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Chapter 10

Hiding a House in the Apocalypse

Translator/Editor: TranslatingNovice

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Chapter 10: Chaebol (1)

What happens to the conglomerates if the world collapses?

It's a topic of curiosity for anyone in Korea.

A community user 'gijayangban,' who has been actively posting recently, shared the current status of one such conglomerate family.

gijayangban: Found the hideout of Seokju Group's Chairman Park Cheol-ju! I see Chorl-ju~~

The status of the conglomerate posted by gijayangban was enough to plunge all of us Doomsday Preppers into despair.

They had built a concrete fortress on a gentle slope, large enough to house dozens of people, and inside, they created a self-sustaining ecosystem capable of agriculture, production, and entertainment.

The moment I saw the small golf course inside the fortress, captured by a drone, I couldn't help but exclaim.

"......Wow."

Typical of a chaebol.

If you have a fortune in the trillions (won), you can build something like that.

Not that I'm jealous.

No matter how hard I try, I can't imitate that.

Besides Park Cheol-ju, many of Korea's leading conglomerates have built similar or slightly lesser fortresses in preparation for the disaster.

Few Korean conglomerates left the country, as foreign countries are not much safer, and the influence they have in Korea does not extend overseas.

Most of them have abandoned their groups.

They have demoted themselves from modern-day monarchs, commanding thousands to tens of thousands of employees, to the heads of their own families, striving for survival.

That might be a rational choice in this doomed world, but some have chosen a different path.



After the first visit, I tried to visit Seoul at least once every two months.

With each visit, the surroundings became more desolate, miserable, and, above all, dangerous.

Every time I entered Seoul, I passed through Gangnam, which once was one of Korea's most affluent neighborhoods but now has declined into a refugee camp filled with tents and makeshift buildings of various kinds.

Each visit, I noticed a decrepit building that caught my eye.

The building, in better condition than the sign it bore, was named "Papung."

It was one of the conglomerates that once controlled the Korean economy.

This building was erected about a year and four months ago, three months after the war broke out.

Passing through the bustling refugee camp, I followed a crowd gathered like a cloud and was met with a delicious smell.

On inquiry, I learned it was a free food distribution center set up by the Papung Group, using their own private funds.

Running a food center when the economy functions is one thing. Doing it in a trade-paralyzed state is another level entirely.

Papung had set up several of these food centers in key locations around Seoul.

Even for a major conglomerate like Papung, this seemed a bit overwhelming.

Having nothing else to do anyway, I waited in line for nearly two hours, only to find a menu reminiscent of what you might see at a funeral hall, consisting of thinly sliced meat and beef and rice soup. Surprisingly, it tasted quite good, and they even provided half a cup of soju in a paper cup for adults.

While I didn’t even drink alcohol, let alone smoke, at the air-raid shelter, here I easily accepted and enjoyed it.

"Ah~!"

I, Park Gyu, am a man light enough to switch allegiance to Papung over just a bowl of soup and a shot of soju!

But while eating, I overheard gloomy conversations around me that contrasted starkly with my thoughts.

“That chairman. Looks like he's aiming for politics.”

“It's obvious.”

“In times like these, spending money like this, isn't it all out of ulterior motives? Comforting the public, my foot.”

Honestly, it was irritating to hear.

In these tough times, shouldn't people be thankful for a good meal, instead of constantly suspecting others' intentions?

Not everyone lives purely out of goodwill, after all.

I wanted to speak up in gratitude for at least the soju from Papung, but after some thought, I realized I didn’t have that much loyalty and held back.

I left the restaurant, trying to calm my irritation, when something caught my eye.

"It's Jae Pung-ho."

A middle-aged man, dressed in neatly pressed suit pants under an active jumper, was leading people who wore forced smiles. He continually greeted and shook hands with those who came to eat beef and rice soup, introducing himself to them.

"Did you enjoy your meal? I'm Jae Pung-ho."

Jae Pung-ho.

The owner of the Papung Group.

Behind him stood solemn-looking men with faces similar to his, and neatly dressed young men and pretty young women, who were probably his children or relatives, standing awkwardly in order of seniority

As if possessed by a ghost, I was drawn to their direction.

My intention was to shake hands with the daughters of the conglomerate family.

But as it turned out, the daughters were in the back, and the person whose hand I actually shook was the vigorous-looking Jae Pung-ho.

"I'm Jae Pung-ho."

This was my first time seeing and shaking hands with an actual conglomerate head up close.

When I first saw him, I realized that even a non-hunter's eyes could shine this brightly.

Moreover, his hand was rough and hard, and it felt like it held more strength than just a firm grip.

