Chapter 5 Step by Step (Part 1)


“What, high schoolers starting a business?”


In those days, every family had at least one relative who had failed in business, so Sang-du was shocked.


“Hey, Sang-du, if you don't like it, don't join.
Just get lost.
What about the rest of you? Once we have some money, we could even drink imported liquor occasionally.”


Dong-pal, who had been quietly listening, swallowed his saliva.


The image of the distasteful turtle ship flavored soju in his head vanished.


Instead, a vision of fresh 88 cigarettes, beer, and beef and pork ribs unfolded before him.


“I don't care if Sang-du isn't doing it.
I'm in.
I'll join Yi Geon's business.”


“Then I'll join too.
Honestly, from the beginning, it felt like there was something special about it.”


After Dong-pal, Sang-il impulsively joined in as well.


The excitement of their young age was just as expected.


Then, unexpectedly, one more person joined.


can I join too?”


“Min-seok, you too? Is that alright? You sometimes will have to skip classes and don't even show up to school.”


that's true.”


Min-seok was conflicted.


This was a bit difficult.


As Min-seok, who sat next to Yi Geon, knew how important high school grades were to one's life.


Yi Geon rested his chin on his hand and contemplated for a moment.


For those like Sang-du and Dong-pal who weren't particularly interested in studying, it would be fine to openly have them skip school and exploit their labor.


However, Min-seok was a student who diligently studied.


If he skipped school and classes every day, his high school grades could be the worst and ruin his life.


Then Min-seok's parents might come after him, blaming Yi Geon for ruining their child.


For kids who preferred playing over studying, like the gang from the first meeting, they could be openly used and exploited in various ways.


But it was truly unexpected that Min-seok wanted to join.


Since they didn't know about the IMF crisis that would hit in just four years, Min-seok would think that he should go to a good university rather than make money right now.


If only they knew about the IMF crisis and what Yi Geon had done during his first life, the decision would have been much easier.


Unfortunately, Yi Geon couldn't tell them about what had happened in his previous life.


If he did, they would think he was insane.


Still, it was necessary to respect the courageous decision that could potentially ruin one's life.


So, deciding to join while taking on the risk, Min-seok, being timid by nature, cautiously asked Yi Geon.


Geon, are you confident you can succeed in business?”


Suddenly, Yi Geon felt drained.


In his previous life, he was known as a nationwide business expert in the underworld.


Even the leaders of successful local gangs bowed 90 degrees, begging him to handle their subcontract work.


“Huh~ Confident? Only complete noobs who know nothing say they're confident.”


“Then, what about you?”


“Business is 70% luck, 30% skill.
Will I die in the ring after being hit by a counterpunch? Or will I knock out those bastards and take everything? That's the gamble, fighting it out in the ring.
It's a game where you could die at any moment.
Even if you come from the future, know everything about it, and can read the situation, it's still dangerous, as your opponent may unexpectedly take advantage of your carelessness through some unforeseen method or luck.”


Yi Geon gave a response infused with the painful life experiences from his first life.


However, to these high school freshmen, it sounded like a somewhat unrelated and abstract remark.


Still, it seemed insightful enough that Min-seok, based on the 1993 standards, made a decision he couldn't fully understand.


“Count me in, then, Geon.”


“Are you really going to do it?”






“But why?”


Sang-du, Sang-il, and Dong-pal, all members of the circle, tilted their heads in confusion.


On the one hand, they were worried that they might have led Min-seok down the path of corruption.


Even though they were members of a violent school circle, they couldn't help but fear their first-year homeroom teacher's outbursts.


If Min-seok was a student who diligently studied, it would be even more concerning.


Yi Geon had already made up his mind, so he patted Min-seok's shoulder and scowled.


“If you're going to do it, make up your mind and be sure about it.
Don't regret it if you end up failing in the middle and achieving nothing.
Make up your mind!”




“Alright, then.
I have to go to the bathroom.
See you at lunchtime.”




Sang-il and Sang-du watched Yi Geon leave the classroom.


