Family Roots – Chapter 3

The Proposal

“Major Mason has asked me to see if you’d be willing to accept his proposal to marry your daughter Wonsa.”

This was totally unexpected and Wonsa Kim stared at his friend in surprise.

“He is American, how can I give my daughter to an American? She is Korean and she belongs here with us in Korea.”

Chun-Dung paused and reached for a drink. “Through his mother he has Korean heritage from the court of Joseon and some of the royal line are resident in America now. He is reasonably fluent in our language and our contacts through him with the Americans have been quite fruitful. While his father was not of our people he fought for our freedom. It would be in our interests for this match to take place.  This man is thought of highly or he’d have not been taken into the Pentagon.”

Wonsa Kim thought about this silently for a few minutes. “I need to think about this Chun-Dung. What is your interest in this man?”

“He is my friend and I’m passing along his respectful request for consideration.”

Wonsa Kim nodded. “Thank you, Chun-Dong, perhaps I’d better hurry home and look at this Major’s sister my daughter is entertaining. I’ll let you know after I’ve thought about this unusual proposal. My daughter has turned down some rich and connected marriage proposals and I’ve been annoyed with her as she is getting older. I’ll need to quiz her to find out if anything has been going on behind my back.”

The two stood and bowed respectfully to each other then Wonsa Kim phoned his driver and hastened down to the front of the building to speed home.

He arrived just as Cho was preparing to take leave of the family to return Jin Ae to the Mammoth Hotel. He watched carefully as Jin Ae greeted him respectfully. Cho had given her full instructions as to what would be expected to treat her family with respect, and she bowed low as Wonsa Kim hastily appeared. She kept her natural exuberance under careful control and listened but did not speak unless questioned. Noting quickly that she did not speak Korean he asked his wife in Korean if the young woman had been respectful during that visit and the wife gave an excellent report. Wonsa Kim then gave his blessings in English as the two departed instructing Cho in Korean to see him immediately on her return home.

One hour later Cho returned and was taken to Kim’s office. He questioned her closely. Had she been having an affair with this American when she was seconded to him on his last appointment. Did she have an understanding with him and was that the reason she had turned down offers from rich and respectable suiters?

Cho calmly explained there had been no understanding between them when she’d worked with him before. It had all been professional, but she respected him and was quite surprised when he’d asked if she’d have objections if he asked her father for her hand in marriage. She’d be interested in a proposal from this man but only if Kim would give his blessing. Finally convinced there had not been any attempt to disrespect him her father dismissed her.

He sat in silence for some time thinking. Perhaps his friend Chun-Dung was right. It could be in the interests of his country to encourage this union.

Next day he requested Chun-Dung to arrange for this young Major to meet them both at their favourite restaurant but only after preparations for the meeting of diplomats to meet the North Koreans had been finalized. The answer would be given after Kim had met with his friend and Mason together.

Jin Ae and Cho exchanged silent looks of satisfaction when the play ended. They’d covered a lot of ground during the day and Jin Ae was beginning to feel exhausted at the full-on days to try and see all the places on her list. She was beginning to understand her Mother and what had shaped her and was proud of her father who’d risked his life in that civil war.

They were at Myeongdong Nanta Theatre which hosts comedic, non-verbal plays within a kitchen setting. The show combines Korean traditional musical elements like garak (rhythms) and samullori (traditional Korean percussion quartet).

There are 5 main characters (kitchen staff) performing intricate rhythms on makeshift instruments, such as pots and pans while preparing for a luxurious wedding banquet. Tickets cost around 60,000 won for VIP seats and 50,000 won for standard seats. Cho had chosen standard seats but Jin Ae paid for the VIP seats for both of them while Cho protested.

Cho spoke as they waited for a taxi. “You made a good impression on my family Jin Ae. Thank you for remembering all the things I told you about our customs. Foreigners sometimes in their ignorance of our customs can be insulting so my family were impressed with your respect. I think you are starting to appreciate your roots and perhaps you should come and live in Korea.”

