December 21st, 2015 21:10. Safe house hospital room, National Intelligence Service. Seoul.
"Mom? What are you doing there?"
On the shore of a wide and sullen lake, Kim In-Jik's parents and younger brother were trying to get on a small boat. Seeing them at a distance, In-jik screamed. Seemingly unaware of his cry, his parents and younger brother Young-jik slowly rowed their way out to the center of the lake. As the fog grew thicker and as the boat with his family began to disappear from his sight, he cried out as if his vocal cords were about to burst. He cried out even louder, but eventually the boat disappeared from his sight.
"Dad! Mom! Young-jik!"
His friend Kyoung-ho approached him unnoticed, wrapped his arms around the slumped In-jik, and said to him in a low voice, "Don't worry brother. I'll look after your parents and Young-jik."
In-jik turned his head as he heard Kyoung-ho spoke, and he screamed in horrible surprise. "Ahhh!"
He saw a bloody, ghastly-looking Kyoung-ho. His flesh had disintegrated, so his white bones were visible and his hair was completely burned.
His eyes opened. Lights on the ceiling slowly became visible. He thought he felt the presence of people, so he looked around. In-jik saw a middle-aged man and a woman next to his bed. The middle-aged man looked down at In-jik as he woke up, and he started to talk to him after he beckoned the woman next to him to call for a doctor. "How are you feeling, Mr. Kim In-jik? You've been sleeping for two days."
In-jik sat up, propping up his upper body. He asked the middle-aged man, "Who, who are you? Am I in a hospital?"
"I'm the manager of NIS Counter-terrorism Investigation Unit 1, An Yeon-wu." The middle-aged man continued talking as he took out an identification card from his wallet and showed In-jik. "Two days ago, we took you from a hospital and brought you here after we discovered evidence that proved the explosions in your apartment and your parent's home were not simple, gas-related accidents. This is a safe house hospital run by the NIS."
In-Jik wept, as he was reminded of the deaths of his parents, younger brother, and friend.
Manager An could not find words of comfort for In-Jik during this awkward silence. As In-Jik wept, the door opened and Dr. Park Hyoung-wu entered wearing a white gown. "Please try lying down again."
Dr. Park lay In-jik down and examined his pupils, temperature, and other vitals. He turned to Manager An and said, "Manager An, this young man is in a state of immense mental shock. He needs more rest. How about giving him another day to stabilize?"
"I understand, Dr. Park. I'll start the investigation tomorrow. Excuse me."
After a brief moment of thought, he left the room after greeting the doctor.
Assistant Manager Lee Hye-jin, who was waiting outside, asked Manager An as she handed him a cup of coffee, "Manager An, do you really think this case involves that kid?"
"It's probable considering the situation...the explosives used at his and his parents' apartments were high performance explosives rarely found domestically, and the explosions happened at the same time. I checked with the External Intelligence Division, and there's a good chance that two Class A subjects entered the country. Anything to report on my order?"
"Yes, I put two agents on Kim In-jik's uncle. Since In-jik's life is in danger, I asked him to say he doesn't know about In-jik's survival. Sensing the gravity of the situation, he cooperated. He also said he'll take care of the funeral for In-jik's parents after National Forensic Service completes the autopsy. I asked the mobile service provider to completely delete their call records from the day of the incident."
"And the press?"
"I arranged for the press to call the incidents gas explosions. The interest will probably wane by tomorrow."
"Good. Let's come back tomorrow. In-jik needs more rest."
Manager An and Assistant Manager Lee headed to the hospital parking lot after a brief conversation.
Although In-jik was given a shot of stabilizer, he woke up at 5:00a.m. He opened the window to take in a breath of cold morning air. He couldn't believe the things that were happening to him; it felt like a movie. As he continued to remember his parents, brother, and friend, he resented the fact that all of this happened because of his hacking. In-Jik wept as he felt the weight of his life being flipped upside-down; he felt lost in his ways.
* * *
December 22nd, 2015 18:00. Safe house hospital room, National Intelligence Service, Seoul.
In-jik and Manager An were sitting on his hospital bed. Manager An asked In-jik, "In-jik, how are you feeling?"
"I'm feeling a little better."
"Hmm... That's a relief. Assistant Manager Lee Hye-jin will be here at the hospital to help. Let her know if you need anything."
