Jungwu turned to look at Boyoung who had a particularly high level of motivation while reading over the research reference material, even among the regular Researchers.
Jungwu realized few things as he kept silence during the break time and watched her mingle with others.
To begin with, the office she had been using with the label ‘Research Lab 1’ was reserved for Aces of Central Research Center. She was a researcher who obtained her Master’s Degree from a famous University in Germany. Of course, the other researchers had similarly impressive Alma Maters.
‘You never heard of Myung Oon University?’
He had barely managed to get into this college located in Seoul after countless sleepless nights of preparation, but no one here knew of it. And he didn’t want to explain it to everyone when they gave him strange looks because it hurt his dignity.
“We will begin with Team 1.”
As soon as Dong-Gil made the announcement, the powerpoint was put up on the screen.
“The Perovskite Solar Power Generator our team developed received 18.1% energy to power conversion rating from the Renewable Energy Research Center. This brings our ranking to 2nd in the nation. We aim to bring up the efficiency by 3% and make a bid for a top world wide rank.”
The meeting was carried out in a calm business professional atmosphere. The Researchers asked questions, provided suggestions, or carried out a short debate as needed. Jungwu was reminded once again that this meeting was full of highly educated and intellectual individuals.
“The Team 3 is working on Heavy Straight Run Naphtha (HSR) Fluid Catalytic Cracking refining…”
Just a week ago all of this would have sounded like alien speech, but the contents were now being easily comprehended and absorbed by Jungwu’s brain. He unconsciously fixed his neck tie and sat up straight; He now had the knowledge and skill to participate in this kind of environment.
‘No need to be intimidated.’
After about 10 minutes the team leader of the 4th Regular Research team, Sangshik Jung, held the mic.
“We have entered the final stages of ‘Food Additives with Organic Flavors’ research commissioned by the KG Foods.”
Several images of familiar foods additives appeared on the powerpoint slide; Brands like “Dashida”, which was famous for its nonintrusive flavor.
“According to consumer feedback, the majority of food additives produce an artificial taste which adversely affects flavor. So our research team focused on development of food additive that enhances aroma without affecting the taste.”
Next page had the result of their work, a new line of food additives and their chemical structures.
“The new line of food additives made with nucleotide compound as the base were found to produce a less artificial flavor than additives developed by other companies.”
Jungwu thought that the announcement would end without any further development like the Team 1’s announcement, but the Researcher sitting at the center picked up his mic.
“You said that the research was successful, but KG Food rejected the product right?”
“Ah… yes, sir.”
Sangshik’s expression darkened when he was confronted.
“This is a problem we need to address, regardless of the test result. How could we call a project rejected by the commissioning company a success?”
Jungwu felt that the speaker’s tone and authoritative attitude indicated a fairly high rank within the meetings. Once he opened his mouth, the atmosphere suddenly transformed from intellectual gathering of peers to that of a Chapter Hearing.
Sungwu turned to read the man’s name tag.
Yoonseok Shin Head Researcher.
He recalled the conversation between Temporary Researchers from earlier, about the highest attainable position in the company as a Researcher. Yoonseok’s position in corporate term would be comparable to that of a Director.
Yoonseok paused to glance around the room, including to where the Temporary Researchers were seated. Since Jungwu was also seated among them, his locked eyes with Yoonseok briefly.
‘Wow, what a poker face’
Perhaps due to dignity and authority he carried, Jungwu felt intimidated just looking at him.
“Temps, do you understand why?”
The Weekly meeting was also meant to be an educational opportunity for inexperienced Temps.
Gi Tae pondered the answer and then raised his hands.
“Isn’t it because Rival companies like CJ and Pulmuone use Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) as the base where as KG Food is experimenting with the use of Nucleotide? It’s probably lacking the stimulating flavor of MSG. After all, what Consumers want is the MSG, not the organic ingredients.”
“Researcher Gi Tae Bae. Did you say you graduated from Kaist?”
“Good analysis. Anyone else?”
“I suspect that reducing the amount of artificial food additives led to overall reduction of sweet flavor, making it less palatable.”
“That’s possible. Name….”
“Sunghwan Jo, sir.”
Sunghwan followed up with a feedback. The atmosphere shifted to one where researchers were tasked with using their knowledge of chemistry to find an answer, leading to several other Temporary Researchers to also give their input.
‘So competitive…I guess it’s the evaluation period for selecting new permanent researchers’
The Temps gave their answers in order and eventually, Yoonseok’s attention was on Jungwu.
“Have we met?”
Dong-Gil smiled as he answered instead.
“He started today as an intern, Professor Shin.”
Jungwu bowed while sitting, answering with “My name is Jungwu.”
“Why don’t you comment as well?”
Jungwu was about to shake his head when he noticed Yoonseok had low expectations of him. But knowledge of Chemistry contained in his brain revealed an insight far superior to that of any other temps.
When he saw the chemical structure in the powerpoint slide, he had to swallow back a groan. He suddenly saw the Team 4’s atomic structure diagram appear like stars in a constellation before his eyes.
‘This ability works on anything chemistry related?’
The stars floated above the powerpoint slide like a 3D movie.
‘That’s the Coagulation Inhibitor, that’s the Preservative. Food coloring. Sulfating Agent. Metal Scavenger…’
The various food additives were arranged into a massive structure; Something akin to Galaxy contained within the food additives.
The strange thing was that these structures of the chemical galaxy were in chaos; majority of the constellations kept on colliding into one another losing their light, star after star.
At the center was the source of the disarray; the Nucleotide which created disorder like a Black Hole.
‘If I keep seeing these things overlapped with reality, I might lose the ability to differentiate hallucinations from reality…’
Jungwu was watching the spiraling galaxy unfolding before him. Jungwu reflectively blinked away to return himself back to reality.
