The crowds at Gangneung Oval roared with excitement. The Pyeongchang Olympics had so far been a rousing success, and this was one of the most hotly anticipated events of all: men’s speed skating. South Korea had experienced great success in the sport in recent years, and the fact that a local boy sat atop the leaderboard had brought the crowd’s emotions to a fever pitch. Just two skaters remained, guaranteeing their hometown hero no worse than a bronze medal.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome our final pairing for the men’s 1500-meter speed skate,” said the announcer, speaking first in French, then English, and finally in Korean. “In the inner lane, representing the United States of America, Scott Erickson.”
At the starting line, Scott gave a quick wave to the cheering crowd, making sure to keep his mind focused on the task at hand. He was in excellent shape, as one would expect from an Olympian, but he still couldn’t believe he found himself in this position. Scott wasn’t the greatest speed skater, lacking the explosive power to compete in the shorter events and not being quite lean enough to last in the longer races, but he had found a niche in skating the 1500-meter races. His athletic build placed him right in-between sprinters and marathon skaters, strong enough to get good starts yet still able to last the length of the race.
“And in the outer lane, representing the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Moon Se-jun,” the announcer continued.
Though crowd gave Scott a warm reception, their response to the North Korean skater was decidedly more tepid. Most South Koreans were relieved that the games had progressed without incident, thanks in large part to their own government’s desire to have many North Korean representatives present at the games, but tensions remained high. Still, most of the athletes received at least polite cheers; everyone realized that North Korea’s athletes were fighting for more than just Olympic glory. They were potentially fighting for their lives. Any embarrassment during the games would not end well once they returned home to face Kim Jong-un. Still, one section was almost hysterical in their jubilation as Se-jun stepped up to the starting line next to Scott.
“There they are,” Scott chuckled to himself.
Since the day the Olympics began, the American media had fawned over the large squad of cheerleaders North Korea had sent to support their athletes. Wherever they went, the gaggle of young ladies was impossible to miss. They were young, pretty, enthusiastic, and highly coordinated. Of course, Scott knew damn well their devotion had to stem from years of brainwashing. The way the media fell over themselves to praise their routines sickened him; they were playing right into the hands of the North Korean propaganda machine. Shaking his head, Scott forced these thoughts from his mind. After Scott took his mark, the starting gun sounded and the two skaters were off.
To the casual observer, speed skating might seem an uncomplicated sport; the fastest skater wins the race. In reality, there was an enormous amount of strategy to such a simple race. For Scott, he had a strong preference for long track as opposed to the more popular short track. In short track, anywhere between three and six skaters would race at once, confined to laps around a hockey rink. This cramped space created frequent collisions and penalties; a clean short track race was a rare feat, and racers were often disqualified as such. But in long track, only two skaters raced at a time, one in each lane of the larger oval track. On the back stretch of every lap, the skaters switched lanes to equalize their distances, but even with this swap, collisions were quite rare. Scott liked it that way; it meant the most skilled skater won more often than not and minimized the risk of being disqualified due to an accidental collision.
As Scott and Se-jun took off, each displayed their unique strategy. Se-jun was built like a sprinter; the 1500-meter race was his longest possible race. As such, he exploded off the line with as much strength and power as he could muster. Scott, on the other hand, focused on his technique, attaining a full extension of his legs with each push he gave. He was not in the lead to start with, but this strategy had given him great consistency during his short career. Approaching the first curve, Scott began to show off his greatest advantage in the sport: his balance. He was able to get so low to the ground on the curves and maintain a consistently high speed that it sometimes felt to Scott as if he were racing in the Indy 500. The forces on his body as he whipped around the oval sure felt that way. By this time, he had caught back up with Se-jun, though Scott knew the North Korean excelled in the straightaways.
