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Top Management

Chapter 194


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Chapter 202: Stop at Nothing, By Any Means (8)

TL: emptycube / ED: Isleidir

It felt like a chicken bone was caught in my throat.

"As the company CEO, I judged that the t.i.tle of 'Midas's Hand' has a high strategic value."

"Strategic value?"

"Yeah, in various ways."

CEO Baek Hansung said while tapping on his phone.

"To be honest, 'Midas's Hand' is a common expression. Entertainment reporters use it often because it can be used to package someone's character. Whether it's a producer or agency, anyone who has been moderately successful should have been called that. Myself included."

He showed me his phone. Then, to show me, he tapped his screen. There was a headline that read, 'W&U CEO Baek Hansung, Ascends as the Midas's Hand of the Entertainment World'. It was an old interview article.

Like he pointed out, the 'Midas's Hand' t.i.tle was common in the article column.

"But it's rare for those with that t.i.tle to really 'make everything they touch a hit'. For someone to have only had hits with no failures up until now, from what I know, you're the only one. Even as a joke, if we created a film based on you, we'd probably be criticized for the lack of realism."

My life story really did lack realism.

Having jokingly said this, CEO Baek Hansung stared at me.

"Reporters these days don't use that t.i.tle often. The t.i.tle 'Midas's Hand' has become a.n.a.logous to you. That's why that common t.i.tle now has strategic value. But about that."

He placed one of his chopsticks upright on the table. Then he let go of the top. The chopstick fell on the table, making a sharp sound.

"That value is only effective while you have no failures. The moment you fail, it'll crumble like a sand castle."

"So, are you telling me to maintain that t.i.tle?"

By any means?

"That's right. To be exact, I was thinking about proactively managing your t.i.tle at the company level."

"… Manage?"

"I guess it doesn't sound good?"

"It's not great."

"Like how you are managing Neptune and Nam Joyoon and building their image, the company will be managing you. As long as possible, so that you don't fail."

To be managed by the company. Don't touch projects that have a high risk of failure.

"Are you telling me to do whatever the company tells me to do from now on?"

"Is that what it sounds like?"

He tilted his head and said,

"I'm saying to do what the company expects from you as a team leader."

Team leader. I was confused whether he brought me up to that position of the t.i.tle 'Midas's Hand'. If that t.i.tle decided my worth, then I would become someone unfitting of that position once I failed.

"Is that strategic value why I was quickly promoted to the team leader position?"

"I can't say it didn't have an influence."

CEO Baek Hansung willingly nodded his head.

"In the end, this is good for you. The company will help you grab success and will gold plate your career. This will also be a great investment for your future career."

Oh, really? His words were sweet like honey, but my neck felt stiff. It felt like there was a leash on me.

My voice sounded glum.

"Although there's nothing I can do if you're against the project because it's mediocre, I cannot easily accept that I should give it up simply to eliminate risk. Isn't filtering out 'projects we should risk' my responsibility?"

"Like I said, this is a sand castle that will crumble once you fail."

"Even when a project is so great I believe we should take the risk?"

"Hand it over to another team's chief. If it succeeds, we'll publish an article that you recommended that project."

CEO Baek Hansung replied with a still smiling face.

I took a deep breath before opening my mouth.

"And if I try to persuade you to trust my judgment…"

"Then…"

His calm voice cut me off,

"I'll be very disappointed in you."

Was it because of this?

Is this why I gave up City Jungle?

Seeing CEO Baek Hansung's reaction, it was obvious that there was no room for persuasion. Then how much leeway did I have to make a decision? Did I even have any? His 'I'll be very disappointed' sounded to me as 'You'll fail'.

What would happen if City Jungle, which I gave up, became a success?

Would CEO Baek Hansung regret his decision today and change his mind? No. I even brought up Cat Guardian Ghost to persuade him. If he was going to change his mind with another one, then he wouldn't have opposed it so definitively this time.

He seemed to want to eliminate any potential risk of me failing.

If things continued this way, how many projects like City Jungle would I have to give up?

I sighed and raised my head. The cicadas overeagerly droned. In an alley devoid of any trees to provide you with shade, I saw a bunch of one-room apartments. This was a neighborhood I frequented around this time last year.

I knocked on a familiar door. Soon, a low voice answered as the door opened. Nam Joyoon, with a bite-size peanut cereal bar in his mouth, looked at me with surprise. His eyes momentarily flashed with worry.

"Is something wrong?"

"No, I just came over to see if you ate lunch yet."

Nam Joyoon smiled and opened the door wide. The inside of his home was still dreary. There was a single bed and a knee-high desk stacked with scripts and scenarios. If we took them and the laptop out, you wouldn't think someone lived here. It would be believable to call this an empty unit ready for someone to move into.

"I was just eati- about to eat. Did you eat?"

"No, please give me one spoonful."

Although I did eat an astronomically expensive wild samkyetang, I couldn't remember if it went in mouth or nose. I rubbed my empty stomach and glanced through the scenarios spread on the desk. Nam Joyoon, who paced back and forth in front of the sink, came over with a troubled expression.

"Sunwoo, there is no rice."

"Should I make some?"

"I don't have any rice. I definitely had some yesterday. Do you want instant noodles?"

So he was planning on simply eating a cereal bar today. It was clear as day.

"Hyung, why does your living conditions seem worse than before you signed?"

Where did all the advanced pay for his movie appearance evaporate to? I heard that he was happy that he didn't have to pay rent every month after switching his rental agreement to a lease.{1} He still should have enough to have meat every meal.

