A few months ago, a similar situation occurred. A subtle tension filled the classroom. If this were a movie set, the camera director would have captured the homeroom teacher’s face in a reverse-angle shot, just like last time.
“Today, we have the third-highest ranked student in the entire school from our class.”
However, unlike before, the homeroom teacher’s expression was different. It was not a suspicious look. Instead, it was a look of pride and admiration, like facing a mature son. The reaction of the classmates was also different.
“Jang Yeongguk, congratulations!”
It was no wonder, as Man of August had just aired. Dismissing people’s concerns, the successful debut work of PD Yoo Myeonghan and Writer Choi Eunsuk made a strong impression. Already, there were talks of an extension, and not only were the ratings good, but the viewers’ reviews were also quite favorable. And how about the boy?
People often call it a meteoric rise to stardom, although it’s a story limited to the small area of Yeongdo. The child actor’s part had already passed, and the adult actors were now on the stage, but the people of Namhang, including the boy’s classmates, couldn’t forget his passionate performance.
“Jang Yeongguk, come with me to the headteacher’s office for a moment.”
At the homeroom teacher’s call, the classmates’ faces showed a hint of disappointment. After all, during break times, the boy often received letters and chocolates from unknown female students. It seemed to be because of the character Kim Hajin’s fondness for chocolate in Man of August. Having never experienced love in his past life, the feeling of being loved like this wasn’t so bad.
“Hey, stop standing like a statue and sit down.”
Like before, the homeroom teacher leaned on a chair when they arrived at the headteacher’s office. He gave the boy a peculiar look. It wasn’t an unpleasant stare. It felt more like a bonsai enthusiast admiring a rare tree.
“Are you satisfied with your grades this time?”
“Not extremely satisfied, but it’s not bad either.”
“You’re being greedy, kid.”
It wasn’t a lie. Although the third-highest rank in the school was a surprising result, he wasn’t entirely content. After all, it was only a middle school exam. The lack of differentiation meant that ranks were often determined by a difference of just one or two questions. However, he wasn’t upset, as there was still room for improvement.
“Hey, do you know how much of a headache you’ve caused your teacher lately? The girls write you letters and bring you chocolates every day, and the boys go to the water fountain during break time to fill their water bottles, just like they’ve seen you do. If they get diarrhea or something, it’ll be my problem.”
“I’m sorry about that.”
“You’re so serious about everything. It’s no fun. In the drama, you played a lot of pranks on your teacher. There’s no such thing as a childlike old man here. Anyway, have you finished the study guide I gave you last time?”
The homeroom teacher reluctantly handed over a shopping bag. Inside were study guides and stationery.
“Your fan gave this to you as a gift, so study hard with these.”
He was taken aback. After Man of August aired, he received many chocolates but never received a gift like this. As he bowed his head deeply and was about to leave, the homeroom teacher took out a sheet of paper and a marker.
“Hey! Before you go, give me an autograph.”
Homeroom teacher Kim Bongdu scratched his nose awkwardly.
“I’m a huge fan of Yeongguk.”
* * *
Didn’t they say that a rumor without legs travels a thousand miles? I’m not sure where the rumor started, but the number of tourists at Namhang Market exceeded weekends despite being weekdays. It was so crowded that it felt like people were being pushed along as they walked.
“Here it is! Hajin, I’m going to buy this and this. Can you take a picture with me?”
“Of course! You came all the way here, so it is wrong if I didn’t take a picture with you! Don’t worry, and take your time looking around!”
“Wow, all the fish look so fresh! I don’t know which one to choose.”
“Namhang is famous for its great water quality, so the fish are so lively even after being caught! If you can’t decide, I’ll pick a good one for you! Buy a few extra and treat your whole family!”
The power of broadcast could be felt. The market was too crowded for merchants to actively attract customers, but people still approached them to buy fish. The smiles on the merchants’ faces didn’t fade. It was like experiencing the Lunar New Year. They even joked that there was no need for a warehouse to store the fish. The port was bustling with activity, and the sound of banquets never ceased.
“Chairman, where are you going without doing business? And why is the chairman of Jagalchi Market standing next to you? What’s going on today?”
“Don’t you know? Today is like a rebirth for Namhang Market!”
“What’s that rolled-up thing you’re carrying?”
“You’ll see! It’s a banner to promote our pride, the son of Namhang!”
Even the chairman of Jagalchi Market considered a brother to Namhang, joined in. After the drama aired, people from all over the country flocked to Namhang Market and Jagalchi Market without distinction. As a result, a banner with the boy’s face was hung at the entrance of both markets. He unintentionally became the mascot of the two markets.
“Jang Yeongguk, if only days like this keep repeating, I feel like I’ll suffocate from all the blessings! Even the tea house owner down the street is lamenting because all his regular elderly customers are gone, but look how crowded it is these days! The tea house’s boiler is working nonstop! The town hall, the market, all should bow down to our Jang Yeongguk!”
The district office had always prepared annual events and festivals to attract tourists, but they had never been this successful. Exaggerating a bit, if the boy ran for election now, he could easily beat most politicians. Just then,
“Sir! Are you here alone? Take your time choosing! The fishes in this red bowl are amazing! They say you can eat two without even realizing one is missing!”