Coming out of the second curve to finish their first lap, Scott and Se-jun were neck-and-neck, forcing Scott to let up a bit as they swapped lanes. In long track skating, the skater swapping from the outside lane to the inside always had the right of way, but this still provided Scott a perfect opportunity to skate directly behind Se-jun for part of the lap, gaining a speed boost from his draft. As long as he was back in his proper lane by the time he reached the curve, this was well within the rules. While Se-jun set up for his turn, the crowd cheered in surprise as Scott zoomed ahead from the draft and rocketed around the curve at breakneck speed. Unbeknownst to Scott, he was demolishing the time of the South Korean who currently led the field, yet the crowd was loving it all the same.
Two laps later, the pair entered their final lap. The crowd watched with baited breath, seeing the American still just ahead of the record previously set by the South Korean. All the while, Se-jun remained just a half second behind. Seeing that their man could defy the odds and win an Olympic medal, the Army of Beauties erupted into a cheer, chanting Se-jun’s name. Se-jun started the lap by drafting behind Scott, gaining a speed boost as Scott had done earlier in the race. His speed was incredible, but he still lacked control on the curves this late into a longer race, and he began to fall behind again on the final turn. At last, the two skaters crossed the finish line to the deafening roar of the crowd in Gangnueng Oval.
“And now for the results,” said the announcer. “With a time of 1:44.25, Scott Erickson is now in first place and has won the gold medal for the United States of America!”
Scott lowered the hood of his racing suit and stared in disbelief. He had never expected to medal, let alone win the gold, yet the time was there in front of his face. He was an official gold medalist!
“And with a time of 1:44.80, Moon Se-jun is in third place, capturing the bronze medal for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea! Your silver medalist is Kim Sang-han from the Republic of Korea!”
At that point, Scott couldn’t have cared less what country Se-jun came from; he had just medaled when every expert predicted he would finish well outside the top five! Turning to the North Korean, Scott smiled and extended a hand.
“Usuhan jongjog!” he said, roughly translating to, “Hell of a race!”
Se-jun cocked his head and gave a lopsided grin as he shook Scott’s hand. “You speak Korean?” he asked in slow yet clear English.
“I do. My grandmother was born here. You speak English?”
“Yes,” said Se-jun. “Dear Leader wants us to be able to communicate our great nation’s ideals across all tongues.”
“Ah, I see,” Scott replied, trying to be as polite as possible. Thankfully, Se-jun’s handler arrived at that moment and whisked him back to his coaches. Still, Scott couldn’t help but smile at the elation on Se-jun’s face; perhaps he had earned a better life for himself and his family back home.
The rest of the day was a blur of activity for Scott. His coach nearly crushed him with a bear hug and his parents couldn’t have been more thrilled with his victory. It seemed odd to him that Tom, his identical twin brother, wasn’t with them, but they assured him that Tom was just feeling a bit ill and was glued to the TV in his hotel room. As evening drew near, there were interviews and press conferences galore, followed by the medal ceremony itself. As a former member of the U.S. Army, Scott had heard more than a few renditions of The Star-Spangled Banner in his day, but this one almost made him tear up. Almost.
As Scott left the final party for U.S. athletes before the Closing Ceremony the next day, he grabbed his phone and typed up a text message to his brother.
“Hey, Doofus. You still playing sick, or can I actually come by and rub your nose in this gold medal of mine?”
“That’s not much incentive for me to be well if I’m indeed ‘playing’ sick,” came the reply.
“But yeah, I’ll be up for a while. Stop on by.”
“Cool. See ya soon.”
With that, Scott began to walk the two blocks back to his hotel. The night was bitter cold, as were most in Pyeongchang, but the thrill from actually winning a gold medal during these games was more than enough to keep him warm. As he approached the hotel entrance, Scott could have sworn he heard a struggle of some sort coming from a side alley. Though his first inclination was to keep his head down and move on, hearing a few choice words and the yelp of a female voice changed his mind.
“Ssi-bal nyeon!“ came a rough male voice.
