earlier.
There was a man in glasses in his mid-thirties, who looked like he had studied quite a bit during his days as a student. He had a nice clean suit on him, and he was standing at the door with a smile.
“Congratulations on the job. My name is Dong-Gil. I am the head of Team 1 Research team of the Central Research Laboratory.”
Jungwu was surprised that someone as high rank as the Head Researcher had come to greet him personally. He quickly rose out of his seat and bowed.
“Nice to meet you, Sir.”
Dong-Gil pointed towards the doors of the HR as he glanced at the nervous Jungwu.
While they were on their way to the elevator, Dong-Gil examined the newcomer, who had the intern’s employee card hung around his neck, before he said.
“You don’t have to be so stiff. I decided to come here because I was curious about the new hire. Anyway on your resume… it said you studied business administration.”
“Do you have any experience participating in any research projects?”
“What about something like a chemistry affiliated internship?”
“I-I have no such experiences.”
“What about personal research patents? Performance overseas? Association license?”
As he continued, Jungwu could only shake his head at the questions asked of him.
Sighing deeply in exasperation, Dong-Gil asked.
“Then what exactly is it that you know how to do? There must be something.”
Suspicion reflected in the gleam of Dong-Gil Lee’s eyes. Just as per Dr. Moon’s warning, an employee hired under special circumstances like his were not viewed in a favourable light.
“Although I didn’t major in anything, I did study a bit of molecular biology before coming here.”
He made the excuse that he received proper tutelage and guidance under the supervision of Dr. Seung-Guk Chun.
After pressing the elevator button, Dong-Gil turned around.
“Cell biology? Genomes?”
“Not to the extent of delving into such complicated branches I’m afraid. If you want to put a label on it, I guess you could categorize it as having some knowledge and understanding of molecules.”
“Ah, you self-studied a bit about molecules — is that it?”
Jungwu didn’t know if the slight laugh that Dong-Gil let out was one of mockery or dejection.
“Jungwu Han. Don’t misunderstand and just listen. Our laboratory atmosphere is considered to be extremely free and liberal. It is mostly not a type of workplace environment where there’s a boss but rather a senior-junior dynamic. And if a project goes on for an extended period, you might even end up spending an entire year’s worth of time seeing the same seniors and lab mates day in and day out.”
Dong-Gil stepped into the opening elevator that arrived and continued speaking.
“And therefore, this kind of freedom also comes with a certain deal of responsibility. An incompetent colleague who can’t pull his weight? At the industry where anyone can be cut or fired at any time, no one is willing to carry dead weight.”
With his hands, Dong-Gil Lee made a cutting motion across his neck.
“Well, those are my thoughts anyways. Since you’ve gotten the recommendation of someone like Dr. Chun, I know that you’re not just fooling around. But I suppose it’s not as if anyone can get introduced into a laboratory with credibility like ours.”
Dong-Gil turned to see if Jungwu understood the message he was trying to convey, so Jungwu simply nodded his head.
“Yes… I understand.”
“Therefore, I was hoping that you could show off your skills at the ‘New Researcher Research Ideas and Proposal Assessment’ going on next week.”
Jungwu’s eyes widened at the unexpected proposal, and Dong-Gil Lee nonchalantly asked back.
“Why? Can’t do it? Well, it’s understandable since the other newcomers have been here since the fall and have had three months to prepare for this assessment. If you aren’t confident, then just forget about it.”
Jungwu got the subtle feeling that he really shouldn’t make a refusal right here and now.
“No, it’s alright.”
“Hey, if the proposal gets accepted, is it possible that it escalates into a full-fledged research project?”
“Then obviously I have to do it. Since I came into this company with the goal of working.”
Seeing the previously shrivelling newcomer reply so confidently, Dong-Gil wore an amused expression.
“It seems like you are confident?”
“It’s not like that”
‘More like, I guess I’ll know if I try?’
The elevator finished reaching the 1st floor.
