December 23rd, 2015 15:30. NIS Safe House hospital room. Seoul.
Manager An greeted Assistant Manager Lee and the two agents guarding the door as he handed them coffee. "Working hard, huh? Did you get to go home, Hye-jin?"
"I stopped by early in the morning. Chief Oh and Chief Kim were here since yesterday."
"Okay. Thanks for your hard work."
"Don't mention it."
The two strapping agents in sunglasses neatly dressed in black suits answered in short, alert replies. They did not flinch as they guarded the door.
"How is In-jik?"
"He looks better But he weeps from time to time."
"As you're a woman, Hye-jin try to console him."
"Manager An! I'm not just a woman, but a Counter-terrorism Investigation Unit 1 agent."
"Oh, sorry. Let me go in and see him."
Assistant Manager Lee hated the embarrassment he felt of learning to treat a woman the same as a man. Manger An, who was letting it go, entered the room after he apologized.
"Hey In-jik. It's me."
"How are you feeling?"
"That's good. I hope you can rest easy and get back on your feet."
Manager An pulled up a folding chair next to the bed and sat down. "This case was reported up to the Blue House. It'll now be handled at a national level. We'll report that you were killed in the explosion, and that your friend died in a car accident unrelated to this case."
"What? Then Kyoung-ho's parents won't know the truth?"
"Nothing we can do about that. If the U.S. intelligence agency found out that you're still alive, they'll try to track you down. We're after the two suspects responsible for the explosions. We think they're still in the country. We're getting you a new identity, and you'll have to live by that identity for awhile, so be prepared. Okay?"
"A new identity"
Knowing that he should have died instead of Kyoung-ho, In-jik felt miserable and diffident of forsaking the name he'd used and the people he had known for 24 years.
"In-jik, I think the living have to live harder in the memory of the dead. After doing some research, it looks like you're quite renowned in the programming world. It seems like you're very talented and won many white hat hacker competitions. What do you think about working in this field?"
Seeing In-jik disconcerted at his suggestion, Manager An thought he was too hasty. He continued, "I thought someone as talented as you working with us would be best for you and for the country. You'll be here for at least a month, so let me know after you give it some thought. Like I said before, let Hye-jin know if you need of anything, okay?"
"Okay, thank you for your consideration. I'll give some serious thought to your suggestions."
"Sure, I'll be on my way. Be well."
As he walked out of the room, Manager An sat down next to Assistant Manager Lee and spoke quietly. "Hye-jin, talk to him as much as you can. Try to talk positively about working with us, understood?"
"I'm trying to recruit him to join us. He's a renowned expert in the hacking world."
"Is it okay to do that to someone who's been through something so horrifying?"
"What's the matter? It's a shame to waste someone with such a talent"
"Sorry; I apologize. Take it easy, Hye-jin."
As he got up in a hurry to avoid Assistant Manager Lee's fist aimed at his face, he waved his hands as to say sorry, took out a credit card from his wallet, and said, "Use this to buy anything In-jik needs, and treat yourselves to a nice meal. Keep up the good work."
"Okay, I'm going back to the office. Work hard."
* * *
December 24th, 2015 13:30. National Security Council meeting. Blue House, Jongro-gu, Seoul.
An NSC meeting was under way in a meeting room at the Blue House.
The President and four men, including the Minister of National Defense, the National Security Director, the NIS Secretary, and the Chief Secretary, were looking at the 100" TV screen. The screen showed Kang Yi-sik, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the Secretary General of the Armed Forces, and twenty other men in uniform intently watching the chairman's report.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs reported, "The army is currently maintaining 'Def-Con 2' around the DMZ, and we are on 24-hour surveillance of North Korean troop movements around DMZ and long-range missile silos, utilizing the ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command Joint Stars (J-Stars) reconnaissance airplanes and satellite. Additionally, the navy has deployed patrol aircrafts and frigates in the forward areas of the NLL in the East and West seas to monitor any deep water and surface incursions. Lastly, the air force has allocated maximum flight hours to early-warning aircrafts to observe movements of enemy airplanes."
As the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs wrapped up his report on the overall security conditions of the armed forces, the National Security Director Oh Jang-soo spoke up. "Mr. Chairman! We're planning to negotiate with the U.S. concerning the transition of the wartime operational control in a short time. When we do, we could lose the support of ROK-US Combined Forces Command. If this happens, we need to have a contingency plan."