I later heard that there is going to be a parliamentary election soon.

Not because all the MPs have died, but because their terms had already passed.

The fact that only 1% of South Korean MPs died in a war where 18% of the nation's population vanished seemed to foreshadow a significant outcome.


After enjoying the free meal, I arrived under a building.

This building belonged to the National Crisis Management Committee, known briefly as the NCMC.

This extra-judicial institution, called the modern-day Border Defense Council of Joseon, has become the most powerful and influential institution in South Korea since the outbreak of the war.

The main reason for visiting Seoul was because I had many acquaintances in the NCMC.

Important information, walkie-talkies, military frequencies, spam, cooking oil holiday sets, and more.

That day, there were unusually few people around.

Especially, a female employee I usually asked for favors was absent.

After exchanging nods with a familiar security guard and loitering around, an unfamiliar person approached me.

“Can I have a moment?”

His expression is emotionless, his eyes dead, and his tone and posture are strictly businesslike.

His first impression is chilling.

'What is it?'

"You must be aware of the recent frontline situation. The battles are intensifying, and currently, we are short of troops, especially those competent enough for war..."

As expected, he’s a recruitment officer.

Due to the nature of the war, where the quality of troops mattered more than quantity, they selectively approached physically fit and promising individuals instead of drafting just anyone.

It seems he is interested in me, but I have no intention of going to the frontlines.

"If I had the capability, do you think I would be here begging for connections?"

I retorted with confidence.

"You used to be a hunter."

Well, it didn't work.

Sighing, I asked,

"Who sent you? Director Lee Sang-hoon?"

If it was Lee Sang-hoon, I planned to go and give him a piece of my mind.

"No. It's Commissioner Kim Daram."

"Kim Daram?"

That was a name I hadn't heard in a while.

She was a junior of mine.

She was someone who particularly followed me well.

I think she might have liked me in her own way.

In my memory, she always seemed overly enthusiastic yet naive, messing up and relying on me - though that may be disregarding the passage of time too much.

"Park Sunbae."

Can people change so much in just 5 years?

Even back then, she wasn't young, but she still had a bit of a youthful heart. Now, she's turned into a manager with a worn-out image so dry that not even a drop of blood would come out if you pricked her.

"It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?"

I can tell just by the voice.

She’s a completely different creature from the kind hoobae I once knew.

There's a photo on her desk, proudly displaying her with her husband and child.

She's become a mother.

This Kim Daram.

"Sunbae, I'll keep it short. Help me just this once."

"I’d like to say why should I help, but I shouldn't, right?”

"Do you want to be dragged off to the nation? Or do you want to live freely as you are now?

"Didn’t we make a deal that I'd not serve again?"

"Do you think such a promise would still hold in this world?"

Her incredulous face and my serious one seemed to represent the gap between the reality I thought of and the actual reality.

I smiled bitterly, avoiding her gaze.

"...I'd rather live freely."

"Then just help this one time. I made a deal with Lee Sang-hoon, so we'll settle it with this."

"Lee Sang-hoon?"

"Don't hold a grudge against him. He's not interested in you. Now he's someone who just looks at the numbers, not the people."

"Seems like the world changes when you rise to a high position."

"You know we're short on people, right? And what’s happening at the front?"

Her usually expressionless face now holds a hint of reproach as she stares straight at me.

"......"

A bitter taste filled my mouth.

I know.

What is happening at the border.

That I’m not entirely without guilt.

In the cold silence, Kim Daram turned her attention back to the paperwork.

"Jae Pung-ho."

"Jae Pung-ho?"

The face of the man with the sparkling eyes and unusual grip strength under the aroma of beef and rice soup flashed before me.

"That man, he’s planning to hunt monsters with his own people."

She handed me the document.

"This is..."

If the content of the report is correct, it’s an absurd operation.

No, a mass suicide disguised as an operation.

Before I could even speak, my quick-witted hoobae coldly said without looking at me,

"Just go through the motions."

I knew she had changed, but the transformation of my once kind-hearted and compassionate hoobae weighed heavily on my mind.

"This is the last time."

"As long as I'm alive, I'll prevent you from being dragged to the front."

"......Thank you."

It seems her core nature hadn't changed after all.

It was a moment filled with life’s bitterness and the rare touch of warmth. Just as I was about to turn away.

"Sunbae."

Kim Daram called me.

"You don’t seem to have aged at all, do you?"

I didn’t respond to her comment.


It was a month later when I met Jae Pung-ho again.

The meeting place was the Papung Group headquarters, designed by a world-renowned British architect.

Although the Papung headquarters survived a nuclear attack, there were issues with the power system and elevators, so I had to take a slow, temporary construction elevator installed outside to the daunting 55th floor.