Now, Scott’s grandmother had taught the entire family to speak Korean, but she would have never taught any of them such language, the equivalent of “fucking bitch.” But when Scott was studying Korean as a thirteen-year-old boy, it was only natural for him to seek out curse words in said language. Scott took a deep breath and allowed his military instincts to rule his senses as he rounded the corner into the alley. He expected to come across a mugging of some sort, but the actual scene before him was far more confusing. He saw a young college-aged woman lying on the ground in a crumpled heap. Standing over her was not a mugger, but a young man about his age wearing a coat bearing the North Korean flag. There was no way this was going to end well, but he had no capability to walk away from a defenseless girl in need.
“Jungji!“ Scott shouted, demanding the man stop.
The man turned in surprise, expecting to find a local behind him, but instead, he saw a man wearing a United States Olympian coat.
“Go away!” he spat in English. “This does not concern you!”
Scott studied the North Korean for a moment. He supposed this man thought himself intimidating, what with the scar across his cheek and a larger than average build for a Korean, but Scott had seen far worse. He wasn’t afraid of this punk.
Ignoring the man, Scott asked the girl if she was hurt. “Neo sangcheo ib-eoss ni?“
After a moment, she stirred and looked up with her brown eyes, mascara running down her cheeks from her tears.
“Please ... help,” she said weakly. “I wish ... to ... defect...”
“Shut up! Geol-le-gat-eun-nyeon!“ said the North Korean man, kicking her in the face for good measure.
That did it. Not only had he called the girl the dirtiest of all whores, but now the man was physically assaulting her. While the man still had his back turned, Scott stepped forward and latched his hand around the man’s wrist. The North Korean retaliated in an instant, spinning around and attempting a swing with his other hand, but Scott was ready for the telegraphed move. After ducking under the North Korean’s punch, Scott stunned him with a punch to the gut. This allowed him to twist his arm behind his back and pin the man against the brick wall of the hotel. The man tried to struggle for a moment, but one further twist of his arm quashed that effort.
“Apologize to the lady,” Scott growled.
“Kaesaekki,” he seethed.
“You can call me an S.O.B. all you want, but you will apologize to the lady. Now! Sugnyeoege sagwahada!“ Scott repeated in Korean, ensuring there was no misunderstanding.
As the pain increased, the North Korean eked out, “Nae moyog-e sagwahanda.“
“Good boy,” Scott replied with a grin. “Now, get out of here!” he continued, tossing the soldier onto his ass.
“You will regret this,” he muttered.
“I don’t think so,” said Scott, standing over the man with his fists at the ready. “Oh, and don’t even think of going for a weapon. I felt you up, there; you’ve got a pistol in your coat and a knife in the small of your back. You’ll be a mass of bruises before you can even touch them. Just leave.”
The man growled, “You meddlesome-”
“GET OUT! If I ever see you near her again, I’ll kill you myself!”
Scott and the North Korean stared each other down for several long seconds, each waiting for the other to make a move. Were this a fair fight, the North Korean knew he would likely have the advantage in hand-to-hand combat, but Scott had gotten the drop on him from behind. Worse, he knew where the North Korean had his weapons on him, leaving him without his own element of surprise. Whoever this American was, he had considerable combat knowledge. As much as the North Korean hated to admit it, reengaging him now would be a foolhardy attempt. With a final glare, the man stood and jogged off into the night.
“He’s gone. You’re safe now,” he said to her, keeping one eye on the entrance to the alley in case the goon returned.
In a flash, the girl lunged forward on the ground, wrapping her arms around Scott’s ankles. “Brave American, I ask your pity!” she said, her English clearly heard even through her tears. “I seek asylum with your leaders! Please!”
Moved by her emotional plea, Scott knelt down and gently helped the girl to her feet, tilting her head to look him in the eyes as he did so. He made sure to give a warm smile for her, letting her know that he would do her no harm. Once she was up, he saw the bump on her forehead from where the soldier had kicked her, along with the subsequent gash from where her head had struck the concrete.