"Yes. We'll prepare a back-up plan so there are no lapses in our reconnaissance activities. I'll report the plan as soon as it's ready."
"Yes, Mr. President?"
"What are you doing about the soldiers whose mandatory service period has expired?"
Hesitating after the President's sudden inquiry, Chairman of the Joint Staffs replied after listening to one of his aides. "I'm sorry, Mr. President. Due to the issuance of 'Def-Con 2,' all military service periods were extended for one month."
"Then are they receiving the same monthly salary as they were receiving before?"
"That's right, Mr. President."
"Maybe we need to improve that. We can't put all the burden of our national emergency solely on the shoulders of the Korean youth in their 20s."
The President spoke as he looked at the Minister of National Defense. "Minister Kang, please adjust the salary of the soldiers whose service was extended for one month to 1.5 times the national minimum wage, and issue payment as soon as the budget is realized."
"Yes, Mr. President."
The President continued. "How is Chairman Kim Jong-un doing?"
NIS Secretary Na, who had been listening to the President's questioning, spoke up. "There's no improvements to his health."
"Hmm Then are there any movements within the North Korean military leadership?"
"It fortunately looks stable, as Chairman Kim's key lieutenants have seized control of the power struggle. Chairman Kim's younger sister, Kim Yo-jong, has risen to the center of the power vacuum."
The power struggle within the armed forces leadership was serious for North Korea after Chairman Kim fell into a coma, but it was currently largely stabilized due to the prompt measures taken by those loyal to Chairman Kim and Kim Yo-jong. Kim Yo-jong was being hailed as the next authority figure with the endorsement of the loyalists. The North Korean TV broadcasts praised her every minute of every day.
"National Security Director?"
"Yes, Mr. President?"
"If North Korea regained stability in the regime, I think this is the right time to deflate the tension between the North and the South. Quickly reach out to North Korea, please."
"Ok then, let's move onto the next issue."
* * *
December 24th, 2015 17:30. Presidential Office, Blue House. Jongro-gu, Seoul.
Upon returning to the office from a three-hour national security meeting, the President, the National Security Director, and the NIS Secretary were drinking tea and having a conversation.
The President asked, "How is this student, In-jik, doing?"
Secretary Na answered, "Sir, he's recovering at a NIS safe house hospital currently. Counter-terrorism Investigation Unit 1 is in charge of his security. He doesn't have health issues, but the sudden deaths of his parents, his sibling, and a friend are agonizing him."
"It must be painful. Can a normal person imagine losing the family and friends you love in an instant? We must protect him as a national priority. Please take special care of him, Secretary Na."
"I'll try my best to protect him."
National Security Director Oh Jang-soo, who was quietly listening while having tea, took out a stack of documents from his briefcase and put it in front of the President, then said, "This is part of the report from the National Science and Technology Institute. It assesses the immediate application of the file the student hacked. These mind-blowing files contain information regarding stealth fighter painting material and structural blueprints, which are immensely valuable documents that can be used for the KF-X development project. Also, the next generation nuclear fusion reactor technology documents are truly amazing files. Especially this one. Look at this document."
As Secretary Na and the President read the documents Director Oh brought in utter amazement, their attention focused on the one document Director Oh was holding out.
"Mr. President, this technology is something you can apply to our current industrial economy. This could be more than enough to reinvigorate the stagnant Korean economy."
The document that Director Oh held out was on extreme battery storage technology. With this next generation in extreme battery storage technology, you can store up to thirty times the lifetime storage capacity in an extremely small unit.
"It's a shame, but that technology may be a pie in the sky, Director Oh."
Director Oh asked with a puzzled look, "What do you mean, Secretary Na?"
Secretary Na started to explain, "The current situation is that the U.S. government is sending agents to Korea to assassinate anyone related to these files. To deceive them, the NIS declared Kim In-jik dead and the hacked files destroyed. If we put these technologies to use on a national level, the U.S. government will officially claim that the hacking was done by the Korean government. Then our relationship with the U.S. government will reach a boiling point, and we'd be under constant pressure."
After listening to Secretary Na, the President briefly thought about the relationship with the U.S. 'If we use the documents for national projects, we'd be officially admitting that we hacked them. Korea will become more of a subordinate colony to the U.S. than it is now, or it would face economic and military sanctions.' With this thought, he firmly said, "The Republic of Korea will have our opportunity one day. Let's keep it under wraps until that day."