“I guess you don’t have anything to add.”
Jungwu who was engrossed in the amazing chemical spectacle muttered unconsciously.
“This was going to fail from the start.”
Team Leader Jung, who had to listen in silence as the newbies gave their criticism, stared at Jungwu with disbelief.
“Hey, intern. Didn’t you hear that our experiment was successful?”
“Really? How strange. That’s not something that could work”
Jungwu pointed towards the powerpoint slide seriously, and the other core researchers began to laugh.
“Team Leader, that intern probably has no idea what he’s talking about.”
“Ha, I like his confidence.”
The Team Leader who was already feeling the pressure interrogated Jungwu.
“Tell me, Intern, why do you think so?”
Jungwu answered unfazed.
“The interaction between the additives are unstable. Because of the Nucleotide there.”
Team leader let out an audible sigh.
“So you’re saying the problem is the newly developed compound we spent 4 weeks developing?”
“The product itself is stellar, but there is a problem with the ratio between the components. They’re not able to interact properly.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
Noticing the attention of the conference room was upon him, he felt that there was no going back, he decided to stand up.
“Can I modify the formula written on the Powerpoint?”
Team Leader Jung turned to look at Yoonseok Shin. Yoonseok who had been watching calmly stared at Jungwu for a moment before nodding.
The Team leader gestured towards Jungwu.
Jungwu stood next to the researcher in charge of the slides and quickly inputted the modifications to the chemical balances of the formula.
Jungwu decided to begin an explanation meanwhile since it was a time consuming operation.
“The human ‘taste’ is nothing but a response to chemical reactions. Even if, let’s say you get a traditional meat dish from the restaurant.”
Jungwu thought of the food his mother often made at their restaurant.
“The sound of meat cooking on the frying pan, the aroma, the flavor coming from the sauce, the succulent juices of the meat, the texture of the food… all these put together are what we call ‘taste’.”
‘Beef flavored Enzymatically processed powder should be mild, so that the artificial meat aroma can spread efficiently, to improve absorption of Defatted soybean powder and Corn Gluten Meal….”
The adjustment of the components was complete.
“And food additives are purely a chemical method to artificially replicate those chemical reactions. Now, look.”
The chemical constellations created from the modified formula no longer collided nor lost their light, despite the massive black hole at the center of it.
Jungwu confirmed that the additives were all fulfilling their roles as he continued.
“In the end, the most important focus should be ‘how to trick the tongue’.”
“Do you think we’re unaware of that? So what the hell is this formula?”
“Artificial food additive which improves the flavor of fried meat.” Revision which improves the quality of flavor via adjustment of molecular composition. In Jungwu’s eyes, this type of work was simple and straightforward.
“How can you backup your words with something you just scribbled up on the spot? The consumers demanded more naturally tasting flavor, so we created it. The feedback was positive. How can you say that this was doomed to fail from the start?”
The team leader could not see the information available to Jungwu. Against someone who required the end product to make a judgement, Jungwu couldn’t help but feel frustrated.
How is someone supposed to explain the physical appearance of an apple to a blind man?
“ ‘Chemicals are harmful because they are chemicals, and organic materials were never harmful so they’re superior’ is a mindset of Chemophobics… Ah, I’m not saying you are like that”
The Conference froze due to the shout of the team leader. As soon as the mood in the room dampened, the expression on the Temps changed.
“What an interesting guy.”
The one who broke the spell was Yoonseok.
Jungwu turned to look and flinched. Seeing a completely expressionless man suddenly laugh was scary beyond measure. Especially since the man’s features weren’t friendly looking to begin with.
Team Leader Jung turned to Yoonseok with a face red with rage.
“You heard him right, Professor Shin? The things he says”
“If you feel so strongly, can’t you just make a sample to prove him wrong?”
“It was something an inexperienced dog* of an intern made up on the spot. What does he think a commissioned project is…”
Yoonseok’s eyes seemed to glow.
The team leader’s eyes became round as marbles at his sudden thunderous roar.
“For how many years have you done research? How dare you assert your opinions, you inexperienced dog*? I am right and you are wrong.”
“If it was me who criticized you without any evidence, how would you react?”
The Team Leader Jung couldn’t respond to Yoonseok who was grinning. So he turned to the members of the Lab 4 research team.
“Go make samples immediately.”
The Team Leader then calmed himself before responding
“It will take about 10 minutes to make the sample. Let’s move on to the next topic until then.”
Jungwu gulped when he saw Yoonseok’s nod.
‘What an immense character.’
The shift from his anger to laughter was too sudden and drastic. But the core research members must have been used to his personality since none of them turned blue in fear like the Temps had.
*Inexperienced dog – To understand the context, a little about the insult used:
Being called a dog is never good as it is quite insulting. Then the other most oft used insult is being called a baby. The difference is that in korean, there are many words to use for babies, and the one used in insult is usually reserved for beasts. So it’s like telling someone they are unintelligent and as unworthy as a dumb animal.
So one of the MOST common insult is 개 쌔끼 or 개 같은 쌔끼.
Now the reason why I get into this dialogue is because what Team Leader of Team 4 research Team Sangshik Jung calls Jungwu is ‘하룻 강아지’, which basically translates to ‘a day old puppy’.
The reason why this is interesting is because this is not a common insult format, and it ties to an existing Korean idiom 하룻 강아지 범 무서운 줄 모른다니. The idiom itself translates to “a day old puppy does not know to fear a Tiger”. Which means, a thing without experience does not know better and will be unable to make wise decisions.
Being called ‘하룻 강아지’ is a triple insult on Jungwu’s intelligence, and declares that he is a beginner with no experience or knowledge. The fun part is that the Head Researcher Yoonseok uses the same word (하룻 강아지) to insult Sangshik back.