“Please...” she whispered once more.
Nodding, Scott said, “Come with me. I’ll call the right people who can help you, but first, we need to take care of that gash.”
Taking her hand, Scott led the girl with haste through the empty hotel lobby and to the elevator. As they ascended, he pulled his cellphone from his pocket and dialed the first speed dial option. During the briefing that all the athletes had received before traveling to Pyeongchang, several things had been made clear to them on avoiding international incidents. These games represented goodwill and a casting aside of differences, after all, and they were considered ambassadors of the United States. Their handlers had spoken to them of the possibility of defectors, but Scott had never imagined it would actually happen to him. Raising the phone to his ear, he waited for his handler and best friend from his army days to answer.
“Scott! What’s up, my man?”
“Hey, Willie. I need your help; got a bit of a situation here.”
“Situation? Is something wrong?”
“I ... I met this girl. She says she’s from North Korea and that she wants to defect.”
“Holy shit ... where are you now?”
“At my hotel. When I found her, she was being beaten by some goon with a North Korean flag on his uniform, I’m guessing her handler. I’m taking her up to the first aid kit in my room.”
“Ok, treat her wounds and stay there. I’ll get my boss and we’ll head over, maybe thirty minutes ETA. You good ‘til then?”
“Yeah, we’ll be fine. Thanks, Willie.”
“And Scott, no matter how much you believe her, don’t turn your back on her for a second. We still need to check her out.”
“Will do.” As he hung up, he said to the girl, “My boss is coming. He can help you.”
On the way down the hall, Scott stopped to grab a bucket of ice from the vending area, figuring it would help her head. Soon, they arrived at his door.
“Come in. Let’s get your head taken care of,” Scott said, ushering her in.
She only nodded and took a seat at the small table in the corner. The poor girl was still dazed from her run-in down in the alleyway. After placing some of the ice in a plastic bag, Scott handed it to her and instructed her to hold it against the forming bump on her head. Next, he cleaned a small amount of blood from her wound with a bit of gauze from the first aid kit before reaching for the disinfectant.
“This may sting,” he said, moving the cotton ball to her wound.
The girl recoiled a bit from the medicine, but her body soon began to relax, allowing Scott to bandage her wound with some gauze and tape.
“How does that feel?”
“Better,” she admitted.
Taking a seat in the chair across from her, Scott said, “My name is Scott Erickson. Who are you?”
“Park Chin-sun,” she replied with a tiny smile. “You may call me Chin-sun, Erickson Ssi.”
Recognizing the honorific, Scott answered, “And you can call me Scott.”
“Scott,” Chin-sun nodded. “Thank you ... you saved my life.”
“I’m just happy you’re safe.”
In spite of Chin-sun’s injuries, Scott was struck by her beauty. She appeared two or three years younger than him, perhaps twenty or twenty-one, with a youthful face and a warm smile. Her skin was a gorgeous shade of porcelain, standing in stark contrast to her long black hair, which was tied into a low ponytail with a red ribbon. This suggested that she came from a relatively wealthy family by North Korean standards. The notion was further reinforced by the fact that she did not appear malnourished in the least; her body was fit and toned. This brought about an ominous realization in Scott’s mind: if someone so affluent wanted to defect from North Korea so badly, things there must be worse than he had ever imagined. At that moment, Scott recognized the red and blue jogging suit she wore.
“Have I seen you at some of the games?” he asked.
“Yes! I saw you race against Moon Se-jun!” Chin-sun replied, at last recognizing Scott from the speed skating finals. “I am captain of the Spirit Ambassadors. You have seen us?”
“I have. You and your friends put on quite a show,” said Scott, trying to be polite.
“Oh ... yes. It is a show,” Chin-sun said, her face becoming sad. “We look so happy and excited, do we not? But inside...”
“They treat you badly, don’t they?” Scott realized.