Since I sent him bundles of movie tickets, he shouldn't be spending it all on movie tickets like before either.

Then why was the living condition…

"Hyung, what are you doing?"

"I'm trying to boil water. I have instant noodles."

"Why are you boiling water in a frying pan? Where is your pot?"

"The bottom is all burnt up. I planned on buying another one."

"You planned?"

"But not having one didn't bother me much."

G.o.d, d.a.m.n it.

"I told you to change your incompetent lifestyle. If your private life was revealed on TV, you'll probably receive charity help."

Nam Joyoon simply rubbed his neck awkwardly and smiled.

He took two instant noodle packages from the drawer. Seeing those packages, I thought that he at least wouldn't starve to death if he has that. Then I suddenly said,

"Check the expiry dates."

"I don't think it's been that long since I've bought them. Instant noodles have a long shelf life."

However, Nam Joyoon kept his mouth shut once his eyes glanced over the back of the package.

"Don't tell me…"

"What month is it?"

I s.n.a.t.c.hed the packages from his hand and checked their expiry dates.

Oh, my G.o.d.

"How can there be expired instant noodles when you live alone?"

"I don't eat a lot of instant noodles."

"Are you a plant? Do you only drink water? Do you even drink water?"

When I opened the fridge, there wasn't even a bottle of water.

"You're going to die at this rate."

I said after rubbing my face. I was so dumbfounded that I laughed.

"I had a very serious worry on my mind but seeing your living conditions pulled me back to reality."

It was a dog day, so I ordered steamed chicken and sat across Nam Joyoon.

Nam Joyoon was clearing the top of his desk/dining table when he asked,

"What was your serious worry?"

"Just company stuff. What did you do today, hyung?"

"I read scenarios."

I knew it. Like an unchanging evergreen, he must have been reading scenarios yesterday, the day before that, last week, and even last month. I sent him as many scenarios and scripts as I could get my hands on, and every time, he looked happy like he had received a birthday present.

"Is the project so entertaining that you forgot to eat? No, as long as it's disguised as a scenario, it's a bigger priority to you than food. Still, is it fun reading them every day?"

"It's what I enjoy most, so of course, it's fun every day."

What he enjoys most, huh?

Nam Joyoon looked back at the wobbly tower of scenarios as he said,

"I couldn't read them if I wanted to before I met you. Since they were so hard to get. Back then, I read projects that appeared in online scenario markets or those that revealed their scenarios after their release. Now, just looking at these stacks of scenarios you got me makes me happy."

 For someone who didn't have anything to eat besides cereal bars and tap water, he sure looked lively and satisfied whenever he talked about scenarios.

I ensured Nam Joyoon ate an entire chicken.

Then I attended a meeting regarding Neptune's alb.u.m activities and only returned late at night.

Like Nam Joyoon's home, scenarios and scripts were stacked everywhere. There were some I found covered in dust in the boxes of synopses and others that I barely managed to obtain since their cast was already decided.

However, it didn't make me happy like it did Nam Joyoon.

Since I always read these while thinking about what would do well.

Before working in this industry, I too looked for my favorite movie and drama scenarios and scripts online. I could vaguely remember a time when my heart raced because of how entertaining a scenario was.

How did I feel when I read City Jungle?

My heart did race thinking that this was going to be a smashing hit and even go to the Cannes Film Festival.

I took a cold shower and laid down on my bed. I checked my phone to see messages I haven't read because I was at the meeting. Most were congratulatory messages about Neptune's consecutive hits in the music charts and schedule inquiries. While replying to each one, I discovered a familiar number.

Director Oh Hyunkyung.

It was a long message. It started with a greeting, asking if I ate something nutritious because it was a dog day followed by praise about Neptune's alb.u.m. Then she asked how everyone at W&U, including me, were doing before cautiously asking if Nam Joyoon had a chance to read the City Jungle scenario.

I hesitated for a good while with my fingers on the keyboard before kicking my blanket and getting up. It was going to be hard to get sleep with it being so hot and humid tonight, so I took the scenario that was carefully packed in an envelope out of my bag.

I brewed a cup of coffee, returned to my bed, and turned on the floor lamp.

Once again, I flipped the first page of the City Jungle scenario.

An ill-tempered artist, who felt like the world was a dry desert, met an unordinary woman one day. Following the woman and experiencing crimes and violence, the artist became motivated and inspired. He jumps into that world without hesitation.

I brooded over the scenario, which contained less than a hundred scenes. Some scenes were so terrifying that I had to brighten the lights, and there were other scenes that I read pacing in my room because I couldn't sit still.

The text formed images in my mind.

At some point, the woman's face had become Lee Songha's.

And the artist's face was Nam Joyoon's. As though it was meant to be.

My phone was sent to voicemail once more.

I recorded another message before immediately getting in my minivan. The film production company Forest. This production company, which Director Oh Hyunkyung mentioned was producing City Jungle, had its sign on the fifth-floor of a corner building in Chungmuro.

I joined others going to work and went on the elevator. What I saw the moment I got on the fifth floor were employees shrinking away with fl.u.s.tered faces and three angry individuals.

The film company CEO, who I had seen a picture of in an interview article.

And Director Oh Hyunkyung and Director Joo Jaechan.

The three were shouting angrily like they were about to grab each other by the collar at any moment.

{1} Korean rental markets work a little differently. Basically, Nam Joyoon went from paying monthly rent to just providing a security deposit, which he gets back when he moves out.

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