“Wow, that guy's got charisma.”


“It's even more annoying because of that charisma.
Are we supposed to become his underlings now?” Said Sang-du, who was quick to grasp the situation.


“If we follow Yi Geon's lead and get into business, will we always have to have meat side dishes and 88 cigarettes?” Dong-pal, who couldn't read the room, suddenly butted in.


“Seriously, can't you read the atmosphere? You glutton.”




Sang-il, who looked at Dong-pal with disdain, turned away and left the classroom first.


And so, the initial members gathered for Yi Geon's business venture, which began for the sake of eating meat side dishes.


From the next day, Yi Geon and the members set out to explore Seoul's street culture.


In contrast to the quiet and serene Seoul of 2030,


the atmosphere of Seoul's 1993 night streets was akin to a mental ward filled with patients suffering from loosened screws.


To put it nicely, it was a space filled with people who looked inexplicably happy.


The incredibly lively and bright expressions of people.


The noisy music filling the streets.


High school girls giggling and laughing out loud, finding something amusing.


Women wearing revealing clothing that would be unimaginable in 2030.


Groups of well-dressed people with loose-fit black pants, chrome belt buckles, and dress shoes.


The fast-paced necktie brigade.


'Did Koreans always have such bright expressions?'



Between the 2010s and 2030s, their appearance contrasted starkly with the emotionless and dull people.


Though the atmosphere was lively and beautiful, thanks to the gap between the times, the fashion, when compared to that of 2030, appeared to be slightly outdated on average.


Even so, there were some forward-looking aspects to the fashion of the time, such as the subtly hip Chrome Hearts-inspired accessories and the daring see-through fashion of the party-going women.


‘Wow, this is great.
Braless see-through fashion.’


In 2030, that would be considered public indecency, resulting in a trip to the police station.
But was it allowed in this era?


Two women wore such daring outfits as their street fashion.




For a moment, Yi Geon felt as if he were in downtown Miami or a Californian resort.


The atmosphere was very generous when it came to showing off the upper body.


Yi Geon thought that the fashion of '93 wasn't too far behind after all.


However, the hairstyles were generally shoddy, likely due to inferior hair design and cutting techniques.


“Sang-du, is there nowhere fun around here?”


“It's not great, really.
Since it's on the outskirts of Seoul, the atmosphere is too quiet.
The music isn't that great either.
Shin Seung-hun and Blue Sky are dropping from the charts, and Noise, who just released their new song, is now popular.”


“No way, Kang Geon-mo is the best.
Long hair, long skirt~ (if played further, copyright issues)~ Just play Geon-mo's song.
The music here is too boring; only quiet songs are playing.”


In the middle of it all, Sang-du and Sang-il argued about their musical preferences.


Yi Geon couldn't understand it.


The streets were almost as noisy as a club.


“Do you call this quiet? It seems like the police station would arrest you for noise complaints right away.”


“What are you talking about? Who would arrest someone for playing music on the street?”


“Ah, there were no street noise restrictions or performance copyright laws in this era.
Not like the time when stores had to pay for each person who listened to music.”


“What are you talking about?”


Sang-il thought Yi Geon kept saying strange things.


He would blabber about things that didn't exist.


Then, he would be quiet for a while, deep in thought.


“As expected, there's nothing trendy or worth taking from the outskirts of Seoul.
And the tattooed gangsters around here are somewhat annoying.”


Seeing the large, tattooed men going in and out of various stores, perhaps to collect money, it seemed that the gangsters were more active in public than in 2030.


In other words, it was a time when fists took precedence over the law, creating an insecure atmosphere.


“Ah, I'm so hungry.
Geon, what do you want to eat?”


“Alright, let's get some snacks or something.”


“I'll buy the snacks.”


Sang-il opened his wallet at the snack bar.


Slightly loosened ramen with an egg, pickled radish, and kimbap.


It was a typical snack, but it tasted strangely good, maybe because his body had changed.


“The ramen here is pretty good.”