Chin-sun nodded. “It is our purpose to promote Juche, the ways of our homeland. We are instructed to capture the hearts of our enemies, to show them how wonderful our ways can be, and especially the wonders of Dear Leader Kim Jong-un,” she said, emphasizing her last words with clear disgust. “But there is a great darkness in our group. The other girls, they are trained into absolute obedience, even when none of our overseers are present. There was one time when we were riding in our bus and everyone started screaming for the driver to stop. I at last saw what they were screaming about: there was a poster with a picture of Dear Leader on it that had been left out in the rain. These girls think, ‘how could anyone allow an image of Dear Leader to become wet?’ and they form a human ladder to take it down and bring it inside...”
“I’m sorry,” said Scott. “You don’t have to talk about it anymore if you don’t want to. I don’t want to bring up bad memories.”
“I assume your leaders will wish to hear of it, yes?”
“Maybe, but that’s their decision,” Scott shrugged. “I just want to help you however I can.”
“You are very kind,” Chin-sun said with tiny smile. “Down in the alley, you spoke Korean very well. Where did you learn?”
“My grandmother,” Scott replied. “She was born here in South Korea. My grandfather fought in the Korean War and met her during his time here. They fell in love and she decided to return to America and marry him, eventually having my dad. She taught us all to speak Korean, said we needed to learn a second language.”
“So wonderful!” Chin-sun smiled. “She is still with you?”
“Yep, she and my grandfather are still alive and well, and stubborn as ever.”
“Hmm ... it seems strange,” Chin-sun said. “Your grandmother is Korean, but you look very American.”
“My dad definitely looks half-Korean, but my mom is your typical blonde-haired blue-eyed American girl,” Scott explained. “I got a lot of my looks from her side of the family, but if you look closely, you can see the Korean in me.”
As Scott spoke, Chin-sun saw exactly what he meant. He was tall like many American men, perhaps six feet in height, but she could now see the subtleties he was talking about. His jaw was rather prominent and his face thin, as it was with many Korean men. He also had the high cheekbones and smaller eyes common amongst her people. His short dirty blonde hair certainly helped mask these traits, but now that she knew what to look for, his Korean heritage was clear as day. One other thing that was clear as day was his appearance; Chin-sun couldn’t deny that he was a handsome young man. Just looking at him like this was making her squirm in her seat, forcing her to look away to maintain her composure.
“I have to say, your English is impeccable,” Scott said, sensing her discomfort.
“Thank you. I work hard at it, but don’t get much real practice. My studies help.”
“What do you study?”
Chin-sun said, “When not attending official events as a Spirit Ambassador, I study at Kim Il-sung University to become a diplomat. They selected me as a Spirit Ambassador to train me for this, but they lie, of course. I was only chosen because of my beauty.”
“Well, you are beautiful, but in more ways that I suspect your superiors could ever appreciate,” Scott grinned.
She cocked her head at this. “How do you mean?”
“In America, women are not only valued for their physical beauty, but also for their inner beauty. Intelligence and determination are desirable traits, at least to men like me.”
“And you think me intelligent and determined?”
“Of course!” Scott chuckled. “You’re smart enough to know when your superiors are lying to you and brave enough to try and get away from them.”
Chin-sun gave a sad smile. “I have my halmeoni to thank for that...”
“Your grandmother?” Scott asked, recognizing the word as one of the first ones he learned in Korean.
“Yes. She was raised in a tiny village just south of what would become the border between the North and South. When the war broke out, she was a young woman of eighteen, but was taken captive by North Korean soldiers and made a trophy bride. To this day, she lives with my grandfather, the man who took her...”
“It could have been so much worse for her,” Chin-sun continued. “As she tells the story, my grandmother was at first claimed by one of the lower soldiers moving through her village, but before she knew what had happened, that soldier’s commander, my grandfather, had stepped in and claimed her for himself. He later told her that the man who wanted her was violent and evil; she would not have survived a year as his bride. For all his faults, my grandfather treated her well. It took years, but I believe my grandmother even came to love him.”