"It's so cold."

Once an exclusive place for Korea's power players, the group meeting room, apart from me, was occupied by a bunch of suit-clad individuals, each keeping to their own place.

Judging by their employee badges, they were company staff, maintaining the semblance of the group despite the trade routes being cut off.

I wondered.

Do they still get paid? Do they still receive their once-prized performance bonuses?

Jae Pung-ho, who had been friendly and shaking hands with everyone at the free food center, was now sitting at the most distant central seat in the meeting room, back turned to everyone else.

He didn't react to my entrance.

Instead, a sophisticated-looking man in his mid-50s, presumably his secretary, addressed me.

"You're Park Gyu, right? I heard you were a hunter."

He briefly interviewed me.

My experience, combat experience, rank, etc.

Most of my records were erased anyway.

I just went along with it.

"I'm D-grade. I’ve stood at the gates and have some combat experience, but I’ve never been the main."

Jae Pung-ho coughed uncomfortably, but I didn’t pay much attention.

The only thing I was curious about was the reason.

Why would a conglomerate head suddenly take up monster hunting?

Even in a world where trade is impossible and business is impractical, this seemed like an excessive career change.

Unfortunately, none of the suited individuals had an answer to my question.

From the moment I revealed my sparse credentials, I became something akin to office furniture in their eyes.

A little while later.

"You may leave now."

I was politely but firmly escorted out of the meeting room without a chance to speak.

Not that I had much to say.

But there was one question.

In the corridor, a different group of people from inside the meeting room had gathered, chatting in small clusters. When I approached one person who seemed friendly to ask a question, they just chuckled and nodded without saying a word, as if they were a foreigner.

I got the hint and decided to stay quiet when someone unexpectedly approached me.

"What's the matter?"

A beautiful young lady.

A face I remembered.

She was one of the youths standing behind Jae Pung-ho at the food center, where he was shaking hands.

She was quite beautiful, so she stuck in my memory.

"I have a question, if that’s alright with you?"

At first, her cold demeanor in the hallway seemed unapproachable, but upon talking, she quickly wore a trained smile and responded kindly.

"You're asking why the chairman is hunting monsters?"

Unfortunately, unlike the others, she didn’t wear an employee badge, so I couldn't know her name. Judging by her appearance though, she might be the chairman's granddaughter or niece.

She paused for a moment, looked around to make sure no one was listening, and then sighed before revealing the inside story.

"You know about the chairman's plans to run for parliament?"

"Yes."

"Well, that got derailed."

"Why?"

"Because the current MPs have effectively extended their terms indefinitely."

"That’s unfortunate."

I later found out that the decision was almost unanimous.

There were two abstentions, but in my view, those were even more despicable.

"The chairman's plan was disrupted. He had provided considerable support to both parties, from personal conveniences for individual MPs to repairing the shattered parliament building. So, when the group protested, the parliament responded that if he could find one vacant electoral district, they would make a place for him. That’s how it turned out."

"Is that 'electoral district' our destination?"

"I’m not going. It’ll be the chairman and his loyalists."

Contrary to my first impression, she didn’t seem to be a Papung person.

I asked out of curiosity.

"Me? I’m not from the Papung family. More accurately, I’m below them. My father is the head of a primary subcontractor."

She sighed and looked resentfully at the meeting room door.

"......What’s the point in clinging to a group that’s already fallen?"

Then I understood.

This woman had no lingering attachments to Papung.

Rather, she seemed to harbor clear hostility towards it.

As the conversation flowed, she poured out her thoughts as if she had been waiting to say them.

"Everyone’s lost their minds. We’re not related by blood, it’s just a business relationship, so why do they all act like it’s before the war?"

"I don’t know......"

"Look."

Suddenly, her eyes sparkled.

"You're a hunter, right?"

"Not anymore."

"I have a favor to ask."

She stepped forward briskly.

The faint scent of her perfume intensified as she came closer.

"Can you talk some sense into my father?"

She handed me her father’s business card.

"Please tell him to stop this madness."

Just then, the meeting room door opened.

At the forefront was Jae Pung-ho.

His face was serious and solemn, his eyes intense and ready to shine at any moment, striding down the hallway without hesitation.

Following him were a dozen or so suit-wearing individuals, each with their own expression.

The executive who had dealt with me earlier saw me and spoke tersely.

"It's time for you, Hunter Park, to go."

"Do I have to go too?"

"Yes."

I turned back to the woman who had spoken to me.

Many people passed between us, but her gaze was fixed solely on me.

I hesitated for a moment, but not for long.

"It might not work out."


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