“Okay. I’ll take it that you’ve accepted and will notify the training supervisor. Keep in mind that the guarantee of independence also comes with the responsibility to personally shoulder all the risks.”
Stepping outside into the lobby, Dong-Gil Lee spotted one of his colleagues who seemed like he was in a bit of a rush and called out to him.
A man that looked as though he was the same age as Jungwu stopped in his tracks. The fellow looked around side to side until he finally saw Dong-Gil and shouted back with glee.
The man who ran over had a tag hung around his neck identifying him as ‘Gi-Tae Bae’.
“It’s a lovely morning.”
“All right. It looks like you’re energetic as always.”
“Because I was able to see Sunbae-nim, I feel like I have a lot of strength now!! Haha.”
“Keep your flattery at a reasonable level.”
Gi Tae Bae gave off the impression that he would thrive as a social butterfly.
‘I should learn from him.”
With feelings of truly wanting to learn, Jungwu carefully observed Gi Tae Bae.
Gi Tae Bae who had been elated to be chatting with Dong-Gil Lee turned to look at him.
“But who’s this person?”
“Jungwu. This here is the Supervisor in charge of New Researchers, Gi Tae Bae. Gi Tae, this person is Jungwu Han, the intern I’ll be using at my side from now on.”
“An intern? Aha, since it’s the break, KG Chemicals must be starting interviews for …”
“That’s not it. We don’t do internships. We’re too busy.”
Dong-Gil made a strange smile while glancing at Jungwu before continuing
“Jungwu Han is a special hire. In words, he’s an intern in name only; he’s on the same level with you. Show him around a bit and teach him the ropes.”
“Because I have a brunch appointment with someone, I’ll be going out for a bit. Jungwu should follow Gi Tae in the meanwhile,”
Dong-Gil Lee waved before walking out of the lobby.
Gi Tae Bae gave a deep perpendicular bow to the slowly disappearing Dong-Gil Lee.
“Nice to meet you Jungwu. The Central Research Offices are located on the second floor.”
Gi Tae Bae showed him the stairway and started walking.
“A special contract around this time of year, how fascinating. Excuse me, but what university did you graduate from?”
It was a question that he couldn’t help but hesitate before replying.
“Myung Oon University.”
“Myung Oon University?”
Seeing Gi Tae had a confused expression that said ‘there was a university like that?’, Jungwu went on to further explain.
“There is. On the outskirts of Sudogwon.”
“What did you major in?”
Gi Tae had expected one of the subcategories of chemistry, but he paused when he heard something completely unexpected. Sudden special-case Intern, allocation of unqualified staff into the lab… Gi Tae was completely certain that Jungwu was hired as a favor from one of the higher-ups.
“Yes, you’re right. A parachuter.”
Upon hearing such a reply, Gi Tae Bae didn’t know what to say anymore.
‘Was I being too blunt about it?’
What if this person was the chairman’s son or something– Gi Tae’s worries and concerns were written all over his face.
Because Jungwu didn’t want to cause some sort of needless misunderstanding, he quickly spoke.
“Just comfortably treat me as you would any other underclassmen Sunbae.”
“Sunbae? Well, I suppose that’s true. I am your Sunbae, right?”
Gi Tae parrotted Jungwu awkwardly and drastically became less talkative.
Looking back on it now, the incident on the subway before where he bumped into a company co-worker served as a blessing, since he was now mentally prepared to deal with situations like this.
Thus, Jungwu unintentionally caused his companion to fall silent as they climbed up the stairs together.
Upon reaching the 2nd floor, the sight of seemingly endless rows of semi-translucent outer walls entered his view. Not a single speck of dust could be seen in the corridor, and the entire floor was partitioned by the glass walls.
On one side was the ‘Foundation Matter Center’ where you could observe experiments involving compound reactions. On the opposite side were big and large offices partitioned by low walls.
“It’s this way.”