“It’s still terrible,” Scott muttered.
“I know,” Chin-sun sighed. “My grandmother would always tell me stories in secret about her childhood, how wonderful and peaceful those times were. Every day after school, she would tell me of the wondrous things she experienced growing up, trying to counteract the things they taught us in school. All Korea was free and prosperous in those days, and she knows the world outside our borders is a far better place than our government claims. It was thanks to her that I have never allowed my heart to be tainted by the State. I play the part they wish me to play, I say the proper things, but I wish for nothing more than freedom.”
“Wow ... you’ve mastered the art of double-thinking. You must be an incredible actress if you have managed to fool them.”
“It is not about fooling them so much,” she explained, “more than it is using my grandmother’s stories as my anchor against the tides. The words of the State are powerful and persuasive; I would have had no chance without my grandmother’s efforts. It was, in fact, her idea that I should use the games as my chance to defect.”
“And the rest of your family is ok with this?”
“My grandfather and mother have no idea; my grandfather is a high-ranking official in the government, after all, one of Kim Jong-un’s advisors. The less he knows, the less the State can interrogate him should something go wrong. My father worries, but he grew up with the same stories as I did. He wishes this for me, too.”
“Why hasn’t he tried to defect?” Scott asked.
“Father is too visible. He is the son of a war hero and one of the best strategists in the army. Any attempt would be snuffed out before it got started, and he knows he would not be the only one to pay the price. His family would suffer most of all. Father loves us too much to risk our lives. Thankfully, we have some small amount of safety with his status in the government.”
Scott pursed his lips at this. He liked to think that he would have found a way to get his family out, even if he didn’t survive the process. Then again, nobody in America really knew just how bad things were in North Korea. Who knows how he would react, or even how he would be able to react, if he found himself in such a predicament? As he pondered all this, he wept inside for everything this poor girl had suffered.
“Do you think your superiors will believe me?” Chin-sun asked, interrupting his thoughts.
“I can’t speak for them, but as for me, I believe you, and I’ll vouch for you. I promise I will do everything in my power to keep you safe. You deserve your freedom, and I’m going to help you get it.”
Chin-sun smiled at this. Seeing Scott’s hand resting on the table between them, she felt the urge to lean forward a bit and touch her fingers to his. It was an odd sensation; intimate moments like this were discouraged or even forbidden in North Korea. Still, she couldn’t deny her attraction to Scott. In the days leading up to her defection, Chin-sun had dared to dream some wonderful dreams. She imagined escaping into South Korea, meeting a kind man, marrying him, cooking for him, bearing sons for him, and not once would she be in fear of her life. Her grandmother had always insisted that such good men existed in the world. Now, her imagination began to replace her faceless Korean husband with Scott.
Hearing a knock at the door, Scott broke their touch and said, “Wait here.”
Scott peered through the peephole for several seconds before at last opening the door, revealing two men. One was even taller than Scott with flaming red hair, the other was a shorter black man wearing a tailored suit.
“Willie, thanks for coming,” Scott said to the redhead.
“No problem,” said Willie, shaking his hand.
“Major Parker, sir,” Scott continued to the other man.
“I’ve told you a thousand times: you can call me Leon after everything we’ve been through together. You’re not under my command anymore,” said the black man. “Now, I understand we have someone to meet?”
“Yes, sir.” Standing aside, Scott gestured to the table in the corner. “This is Park Chin-sun. I found her in the alley by the hotel being beaten by some punk with a North Korean uniform. She was trying to defect; that’s why he was beating her.” Taking Chin-sun’s hand, Scott brought her to stand beside him and introduced his friends to her. “Chin-sun, ideul-eun nae chingudeul-ida, Major Leon Parker gwa Willie Wallace. Geudeul-eun neoleul doul su-iss-eo.”
Chin-sun gave a slight bow and spoke in English, “Major Parker, Wallace Ssi, my name is Park Chin-sun. I am a citizen of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and it is my wish to defect from my homeland due to the horrors my people endure every day. I humbly request asylum and sanctuary, be it here in South Korea or in America.”