“That’s not it…”
“Are you looking for a restaurant? Go straight ahead and turn right. There’s a restaurant right there! No matter what you choose to eat, you’ll think you made a great choice coming to Namhang! Oh, and mention Jang Yeongguk’s name before you order, and you’ll have a great meal!”
“Please take this!”
Oddly enough, it was an old, thick envelope.
“Yeongguk, what are you looking at?”
In a small, cramped room that resembled a hat’s nest, it had been a long time since the dust had settled thickly, but the boy’s eyes were focused intently on one spot. Quite a few people related to broadcasting stations were among the out-of-towners visiting Namhang Market. Several PDs from current affairs and culture stations had approached the boy, wanting to film him doing his business. Still, he refused and sent them away multiple times, not feeling interested.
“Is that what that person gave you earlier?”
“Yes, he seems to be a college student studying film.”
“Yeongguk, seeing you so focused like this, that young man must be quite a skilled writer.”
He was a person who had made a name for himself as a scriptwriter in his past life. Hearing the name of the college, Yeongguk could vaguely recognize it. Although he was just an ordinary young man now, in a decade or so, actors would eagerly seek to work with him to get their names in the credits of his works. Yet, he seemed more interested in directing than writing now. It appears that no one can predict the future in this world.
“Yeongguk, are you interested?”
“No, I’m just looking at it because it’s fun. It’s pure.”
As the word suggests, independent films stimulate a peculiar charm. Compared to commercial films, the production costs are ridiculously low, and established actors are hard to find. The screening time is no more than an hour at most, and it must contain all wit and philosophy.
Someone once said that the essence of a work comes from the artist’s hunger. Filming an independent film is like a short-distance sprint. The production period is as short as a week and as long as a month. All passion must be burned within that time. The concept of equivalent exchange is meaningless, as there is, of course, no profit. It’s simply about transforming one’s pure passion into a work of art.
“I don’t even know if I’ll appear in it, but he came all the way from Seoul without hesitation. He was so nervous when he handed me the envelope that his hands shook. I guess everyone had a time when they were as pure as that college student. That’s probably why I’m more drawn to it.”
The boy also had such passion in his past life. Like an untainted sky, he was filled with a pure passion for acting during that time. Reminiscing about those days, his mother added, seeing her son’s naturally blooming, innocent smile.
“Son, I wish you could do everything you want to do. Studying is good, and doing business is not bad either. But I like it best when Yeongguk is acting.”
“Yeongguk, do you remember? When your father went out to fish, catching the morning dew, we would wait for him to return, crouching down at the port, watching him carefully. When your father returned with a full boat, your face would light up with a smile, and you would be the first to run to him and hug him. Your father’s expression then was just like yours now. I can’t describe how happy and proud I felt seeing our son on TV, reciting lines.”
The mother hugged her son.
“It feels so good, like watching your father return from fishing with a full boat.”
* * *
Before the morning dew had even disappeared, the sound of rummaging through the wardrobe filled the room, typical of Busan. Kim Seonghwan, the CEO, carefully put on the shirt his wife had neatly ironed the night before. However, his light-sleeping wife couldn’t possibly know about it.
With a drowsy voice, Kim Seonghwan’s eyes were filled with more joy than ever as he looked at his lovely wife.
“Myeongja, are you awake? Don’t worry about it, and go back to sleep. I have to go on a business trip today.”
“A business trip? You didn’t mention that yesterday.”
“Can a fisherman not go to catch a big fish?”
He replied with an awkward dialect he had learned in Yeongdo. Kim Seonghwan felt as if the boy’s voice he had heard the night before was still ringing in his head. At first, he blinked his eyes several times, wondering if he had accidentally picked up the phone while half asleep.
– “CEO, I’ll do it.”
“Jang Yeongguk? What are you going to do?”
The following answer made Kim Seonghwan feel as if his sleepiness had instantly vanished. It was not a shock as if cold water had been poured on him, but a heartwarming emotion as if he had heard the first cry of a newborn baby.
– “I’ll act!”
He had stayed up all night with his eyes wide open. His heart raced, and his feet were restless as if he had met his first love again. Or maybe it was the feeling he had when he went on his first school trip as a child. He couldn’t sleep a wink because of the tingling excitement on his face.
“Hold on, where are you going on your business trip?”
Kim Seonghwan gave his wife a loud kiss on her forehead as she rubbed her eyes adorably, then immediately grabbed his car keys and left. The old car, which was hardly suitable for a CEO, made a cheerful cry as it started. If someone unfamiliar heard it, they might mistake it for the sound of a light airplane.
“Ah, there should be some warmth!”
The small, cramped room where the mother and son lived was far from spacious. Although there was warmth, he wanted to provide an even more comfortable and perfect haven. The dinner table for that day appeared before his eyes countless times. The boy’s acting echoed in his head like a lingering sound, making him pick up and put down the phone so many times that his hand hurt. However, they say that waiting brings good fortune, and that point is not wrong.
– “There’s no choice but to hope that the locked door will open on its own!”
The locked door finally opened. There was no more time to wait for the first train. His heart raced as if it was about to break. Some might say that as a businessman, the investment value was absolutely zero. But how can one measure the value of an actor’s life? He knew that art was something whose value could not be measured.
“Yeongdo, wait for me! I’m coming!”
The old car moved forward, letting out a cheerful cry. Just as the lighthouse illuminated the coast, the rising dawn guided him.
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