“Really? I think it's just average, just ramen.”


“The soup is quite tasty too, ah! It's 1993 now.”


“Ah, it's so annoying.” Yi Geon is starting again with his strange talk.


“It's 1993 now, not 1992, okay?”


‘Ah, that's right.
Sang-il could be correct.
Ramen in this era is full of MSG flavor, so it couldn't possibly taste bad.’


Even if the basic noodle cooking skill was somewhat lacking, the ramen had to be delicious.


After slurping down a bowl of ramen, Dong-pal stared at Yi Geon for a long time.


“So, Yi Geon, when do you start the business?”


“First, I'll look into the Seoul cultural trends for about a week and secure funding as a priority.
Min-seok, are you doing well with the fundraising documents?”


“Yeah, I talked to the literary creation department about that, and I'm printing them on circle paper.
It takes some time to print 1,000 copies, three pages each, so 3,000 pages in total.”


“Alright? Print as many as you can for now.
We'll need them by the weekend.”


“Got it.”


After wandering around Hwagok-dong for a few days, excluding Apgujeong-dong, they toured downtown Seoul, including Gangnam Station and Bangbae-dong.


Yi Geon was particularly impressed with Bangbae-dong.


He had never expected it, but the place had given him a cultural shock beyond his imagination.


'I saw on the internet that there was a place called Café Alley 40 years ago.
It's more of a culture shock than I expected.'


The Café Alley in Bangbae-dong had a strong vibe reminiscent of the bustling streets of Tokyo in the mid-to-late 2010s.


It seemed like there wasn't such a liberal and creative entertainment district even in 2030.


Although he didn't know why Café Alley suddenly disappeared, Yi Geon was able to extract quite a few decent business ideas from there.


'The singers and planners who were influenced by playing in Apgujeong-dong and Bangbae-dong Café Alley must have been ahead of their time in the 21st century.
The owners of the KPOP big three agencies and the X generation's influence in arts and culture are enormous.
Most entertainment agency CEOs grew based on the culture of Apgujeong and Gangnam.'


When comparing the entertainment district of Hwagok-dong and the Café Alley of Bangbae-dong, the trend level itself seemed to be two steps ahead, as if they were playing in entirely different waters.


Having grown up absorbing this culture, it would have been natural for them to take over the art world.


Just as native English-speaking kindergarteners and international school tech students took the elite course in politics and business through early admissions, the environment given to a person makes their level.


Although he would look around the Apgujeong-dong area, the ultimate winner of this era, when he had time, for now, just scanning Bangbae-dong was overwhelming enough to organize his thoughts.


At least, he had no trouble finding the first-step business item to fatten up his size.


The Café Alley had a small space but held tremendous potential, being both quaint and charming.


The unique mini-shops tucked away between the alleys, which could solve their miscellaneous needs, had a slight Japanese Ura-Namba vibe.


One couldn't help but be captivated by this quaint atmosphere.


“Wow, there are so many great places to eat in Bangbae-dong's alleyways.
I want to come back here again.
The food is delicious.”


“If our business goes well and we have time, we'll come here often.
Then, for the second phase of the business briefing, we'll penetrate Apgujeong-dong, using Bangbae-dong's café alley as our base.
Later, we should set up an office near the café alley here or in Apgujeong.”


“Sounds good.”


“We definitely need to have an office in Gangnam.
It's easy to access information and find people.”


“Oh, Sang-il knows something.”


Yi Geon thought that Sang-il had an instinctive sense when it came to work.


While academic performance could be improved through effort, it was difficult to develop such animal-like instincts later in life.


At first glance, one might think it's better to set up an office on the outskirts of Seoul where the rent is cheap.


But that would only be true after the 2010s when the entire area was leveled due to bulldozer redevelopment, like the Gangbuk Newtown in Seoul.


Now, in this pre-information age where nothing can be done online, it is advantageous for a new business to be located in the heart of Seoul to absorb talent and information.


Sang-il might have been involved in a violent circle, but he had used his head before and had an eye for seeing things.

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