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“Do you want to know the secret of success, Hansok?” the boss said as he took a long drag on his cigarette.
“Yes boss, please,” replied Hansok.
“You find the person that you need to become successful, such as a prosperous businessman, and then provide that person with whatever he or she needs. If you can provide that, the successful person will take you along for the ride. Thanks for the ride tonight.”
“Have a goodnight boss,” Hansok said as he handed his boss’ car keys to him.
Hansok took a deep bow as the boss entered his gated home. He then sat on the curb outside of his boss’ house and contemplated what had happened that night.
Hansok and the captain of his crew had bumped into the boss at a karaoke bar after dinner. The boss had asked them to join him for some drinks in a private room and Hansok’s captain, Jaesok, suggested he be the boss’ driver tonight. They were having a good time singing when the boss suddenly got a call.
“Yes sir. I’m having a business meeting right now and can’t meet you. I’m very sorry,” sheepishly said the boss into his phone.
Hansok and Jaesok couldn’t believe what they had just heard. Their boss speaking this deferentially to someone is something they had never seen before.
As soon as the boss got off the phone, he threw it against the wall and screamed, “God dammit!”
The two underlings were startled and Jaesok asked the boss, “What’s wrong sir?”
“That was prosecutor Kang. He’s been on me for the past year. My bribes aren’t enough for him,” replied the boss.
“Prosecutors are difficult boss. Just give him what he wants,” said Jaesok.
“Listen Jaesok, if you could do something for me, I will be in your debt forever. Could you take care of prosecutor Kang for me?”
Jaesok stared at the boss strangely and said, “Take care of? Do you mean kill?”
The boss nodded.
“I would do anything for you boss but killing a prosecutor is like signing our death warrant. Every person with a badge in this country will be gunning for us. Our family will be destroyed. I’m sorry but I can’t do it. Ask me anything else.”
The boss held his head down in sorrow. “I understand. It wouldn’t be possible.”
Soon after, the three of them left the karaoke bar and Hansok drove the boss home.
As he sat on the curb, Hansok knew that tonight was all about destiny. The past year had been horrendous for him. His mom had gotten sick and was about to get evicted from her home with his little sister. Business was atrocious as their loan shark business had fallen apart after a big borrower jumped off the Jamsil Bridge into the Han River. He thought back to the advice his boss had given him on how to become successful and knew what he had to do. Hansok got up from the curb and rang the gate at his boss’ house.
“Hansok, you haven't left yet?” said his boss wearily.
“Would you happen to have that prosecutor’s business card?” answered Hansok with all his conviction.
The boss looked at him with a slight smile and went up to get the card. Hansok knew he was all in now.
After a few days of planning, Hansok and his underling, Sanghyeok, followed the prosecutor’s car out of his office and towards his home. The prosecutor’s home was in a quiet neighborhood and a stop at a red light with no other cars around gave them their chance. Their car pulled up right next to the prosecutor’s car and Hansok knew it was now or never. He had killed other gangsters before but never an innocent civilian, nevermind a prosecutor. The fear of pulling the trigger suddenly made his hands tremble. Sanghyeok turned to stare at him and his wild, angry eyes urged Hansok on. Finally, he drew his silenced 9mm and fired four shots into the driver’s side window. Hansok knew the prosecutor was dead and they sped off.
The murder was all over the news the next morning and Hansok decided to lay low in Jeju Island for the next few weeks. The boss and him had no contact but Hansok knew the boss was aware of who pulled the trigger.
When he returned to Seoul a few weeks later, he got a message that the boss wanted to have dinner with him at a high-class sashimi restaurant in Gangnam.
“Thanks to you Hansok, now I have no worries,” the boss smiled at him while pouring some sake.
“I only wish to do your command, sir,” Hansok replied.
“I’ve got a lot of work but no one capable to go along with me. Your captain Jaesok’s too big and powerful now to do my every bidding,” said the boss directly.
“I will be your right arm boss. Just tell me what I need to do.”
“Good, good. You and me are going to be inseparable and make a ton of money along the way. There are some upcoming construction projects in Busan that could use your deft touch. But remember one thing. The favor you did for me never happened, right?” the boss questioned.
“Of course not sir.”
The next few weeks went by in a blur as Hansok used his boss’ monetary assistance to get his family settled into a new apartment and made numerous trips to Busan to get the constructions projects on track. The cash was pouring in and it felt like heaven had finally opened up for him.
One day Hansok decided to give his middle school friend a call to catch up. Myungsu was a novice movie director and Hansok had stayed at his place in Jeju Island when the police heat was too hot in Seoul after the prosecutor’s murder. They had gotten drunk together almost every night.
“Myungsu, it’s me Hansok.”
“I’m sorry but there’s no Myungsu here. I just got this new cell phone number,” the person said and then hung up.
Hansok was taken aback as Myungsu had the same number for over 10 years. Something was going on but Hansok didn’t have the time to investigate at the moment.
A while later, Hansok had finally tracked what Myungsu had been up to. Apparently his script had gotten accepted by CJ Entertainment and made into an online short film available on Netflix. Apparently the gangster film was getting rave reviews for its authenticity. Hansok logged in.
Midway through the movie Hansok went numb. The main character was an up-and-coming mobster who pledged his loyalty to his boss by killing a prosecutor. The rage inside him boiled over as he felt betrayed by his best friend. One drunken night, after hours of harassing by Myungsu about stories of his gangster life, Hansok had revealed why he was hiding in Jeju and made Myungsu swear that he would never tell another soul. Hansok knew that if his boss ever found out, he was dead. The only other person that knew about the murder was fellow gangster Sanghyeok, who drove the car that night. As he reached for his phone to call Sanghyeok, it suddenly rang. Sanghyeok’s name flashed on the caller id.
“Yeah,” Hansok said nervously into the phone.
“The boss wants you to come in,” Sanghyeok sternly said.
“Now? It’s past midnight. Tell him I’ll drop by the office tomorrow.”
“The boss said now and not the office. Meet us at that office building being constructed in Suwon,” Sanghyeok commanded and then hung up.
Hansok knew he was a dead man. There could be people outside his apartment watching him now. He knew he couldn’t use his own car as they could be looking out for it. After covering his face with a mask and hoodie, Hansok took the stairs down to the first floor and slipped out of a window in the back of the apartment. After catching a cab, he headed straight to his mom’s house.
As he burst into his mom’s apartment, he knew this was the end. His mom and sister’s lifeless bodies were laying on the floor.
“You made it Hansok,” said Sanghyeok wiping the blood off of his long knife on his sister’s shirt.
Hansok tried to lunge at him but didn’t make it as he was tackled to the floor by the other gangsters in the room.
“You should’ve kept your mouth shut. You jeopardized my freedom by telling your friend that story. Any last words?” Sanghyeok asked.
“I brought you into this life Sanghyeok and treated you like my little brother. You don’t need to do this. We can take out the boss and everything will be ours,” Hansok pleaded.
“You’re not going to talk your way out of this. You know as well as anybody the consequences of betrayal in this life we have chosen,” Sanghyeok said as he raised his knife.
Hansok knew that this was the life he had chosen and that gangsters either end up in prison or dead. He just closed his eyes and took his death sentence like a man.