"Then let me get to the point. We have evidence that this case isn't two accidental gas explosions. First, the explosives used at both buildings were high-performance explosives not normally found domestically. Next, the explosions were at you and your parents' apartments. It's too coincidental; you have to somehow be involved with this case. Anything come to mind?"
In-jik agonized over what the NIS Manager An told him. He didn't know whether or not to tell him about the hacking. After sitting for a long time in silence, he looked resolute as he opened up to Manager An and Assistant Manager Lee. "Actually... I think it's because of me."
"What do you mean?"
"Two months ago, I infringed on NASA's data network and downloaded a few Area 51 files. I think that's the cause of this."
"What? You hacked NASA?"
Manager An and Assistant Manager Lee couldn't hide their surprise. They looked at each other. The explosions originated from the U.S. government because of a hack? Sensing that the files In-jik hacked could have enormous implications, Manager An continued with his questioning. "Do you have the hacked files?"
"Yes. I stored them on a USB."
"Can you give me the USB?"
"Yes. It's the red USB in my bag. You can take it."
Assistant Manager Lee took out the red USB from In-jik's bag and gave it to Manager An. Manager An issued an order as he put the USB in his pocket. "Assistant Manager Lee, I'm going to see the Chief. Assign another agent here and keep him safe."
Even before Assistant Manager Lee finished talking, Manager An hastily got on a call as he headed out of the hospital room. "Chief! It's a first-class counter-terrorism situation."
* * *
December 22nd, 2015 22:00. Presidential Office, Blue House. Jongro-gu, Seoul.
"NIS Secretary Na Bong-il, what brings you here at this hour?"
The President, who had to return to the office after trying to go home for the night, greeted NIS Secretary Na Bong-il, Counter-terrorism Division Head Kim Sung-il, and Counter-terrorism Investigation Unit 1 Manager An Yeon-wu. They had been waiting for him.
"I'm sorry, sir. It's late, but there's an urgent matter to report."
"Really, what is it? Please sit down."
"Yes, Mr. President. As you are already aware, it's regarding the explosions in a multi-family residence in Gangbuk-gu, Seoul, and in an apartment building in Busan, which occurred at the same time."
"I was briefed on the incidences."
"The report from Counter-terrorism Investigation Unit 1 reveals that it wasn't an accidental gas explosion, but an act of terrorism by a U.S. government agency."
"What do you mean? Please be specific."
"Manager An of the Counter-terrorism Investigation Unit 1 will report the specific details."
Manager An took out a report and started to explain at the behest of the NIS Secretary. "I am Manager An Yeon-wu of the Counter-terrorism Investigation Unit 1. I'll start the briefing. A U.S. government agency is implicated in this case. The explosions in Seoul and Busan are related through a student named Kim In-jik. His parents were killed in the Busan apartment explosion, and the exploded home in Seaoul was Kim In-jik's residence."
"Really? It does seem related. How is the U.S. agency involved?"
"The Counter-terrorism Investigation Unit 1 suspected that the explosions weren't just accidents and launched an investigation right away. Based on our assumption that Kim In-jik was deeply involved with the case, we secured his safety, and then we were able to find out a critical fact." Manager An took out a photo of In-jik and In-jik's USB. "Two months ago, Kim In-jik hacked the NASA network and downloaded a few files about Area 51."
"He hacked NASA? He really hacked Area 51?"
"Yes, Mr. President. The files Kim In-Jik downloaded are in the USB that you see."
"Then are you saying that the U.S. agency committed this horrible act to kill the hacker?"
"An allied country would send their agents to commit acts of terror to find the hacker?"
Counter-terrorism Division Head Kim Sung-il, who had been listening, broke his silence. "Mr. President, it's normal protocol and process for intelligence agencies to ask for cooperative investigation in cases like this. If the leaked documents are of utmost importance, then these protocols are ignored. A much more serious independent operation could be employed by the U.S. agency. This type of incident could bring out serious diplomatic issues with United States."
"What are the contents of the hacked documents?"
Division Head Kim pulled documents from the back of the stack, presented it to the President, and started to explain, "Let me explain. This document..."
The emergency meeting went on for three hours, and the decision was made to respond at a national level considering the importance of the documents. The explosions in Seoul and Busan were reported as accidents on TV, closing the case with Kim In-jik as having died on the scene instead of Kang Kyoung-ho. Kang Kyoung-ho's death was filed as a car accident unrelated to the explosions.