Chapter 1: Chapter 1
Translator: – – Editor: – –
The sound of the workers cutting lumber with saws.
The sound of the workers hammering nails.
Taeyang Woodworking Shop was always crowded and noisy, befitting its big size.
Timber cut to the right size was piled up on all sides, and woodcuts, sawdust, and useless nails were scattered on the ground.
Though two hours had passed already after they had lunch, the workers never had a break in between. Because the shop was so busy, they had overdue work piled up.
It was late spring, but it looked like it was the middle of summer inside the shop.
Their sticky sweat was mixed with sawdust all over their faces.
Still, the workers were happy.
The owner of the shop, who was generous and good-hearted, gave the workers good pay because of their heavy workload, and there weren’t any picky and difficult workers at the shop.
They played jokes on each other and enjoyed working. The three Philippine workers among them were also good-hearted and diligent.
Thanks to this kind of atmosphere, the woodworking shop was like a family rather than a company.
“Hey, Mr. Kim, take a look at this.”
“Hey, Embar, come over here and hold this for a moment.”
Whenever they needed a hand, they were willing to help each other.
Among them there was one particular man whose name was called more often than anybody else’s in the shop. He was a new young man who got hired less than a year ago. He was called by his first name, unlike other workers who were called by their last names.
“Hyunwoo, give me that piece of wood over there.”
“Yes, sir, brother.”
“Hyunwoo, let’s lift this up together.”
“Sure, let me be with you in a minute.”
Hyunwoo was like Hong Gildong, a legendary thief famous for making sudden appearances anywhere in Korea in the old days. Whenever they called his name, Hyunwoo would show up, and he went here and there in the shop.
Also, they had various reasons for calling for him. Not only did he help them with simple assistant work, but he also helped with heavy-duty work. Besides, whenever something happened, they had the habit of calling for him for no reason.
“What the hell. Is this machine working well enough, Hyunwoo?”
“Looks like this computer isn’t working, Hyunwoo.”
“Hey, can you help me, Hyunwoo?”
Hyunwoo was a troubleshooter. There was no problem he couldn’t solve whenever he helped them. He was busier than anybody else in the shop not only with his own work but also with doing small errands for other workers. Accordingly, he was looked upon favorably by everyone.
In particular, the owner of the shop, Yun Jongon, had a very favorable view of him.
Looking at Hyunwoo being called for by other workers constantly, Yun clicked his tongue and said, “Tut, tut. He might get sick if he works like that. Hey, take a break everybody. Why are you guys so greedy with work?”
Only then did they check the time.
“Ooops. Is it already this late?”
“So thirsty. Hyunwoo, can you get us a glass of cold water?”
Hyunwoo raced to the refrigerator.
Looking at that, Yun scolded the workers, saying, “You guys are killing him! Don’t drive him too hard. Embar is younger than Hyunwoo and so is Iman. Why are you always giving Hyunwoo a hard time?”
“Really? Strange enough, I just tend to call his name first whenever I open my mouth in the shop.”
“Are you serious, Mr. Kim? Me too! When I open my mouth, his name comes out automatically. I can’t help it, though…”
In the meantime, Hyunwoo came back. He handed a cup of cold soda to each worker.
“Drink it, please.”
“You drink it first, brother.”
After he was done handing the workers drinks, he filled his own cup and moistened his dry throat.
They all looked at him as he gulped the soda quickly.
Because they all knew that he was quite a busy worker, watching him drink soda like that felt good.
Hyunwoo wiped his mouth with the back of his arm and then began moving.
He cleaned the woodcuts and nails scattered on the ground.
Because he pitied him, Yun stopped Hyunwoo and said, “You don’t have to clean it right now. Just take a break.”
“I’m alright, sir. They may trip over this if I don’t clean it right now. Let me clean it when I’m not so busy.”
“Huh? You’re stubborn…”
Yun couldn’t help but laugh at Hyunwoo’s remarks as he looked at him cleaning the ground.
Hyunwoo was 30 years old. Despite his age, his fingers were nimble, and he learned new things quickly.
Even though he got hired only one year ago, he could freely use any machine and handle repair work as well.
His biggest strength was diligence. From morning till night, he hardly took a break. Outsiders would think that he must be having a terrible time because of having a bad boss.
His whole body was muscular, typical of a manual laborer.
Also, he was rather tall at around six feet. People often called tall guys dumb, but Hyun wasn’t. On the contrary, he was shrewd and smart.
He’s going to be great at whatever he does, Yun thought to himself.
On one hand, Yun was thankful to him, but on the other, he felt pity for him.
If he had been born with good parents and learned more…
Hyunwoo said that he had done all kinds of work in his early childhood.
Yun wasn’t aware of Hyunwoo’s family condition because he hadn’t told him about it in detail. However, Yun thought that being in poverty was the main reason.
Had it not been for his bad financial state, there would have been no reason for him to toil like that at the sacrifice of his studies. Thanks to that, he became a jack of all trades but got labeled as a high-school graduate.
