Chapter 321: Chapter 315
The new regime of North Korea accepted all the demands of South Korea.
They rather wanted more speed inter-Korean exchanges with the logic that faster economic growth of the North could quicken the unification with the South.
In the meantime, the North Korean regime continued to execute political opponents because those who followed Kim Jungun tried to overthrow the new regime.
In particular, there were many executions in the military.
Though the new regime was unstable for a couple of months, it solidified its power.
Defense Minister Youngchol Hwang replaced the existing top officials with his close aides. Anyone who showed the slightest sign of dissent was relieved of his post and replaced with a new figure.
Though there was strong opposition to the ongoing executions, the new regime continued to replace the existing power holders with their loyal deputies. And South Korea also offered massive food and energy assistance to the new regime for its stability.
Thanks to such efforts the Hwang regime completely solidified its power in less time that they thought.
In fact, the South Korean government was worried about the new North Korean leader’s possible change of attitude.
But North Korea’s top leader Youngchol Hwang didn’t change his mind. He kept the promise he made several years ago one by one. He even announced the unification formula of the two Koreas through an official statement.
Besides, the new North Korean regime took the initiative to propose ways to ease military tension. As part of such efforts, the North closed or moved its biochemical units deployed around the truce line of the two Koreas.
They even dismantled their conventional weapons and reduced the troops.
The soldiers who became civilians overnight after they were discharged from the army took tools instead of guns and got to work in the newly established South-North joint venture factories near the DMZ, the fruits of inter-Korean economic cooperation.
As the North Korean regime continued to take the initiatives like this, the South Korean government became nervous.
President Chung actively tried to steal the show.
The two Korean leaders and working officials met to discuss the joint unification formula, and finally translated it into action.
The people of both Koreas shouted for joy. They hugged each other in excitement.
“I couldn’t believe my ears!”
“I don’t think they are joking on this, right?”
Those seniors who left his family members behind North Korea were especially thrilled to hear the news. They held hopes that they could visit their hometowns in the North before they died.
In fact, their hopes were realized in about one month as the civilians’ free visit to both Koreas was allowed.
Hyunwoo now spent almost all of his personal wealth for the development of North Korea. He set up numerous schools in the North, and made sure that all his new factories be built in the North.
In the meantime, the railroads linking the southern port of Pusan to Kaesung, Pyongyang, and Uiju and all the way up to Beijing were also constructed, and a trans-Siberian railroad was also opened.
Both Koreas were in the process of becoming one Korea fast.
But Hyunwoo was a bit worried about the fast reintegration of the two Koreas. Above all, he found it difficult to keep the promise to his father that he would give him a ride to Mt. Paekdu.
The condition was perfect. Lots of people already traveled to Mt. Myohyang, Kumkang and Paekdu on trains or planes.
As security in such places was improved drastically, there were less accidents than before.
But Duyoung and Jisook couldn’t freely travel to Mt. Paekdu because of their chronic illnesses.
They were in hospital beds as their illness became worse.
What made Hyunwoo feel sad was his parents’ stubbornness. In particular, it was even unimaginable to take Duyoung out of the hospital as he relied on a wheelchair. But Duyoung insisted on climbing Mt. Paekdu.
“Dad, you can’t climb the mountain with your physical condition. Just try to recover your health first. According to the doctor, you can walk up there next spring.”
But Duyoung shook his head and said, “Think of this. How long do you think I can live like this? I should have died 40 years ago when I was in that traffic accident. But I’ve lived up to now thanks to you.”
“Don’t say so, dad. You should live to be 100 years old with mom. You have to live to see your grandson and granddaughter go to school.”
“No, I’m afraid I can’t. I know my own physical condition better than anybody else. What is the point of just sustaining my life here in bed? I would like to feel that dynamic vigor in life even if I live one day.”
That was true. If Hyunwoo were in his father’s shoes, he would feel the same way.
“Son, I would like to see Mt. Paekdu with my own eyes. Isn’t it the unification of the two Koreas an event that my son has brought about? I would like to feel the joy of setting foot on Mt. Paekdu while I was alive.”
In fact, the Korean unification was made possible by all the Koreans’ efforts, not his own. But every parent in Duyoung’s position would think so.
“Please take me to Mt. Paekdu. I would rather die while going to Mt. Paekdu instead of sustaining my life like this. Don’t you understand my feelings?”
“Me, too, son. I feel the same way,” Jisook seconded.
Now, Hyunwoo had no other choice.
Several days later, a huge helicopter arrived on the rooftop of the hospital. It was huge enough to carry 30 people inside.
Duyoung insisted on driving to Mt. Paekdu, but his medical staff carried him and Jisook in the helicopter.
Eight doctors were in the helicopter to take care of them.
Not only Hyunwoo and Yu Zuung but also their son Kyonghak and daughter Yonju were also in the helicopter, along with other relatives who wanted to see Mt. Paekdu.
But there was a reason that his whole family moved together. They were worried that they might not see Duyoung and Jisook pass away if they didn’t come with the two this time.
The helicopter took off. Although as many as 20 people were on the helicopter, it quickly took off thanks to the powerful Toughtex engine.
The helicopter passed through Seoul, Paju and Kaesung in the North quickly.
Duyoung and Jisook watched the scenery through the windows.
The helicopter soon arrived over the Kaema Plateau and raised its altitude gradually to get to the top of Mt. Paekdu. It was now hovering over Chonji Pond on the top.
“Let me get out. I would like to touch the earth there,” said Duyoung.
“No, it’s too cold outside and very windy.”
“Please allow me to do so.”
Hyunwoo dissuaded him, but he insisted.
After all, Hyunwoo gave in.
“Let the helicopter land on the landing strip now.”
As soon as the helicopter landed, the medical staff covered both of them with blankets and carried them near Chonji Pond.
And Duyoung and Jisook touched the water of Chonji Pond with their hands.
“It’s cold out here. Let’s get inside now.”
“Wait a minute. Let me stay here a bit longer.”
Both of them stayed there for about five minutes. The five minutes felt like five years to Hyuwnoo. But Duyoung and Jisook enjoyed the five minutes to the fullest.
“Great. Let’s go now.”
As soon as Duyoung said, the medical staff quickly carried them back into the helicopter.
Fortunately, they seemed okay.
Both of them had a happy smile as if they owned the whole world.
Only then did Hyunwoo let out a sigh of relief.
“Let’s go back now.”
“I would like to take a look at the Littoral islands and Sakhalin islands, too.”
“Let’s go there next time. This is too much for you.”
“What’s the difference between lying in the hospital bed and lying here in the helicopter? There is no guarantee that we can come here next time. Let me just look down on them like this.”
The helicopter flew further north. They looked around the vast farmlands near the Hanka lake and snow-covered Sakhalin islands.
Duyoung and Jisook held out well until then.
But it was too burdensome a schedule for them.
Hyunwoo made sure that the helicopter flew back over Mt. Paekdu at the request of Duyoung, but Duyoung didn’t watch Chonji Pond again. As the helicopter was increasing the altitude to fly over Mt. Paekdu, he passed away.
Hyunwoo was so sad, bursting into tears.
But Jisook didn’t cry. Though she was very weak, she put her husband’s head on her knee and then kept stroking his face, whose eyes were closed peacefully.
Her expression was as peaceful as his.
And then she stopped moving her hand at some point. Though both were born on different dates, she kept the promise to him that she would die on the same day with him.
Hyunwoo just kept weeping silently. Kyunghak and Yonju cried like their father.
Yu Zuung hugged him tightly.