Gi Tae Bae stopped in front of an office space that was smaller and much more narrow when compared to the others.
This space where a dozen or so low-quality library reading desks were pushed together seemed to be a place meant for the entry level staff to use as a personal workspace.
“Feel free to just use any empty desk. Also, since there isn’t really any assigned work to complete before the daytime conference…”
After implicating to him that he should just lay and rest, Gi Tae Bae was quick to disappear, leaving him all alone.
Jungwu tossed aside his briefcase on top of an empty desk and looked around the office. There were desks with evidence of others having been there, but no one was present.
‘What time is the conference?’
He had made an effort to get here on time, but no one was here; he had not expected the meeting to be so laid back. There were no seniors to be polite towards and no other staff that he could exchange greetings with.
Just then as he was comfortably sitting in the office, the sound of a person entering was heard.
“Yeah. I just arrived. What did you want in the conference room so early?”
A curly haired man entered the office. He was talking to someone on the phone while he hung his jacket. When he turned around and met Jungwu’s gaze, he gave a small bow in greeting as a reflex.
Jungwu returned the greeting awkwardly when the man finally recognized him and said “What?”
“Alright, I know. I’m going now.”
The man urgently left the office.
Again, some time later, another person came into the office, got a text message, and sent a bewildered glance towards Jungwu before leaving quickly. Just like that, several researchers suddenly appeared and disappeared just as quickly. Jungwu couldn’t help but smile bitterly.
‘Are they bad-mouthing me in the lounge?’
He wasn’t exactly hoping for a warm welcome, but he didn’t want to be excluded.
‘I wanted to leave a good first impression, but I’m not even getting an opportunity to introduce myself.’
The clicking of heels could be heard, announcing someone’s arrival. Thinking that the person was just going to leave in a hurry like the others, Jungwu paid no mind to it.
“Where is everyone?”
The female’s voice was familiar, so he unconsciously turned to see who it was.
“At least you’re here, Parachuter ssi.”
“Boyoung Song ssi?”
Instead of the coat that was carrying around a static charge, Boyoung had changed into a white lab coat and spoke to Jungwu when she saw him.
“Where’s everyone else, though? I heard that they all came to work today.”
“Probably in the lounge I bet”
“I should go gather several people …nevermind. One person should be enough. Follow me.”
Boyoung Song gestured to Jungwu as he made a ‘to where’ expression on his face.
“To get ready for the daytime conference obviously.”
“No, me. Parachuter will just help out.”
To explain, Boyoung made a gesture of picking up boxes with her arms. Seeing that, realization had finally dawned upon Jungwu.
Passing by the maze-like hallway of the office area, Jungwu asked
“Is Boyoung Song-ssi also preparing for the New Researcher Assessment next week?”
“New Researcher Assessment? Why would I be doing something like that?”
“Aren’t you a new hire?”
Boyoung Song grinned.
“Why are you saying this to a Sunbae who is one year senior?”
“It’s alright; I sometimes get these kinds of misunderstandings. Since I look rea~lly young.”
She said with expression overflowing with confidence.
“Dr. Chun used to tease me by telling me that I am as pretty as a doll.”
Jungwu’s attention was drawn to her soft looking cheeks, replying soullessly with “is that so”.
“Hah, who do you think was first place in last year’s new researcher assessment?”
“Correct! At the time, Dr. Chun complimented me lo-ots~”
Boyoung Song kept emphasizing her closeness to Professor Seung-Guk Chun. She held her shoulders high with pride, giving a beaming smiling.
In the morning at the subway, he didn’t have an opportunity to think about it too deeply, but she was really obsessed over Seung-Guk Chun; to the point that she would declare a complete stranger such as him as a rival.
“Now that I think of it, the newest member of the laboratory isn’t one of the temporary hires but Jungwu ssi. Although graduating from the bottom was a little fast, the temporary staff struggled hard for the past three months so…”
Boyoung Song showed a worrisome expression before walking ahead.