Chapter 102: A Land of Opportunity (1)
In order to get to Vladivostok from Volgograd, they had to go to Moscow again for a connecting flight. There were three international airports in Moscow and all of them had separate terminals for national flights. Among those airports, Sheremetyevo International Airport had flights going to Vladivostok.
The layover was very short, so they had to hurry in the airport running from gates to another gates in terminal D to get on a Boeing 777 of Aeroflot airline.
Russia was indeed a huge country since it took nine hours to get to Vladivostok. The country was twice the size of the United States and had nine different time zones. Although most of the land were Tundra which was wastelands, it was amazing to think how much of resources were buried under those lands.
Coming from a small country in Korea, the vast size of Russia was unimaginable to Youngho. He had an ambition to develop lands in Russia, if he could get Yaniv’s support, it was not an absurd idea.
Looking at the vast forested land from the small window of the plane, Youngho sighed deeply.
“Anything bothering you? You look stressed.”
“I envy these lands, what if our ancestors had not lost the vast Manchurian plain and the Maritime Province? We’d have been flying hours to reach the other parts of Korea by now.”
“Don’t you even dream about that. I don’t know much about the history but I know that we couldn’t expect anything from our ancestors, they were always busy fighting against each other’s parties.”
“You’re right, I just only wished that they could have given a better future for their descendants.”
After nine hours of long flight, they landed at Vladivostok, which seemed like a new foreign country faraway. They were in a different time zone, there was an hour of time difference from the Korean time zone. Youngho saw many Asian travelers on the streets that he did not feel like it was Russia anymore. He could hear people speaking Korean around him.
From people’s mountain climbing attires, he could guess that they were going to cross Siberia by train. There were many Japanese travelers following a tour guide. People may say that they can’t tell the difference between Asians but it was obvious to themselves. A little shorter than Koreans and following the guide around with small steps, he could tell they were Japanese.
As Youngho and Jongil stepped in a private room of a local hospital, Kim Ilkwon who was resting on a bed, jumped up like a spring. He had been keeping his guard in case of the North Korean authorities who were in search of him and his family. Relieved after checking their faces, he spoke with joy.
“Boss! Jongil hyung!”
He gave them a hug as if he had not seen them for ten years. It was only a period of month for the two but for Kim Ilkwon, it must have felt like ten years.
“You’ve done a great job.”
At Youngho’s words, he fell on his shoulders and cried like a little boy, Youngho could imagine how hard it must have been for him.
He was relieved that his part was finally over now that Youngho and Jongil were here to take care of them. He let out all of his emotions.
Youngho and Jongil greeted each of the family members. Ilkwon’s parents were in their fifties, his little sister was in her twenties, and lastly, his baby brother was a late teenager. They all looked extremely nervous, but they all looked bright because they now had their freedom back and not to mention, they were hoping to have a place to live from now on.
Kim Ilkwon’s parents treated Youngho like a savior, which was somewhat true but it was overwhelming for him. It was understandable since there would be no one to pay the enormous amount of money to save them except for Youngho. They heard about their son’s boss and helper but as Youngho and Jongil treated them politely, they did not know what to do.
“Please don’t feel obligated to treat us like your superiors. I’m a friend of Ilkwon, we are like brothers. Then, you’d be my parents too. Please treat at ease.”
It was Jongil’s words that made the parents feel a little comfortable with his politeness and friendliness. His way of treating people was always amazing to see.
“So, did you kill him or what?”
“Jongil hyung, would you have killed him if you were me in that circumstance? I dragged him first but he already used the money to pay off his debt.”
Ilkwon’s broker told him that he should pay 2,000 dollars to the guards of the political prisoner camp, so he gave the money in advance. However, he later found out that he only gave them 500 dollars, so he almost could not cross Tumen River because the guards requested more money. Thankfully, he had extra money from Youngho. As he handed 2,000 dollars to the guards, they escorted his family out to the opposite side of the river.
Ilkwon was lucky that Youngho gave him extra money, if he did not have that money, he could have risked his family’s lives and his own life because of the evil broker.
“Man, where does he live? I’ve got to beat the cr*p out of him.”
“Hyung, it is fine. It’s my portion to pay off, I can work harder to pay for the debt. Because of him, I could save my family anyways. I don’t care for him anymore.”
“Man, you’re just too lenient. You all could’ve been stuck in North Korea if you didn’t have the money. Someone like him will make another victim. How can he do such thing for a matter that could risk people’s lives when he makes money for that? He’s just not qualified for the job.”
“He begged and pleaded to me later when I found him. He said he’d pay off the money when he gets money. Phew, it was hard to see.”
“Man, I can’t hear you any more or I’m going to explode in frustration.”
What happened in the past is in the past. Whatever happened during the process of his rescue mission, Youngho was only glad that Ilkwon was back with his family safely. It looked like Ilkwon felt the same.
“That’s alright, you are here now. Let’s get focused since we still need to take your family to Baku now. We’ll leave the day after tomorrow, get prepared and tell your family about that too.”
“Yes, boss. I got it.”
“Do you have some money?”
“Yes, I still have 20,000 dollars left. Here it is.”
“Save it for yourself, you need to get clothes and food for your family. Buy whatever you need, so we’ll be set for the trip. We’ll be back in the morning on the day of leaving.”
“Okay, boss. I’ll see you back in a few days.”
“Hey, you’re not going to say anything to me?”
Kim Ilkwon smirked at Jongil’s words but politely said goodbye to him too.
“Jongil hyung, take care. You will be my hyung forever from now on.”
“That’s right. Once a hyung is a forever hyung. Remember, okay?”
The two speaking at each other sounded like kids playing, so Youngho stroke Jongil’s back to stop him joking around and left the hospital.
Walking on the streets of Vladivostok, the tips of Youngho’s mouth were raised. The more he looked at the city, the more he liked it. Although it was Russia, there was an Asian vibe and culture embedded in the atmosphere since there were many Asian travelers.
“Jongil, how do you like this place?”
“What are you asking all of a sudden? Well, other than the fact that it’s a non-freezing point that Russia is proud of and it’s not totally irrelevant with Korean people, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Look around, don’t you think there are too much empty lands? They’re abundant lands waiting when you go out of the city area.”
“Don’t you dare, Youngho. They have six months of winter here. You can only grow things in the summer season.”
Jongil must have thought that Youngho wanted to make farms in here.
“I’m not going to develop another farm, I’m only going to do that in Baku. It’d be great to build something here. I just don’t know what yet.”
“There are less than 600000 people living in this city. What are you going to do? I think you can make better money in Baku.”
“Hey, you also need to work hard for years to pay for the gold bars. Don’t try to risk anything now, I feel like I’m getting headache thinking about you. I said I’m a simple man, don’t bother me with your business plan.”
“What kind of a businessman would do business with his own money? A real businessman does business with money from others.”
Jongil looked at Youngho as if he was talking absurd.
“That’s not a definition of a businessman, It’s a con artist! Why would you use others’ money to do your own business? Don’t you think that’s a dangerous statement? Man, I’ve got to hide all the gold bars from you. Don’t you dare try to do anything in gage of the gold bars. You said you wanted to live as if they did not exist?”
Jongil seemed to have developed affection for the gold bars just as Youngho. He had thought that Youngho would safely keep them in the basement for the rest of their lives just in case.
“You’re such a chicken, I won’t touch those. This is a land of opportunity. Don’t you think we should grab that opportunity, huh?”