There was a big salary gap between a college graduate and a high-school graduate at companies in Korea. It was beyond imagination to those who hadn’t experienced it.
However, academic background was nothing in the woodworking shop where he worked. He could make a lot of money if he worked hard.
As a matter of face, Yun planned to sell his shop to someone else at the end of this year. He had made more than enough money, and his children were grown up. It was time he retired.
Then, his plan changed. He wanted to train someone to be his successor.
In his eyes, Hyunwoo was destined to be a great worker.
It wasn’t just because of his ability to learn things and his nimble fingers. Actually, that was only a part of his vast strength.
Hyunwoo’s biggest strength was his knack for engaging others.
He had a natural knack for bringing anyone he meets to his side.
Not only Yun but also Mr. Kim, who was known for his rough attitude, and Mr. Park, a former gangster, blindly complied with whatever Hyunwoo said.
The female owner of Hyunwoo’s favorite restaurant greeted him as if he was her son, and even the owner of the blanket shop, who had never given Yun a deal, would come out and say, “Are you going home now?” when he saw him passing by the shop.
It really was a mystical attraction.
As such, he would be able to overcome his less fortunate environment and fly high in the world if someone helped him out a little more. If Yun had to turn over the shop that he had built during his lifetime to somebody else, he wanted to train a worker like Hyunwoo before turning the business over.
Yun giggled to himself.
“Huuuuuh. I’m afraid I can’t retire because of him. Let me train him quickly so that I can retire and rest.”
Wearing wool gloves again, Yun clapped his hands as if he was shaking off the dirt.
“Shall we get back to work again?”
The other workers stopped chatting and got back to work.
The woodwork shop was noisy again, and they were working hard.
It was 6 pm.
“Let’s finish it up before dinner,” Yun said.
As Yun shouted, the workers wrapped up their jobs.
Each of them cleared up the woodcuts and the garbage scattered around.
Though Hyunwoo had cleaned it once, there was still an enormous amount of trash because of the amount of work they had done. All of them were busy cleaning up at the thought of going back home quickly.
Mr. Kim was especially busier today. His son was supposed to come home after taking a few days off from the army. He would be waiting for Mr. Kim at home by now.
Because he was moving too quickly, he let a large chunk of wood fall before, and he couldn’t react fast enough.
It chopped sharply at the electric cable joint of all things, and the electric cable was as old as Taeyang Woodworking Shop.
With a surprised look, Mr. Kim checked the cable.
Though it was chopped a bit, it seemed to be normal.
He resumed collecting pieces of wood and piled them up in the corner.
After he was done, he took a shower and changed his clothes, which made him feel less tired.
“Those who want to go home should leave, and those who want to have dinner should follow me. Hyunwoo, you’re coming, right?” Yun said.
“Of course, sir.”
The workers left the shop.
The old electric cable was in one corner of the shop, and it was becoming hot because it had been chopped sharply by the woodcut a while ago. However, nobody had noticed it.
Grilled beef ribs were on the menu for dinner. Five of them, including Yun and Hyunwoo, went to their favorite restaurant and sat together.
Soju, an alcoholic beverage, was a must for dinner like this for manual laborers.
Yun offered a cup of soju to Hyunwoo.
“Won’t you have it?”
“No, sir. I have to drive at night. Let me offer you one.”
Starting off with Yun, Hyunwoo filled the cups of his fellow workers.
He ordered a soft drink and filled his glass.
“Nice job today!”
Yun drank it and picked up a piece of kimchi before asking Hyunwoo suddenly, “Are you driving for money today too?”
“You know you could be risking your life at a moment’s notice, especially when driving while drowsy.”
Strangely enough, Yun nagged him like this whenever he sat face to face with Hyunwoo, though he decided not to do it this time.
“Let me leave early. I have an appointment,”Hyunwoo said when he was done eating.
Yun and his employees hadn’t eaten half of their meal and soju yet.
“Sure. Drive carefully,” Yun said.
Leaving the restaurant, Hyunwoo headed to the woodworking shop.
A big van that was big enough to have 12 people inside was parked on the corner of the shop.
It was Hyunwoo’s favorite car, and he had been using for six years already.
Because he bought it in used condition, its mileage was more than 170,000 km.
However, it was still working well because he took very good care of it.
Its engine sound was also soft.
“Hope I’m in good hands today,” Hyunwoo said to his car.
However, he didn’t get in it for some reason. He just felt uneasy and nervous in his mind. He felt as if he had left something valuable behind in the shop.
“Did I miss something?”
He checked his pockets carefully but found that nothing was missing.
“Did I work less hard today?”
He felt like he had worked less hard today.
As a rule, he worked his butt off. Otherwise, he would feel a little restless.
“Looks like I have to work really hard at my chauffeur job tonight.”
Hyunwoo finally turned on the car, and the gray van disappeared from the shop softly.
It was quiet inside the shop until then, but the old electric cable buried in the ground was becoming hotter and hotter.