Gun-Ho sensed that Suk-Ho Lee was feeling very uncomfortable and awkward. Even if Suk-Ho had bullied Gun-Ho when they were in high school, he could just let it go because it was all in the past, and they were young. Moreover, Suk-Ho helped Gun-Ho when he opened his very first business the Vietnamese noodle soup restaurant in Noyryangjin Town. He even visited Gun-Ho's restaurant to congratulate Gun-Ho on it. Gun-Ho didn't want to treat Suk-Ho badly. He now wanted to ease Suk-Ho's tension.
"Suk-Ho, how is your business in Shenyang City?"
For some reason, Suk-Ho Lee felt pressured that he had to be honest with Gun-Ho.
"It's not doing well. I want to sell the stores, but it's hard to find a buyer."
"What are you selling at your stores?"
"I own three stores. I placed two of them on the market for sale, and I'm running the third one. I sell Korean products mostly that I import."
"Hmm, I see."
Suk-Ho Lee added, "The area is not fully developed yet offering the low foot traffic, but the city is planning to develop that specific area soon."
"Really? That's good then."
Gun-Ho sipped his tea, and the silence filled the air again.
Suk-Ho Lee smiled and said, "Some of our friends from high school talked about you saying that you are in an awkward position, and they are feeling sorry for you. You have heard about it, haven't you?"
"Me? No, I haven't."
"They said that they don't understand why you hired people like Min-Hyeok Kim and Jae-Sik Moon to work for you."
Gun-Ho frowned by reflex without any intention to show how he was feeling. What Suk-Ho Lee just said annoyed Jong-Suk Park as well, and that made him frown too.
Suk-Ho Lee continued, "Frankly, Min-Hyeok Kim and Jae-Sik Moon were not very smart when we were in high school; they were even a bit slow, unlike Jong-Suk Park here."
Gun-Ho didn't respond to him but took a sip of his tea instead without saying a word. He wanted to hear what Suk-Ho Lee wanted to say.
Suk-Ho continued, "If you had other people who were working for you, and who were smart enough, your company in China would have grown several times larger than the current size by now. That's what most of us think. That's why they said that they are feeling sorry for you."
Gun-Ho said as he crossed his legs, "I think you misunderstood one thing to begin with. Min-Hyeok Kim and Jae-Sik Moon are not working for me. They are my business partners."
"Did they put their investment funds in those companies then? I don't think they are capable of doing so."
"There are several forms of how you invest in a business. I can't tell you exactly what they contributed to the business because it's confidential, but I can tell you that they are my partners. If you have a chance to meet our high school friends again later, please tell them that. We have to have the facts straight. Min-Hyeok and Jae-Sik have been working so hard because they were not very blessed financially when they grew up. I respect them."
When the awkward silence filled the air again, Gun-Ho smiled and said, "Your stores in Shenyang City can they be used as collateral to take out a loan from a bank?"
"I don't think the building where my stores are located is Zhuan Liang (transferrable land). The owner of the building is currently negotiating with the Land Bureau about it."
"Hmm. That's the problem that many foreign businessmen encounter in China."
Suk-Ho Lee looked down. Gun-Ho changed his posture and said, "You have two options."
Suk-Ho Lee and Jong-Suk Park looked at Gun-Ho simultaneously.
"First one is that you need to sell your stores as soon as possible even though that means that you have to bear some loss. That's how you reduce the actual loss in the long run. I understand that you placed your precious funds there, but you need to get out of the situation. The locals might not be interested in buying your stores, so you should advertise the sale in a newspaper, so the people in other areas could see it. Some people may have an idea of what to do with your stores, and be willing to buy them."
"Hmm, so my first option is to sell my stores for the price less than I paid, huh?"
"When I had to close my business in Noryangjin the Vietnamese noodle soup restaurant, I sold it for a below-market price bearing loss. If you know that you can't go on with your business, you should focus on the fact that you have to get out of there, rather than trying to reduce the possible loss. You have to move on for a better opportunity. Also, you shouldn't try to convince other Korean people to buy your stores that you know are going down, without disclosing all the necessary facts. You will be eventually blamed for it."
Suk-Ho Lee's face contorted with discomfort.
"Your second option is to combine all of your three stores and make one big store, and sell some unique products. You can't succeed if you target only local people, but you need to attract the customers from other areas too. Come up with the items that people would think worth traveling a long distance. They have to be willing to travel all the way to your store to buy those items. But, you have to know that this option will require an additional investment, so it's riskier than the first option. When you are certain about what to sell, that would be the right time for you to start the process of expanding your store."
"What would you sell, President Goo?"
"I don't know. If I were you, I would start by researching your area in search of the right item to sell."
Suk-Ho Lee knew that Gun-Ho wouldn't even consider buying his stores at that moment. He was afraid of getting unwanted feedback or comments from Gun-Ho if he asked him to buy his stores. Gun-Ho made a final prediction that sounded even crueler to Suk-Ho Lee.
"Maybe you should expect to lose half of what you originally invested in your business. Preparing yourself to bear that much loss would be a clever decision under your situation."
Suk-Ho Lee let out a deep sigh.
"Well, cheer up, Suk-Ho Lee!"
Gun-Ho tapped Suk-Ho's back as a gesture to encourage him. Tapping Suk-Ho's back was an unthinkable act of Gun-Ho when they were in high school; Suk-Ho would have punched him in the face right away. But, Suk-Ho let Gun-Ho tap his back while keeping his eyes closed.
"Suk-Ho Lee! I was grateful when you gave me advice and sent me a congratulatory flower wreath with Jong-Suk when I opened the Vietnamese noodle soup restaurant in Noryangjin. You even visited my restaurant at that time. I don't forget that."
"That of course I had to do for a friend"
"But, when you opened your business in Shenyang City, I didn't make my time to visit you there to congratulate you. I didn't even send you a congratulatory gift either. So, here is my late gift for you."
Gun-Ho gave an envelope to Suk-Ho Lee.
"Oh, you shouldn't do this."
"It's okay. Many people give an envelope to a person on their business opening day. I'm just one of those people who want to congratulate a friend on his business opening with an envelope. You don't have to feel burdensome about it."
Gun-Ho quickly slipped the envelope into Suk-Ho's pocket and stood up from his seat.
"It would be really nice to spend more time with you and listen to your interesting stories that you probably have from your stay in China, but I have to go to work in Asan City; I have another company there called Dyeon Korea. Why don't you have lunch with Jong-Suk Park before leaving? I'm sorry that I can't join you."
Gun-Ho extended his hand to Suk-Ho for a handshake. While having a handshake, Gun-Ho looked at Jong-Suk and said, "Director Park! Since Suk-Ho bro is here, take him to your favorite restaurant. He is your favorite bro after all."
"Of course I will. Don't worry about it. I know which restaurant I want to take him to. I'm so glad to see you, Suk-Ho bro."
Gun-Ho could have had lunch with Suk-Ho Lee that day, but he intentionally avoided extended stay with him by saying he had to go to work in Dyeon Korea. Suk-Ho Lee was not a person who he wanted to spend a prolonged time with.
After walking out of Gun-Ho's office, Suk-Ho stopped by the restroom and opened the envelope that Gun-Ho gave to him. He wanted to check how much he put in that envelope. He expected to see about 100,000 won, but surprisingly there was 500,000 won in it.