Jin Ae smiled with appreciation at the complement. She was happy and would sleep well tonight after her usual phone report to her mother. Mee had told her no matter what the time of night it may be in California she should phone and report at the end of each day and as a dutiful daughter she never failed to do that. She knew her mother would be missing her. She was missing California and her job too despite the wonderful time she was having and looked forward to returning at the end of the week. The company was in the middle of a giant project and she was the chief IT specialist in charge of the project. The team would function without her at this stage of the project, but it needed her input as each stage of the project was completed. The company she was employed by were working on a project for the US Government. Government data bases had been breached by hostile foreign powers and Jin Ae was working on programs that would not only give ultimate protection on those sensitive data bases but also hit back and destroy the ability of these hostile forces to hack and even to destroy their vital assets like power grids and weapon controlling software. Battles of the future would be fought remotely, and the internet was a tool. They were already into the systems controlling enemy satellites and observing every move.

Next morning Jin Ae rolled over in irritation to shut her IPad alarm telling her it was time to get up and organized for the day. She was feeling exhausted from the constant movement from place to place to achieve finalization of her list of places to see. Suddenly, she felt she’d seen enough, and it was time to return home. Perhaps she’d tell that to Cho today and they’d just look at Korean cultural sites instead of the list. She hoped it would work out for Cho to be her sister-in-law. She’d love to have a sister she could share with and Cho fitted that role in her mind, she wanted to buy her a gift and wondered what valuable gift she could give to show how much she valued their friendship. Completing her morning routines, she headed for the elevator and pressed the button to take her to the dining room. As the door to the elevator swung open, she came face to face with her brother Tim.

“Jin Ae let’s eat breakfast together again I need to talk with you.”

Jin Ae looked around and as no one was watching she gave her brother a quick hug and kiss.

“Careful Sis! We are in Korea remember.” But Tim looked pleased at her action. They were close as siblings.

Both did the rounds of food on offer and Jin Ae moved to the closest table, but Tim directed her to the furthest corner of the room isolated from the rest of congregated diners. Tim spoke.

“Jin Ae this is off the record and you should not share with anyone our conversation.” He looked at his sister busily tucking into her breakfast and she looked up and nodded wondering what was so secret about their meeting.

“You are working on a project which is very vital to the interests of the United States of America and it has a bearing on what I’m going to ask of you.”

“Jin Ae looked up in surprise and alarm. “Tim I can’t share what is going on with you as I could end up in jail. What we do is privileged information I’ve sworn to keep secret.”

“You don’t have to tell me anything Jin Ae because I know everything about the project you’re working on as the Pentagon and various intelligence services of the US are funding it and have personnel in corporate administration who are on your payroll to give them cover from prying eyes but actually work for us and we reimburse the corporation. You do not need to know who they are for your own safety and theirs.”

Jin Ae shrugged and went on with her breakfast listening.

“Cho will not be meeting with you this morning. She will be at army base and I want to take you there as we need your expertise. You will be going into the inner sanctum and Cho will interpret for you as officers in charge of Korean army intelligence have a problem their IT specialists are struggling to solve. They requested help from the Pentagon, and you have been identified by them as the one most likely to find a solution. We won’t talk more about this until we are through to a secure area there.”

They finished their breakfast in silence and Jin Ae returned to her room to freshen up for the day before meeting her brother in the lobby. Stepping outside they were met by an army driver who after opening the back doors of the car had them seated then began the long commute to base. Jin Ae’s documents were scanned, and she passed through an eye imaging device to identify her in future and enter her details in a data base. Major Mason was also scanned and waved through a door to be joined by two guards who accompanied them through a maze until they reached a bank of elevators. They were again scanned and entered to be drawn down to enter a giant space whose walls were covered in monitors with people at desks with controls observing what was transpiring in multiple areas of the country and the whole of North Korea through satellite transmissions. They were marched to a board room where people of rank sat in discussion looking up briefly as they entered. The ranked officers studied Jin Ae curiously as Cho appeared and sat beside her offering no comment. The officers spoke and Cho translated when it was indicated she should. Jin Ae was surprised to hear her brother joining the conversation in Korean and Cho smiled as she saw her friend’s reaction.

To be continued

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© Copyright 2021 Ian Grice, “ianscyberspace.” All rights reserved

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