Both men’s eyebrows shot up at hearing her clear English. “You are very well-spoken, young lady,” said Leon. “Is English a normal class for your people?”
She nodded. “It is for those of us sent abroad as Spirit Ambassadors. We are to speak with all who will listen to our troubles about the fear we have of the great evil, the United States of America. This is what our State tells us to do, but I know my own government to be capable of incredible evil.”
“And how do you know this?” asked Leon.
“There are any ways. When friends on my team disappear a day after making a mistake, I know it is the State who took them. When a teacher forgets to speak of the South with great contempt and hatred, the State comes and replaces them. They are never seen again. But most of all, I know this because of my grandmother. She grew up in a free Korea but was taken to the North as a trophy bride during the war. She knows how things once were and how free the rest of the world is. Every day, she would tell me stories of her childhood and wish for me to know this freedom one day. It is our secret between us. It was she that told me to defect during this visit to the South.”
Leon studied her face for several seconds, his own face expressionless. “Your story is touching, Ms. Park, but you’ll have to forgive our being cautious.”
Without a word, Chin-sun peeled back the gauze taped to her forehead. “This is what my guard did to me when he caught me trying to escape. Had Scott not arrived when he did, it would have been far worse. I would probably be dead, and I can see in your eyes that you know this. I am no spy. I only wish to be free, Major Parker.”
Leon again remained quiet and contemplative. “Mr. Wallace,” he said after a few moments, “what do you think?”
“I believe her, sir,” Willie replied. “The wound itself speaks volumes, but there’s no way she could have lied about her grandmother like that. We’d have seen a tell if she were making that up.”
“Yes ... I agree,” Leon grinned. “Ms. Park, I report directly to the Secretary of State. He made it clear to me before these games that we could not accept any defectors of our own accord without South Korea’s permission. We are on their soil, after all, but if they are agreeable, you will be free to travel to America and make a new life there.”
A tear of happiness leaked out of Chin-sun’s eye and rolled down her cheek as she heard these words. “Thank you, Major Parker.”
“Don’t thank me yet,” Leon said, pulling out his cell phone. “Let me call our contact in the Korean Immigration Services and bring him into the loop.”
As Chin-sun’s emotions welled up within her, she turned to Scott and threw her arms around his neck, thanking him for everything he had done for her. He accepted her touch happily, though he did have to shift his lower body to keep from scaring Chin-sun with the bulge that was beginning to form in his pants. It had been quite a while since he had held a pretty girl like her in his arms, after all, and his body was just a little sensitive. After a moment, his distraction was broken by a knock at the door.
“Who’s that?” Willie asked.
“No clue,” said Leon, stopping in the middle of dialing his contact.
After checking the peephole, Leon opened the door to reveal a young Korean man a bit older than Scott. His suit was cut to perfection and appeared more expensive even than Leon’s. The man smiled a warm smile as he spoke.
“Major Parker, yes?”
“I am. And you are?”
“Yoon Suck-chin, Korean Immigration Services,” he replied, producing an ID badge.
Leon inspected his credentials, commenting, “Vice Chief? At your young age?”
“Yes, sir. Feel free to contact my superiors if you have your doubts, of course.”
Handing the ID back to Suck-chin, Leon said, “No, that won’t be necessary. What are you doing here?”
“I am here regarding an alleged incident that took place a little while ago outside this hotel. I am told that a North Korean may have been involved.”
There was an uncomfortable silence before Leon replied, “How would you know about that? I hadn’t had a chance to contact the KIS yet.”
“My office was contacted by someone with direct knowledge of the situation,” said Suck-chin. “You may come in,” he then said to someone in the hallway.
Scott felt Chin-sun cling to him tightly as a woman entered the hotel room. She was in her early thirties and wore a fitted blouse and a knee-length skirt. Her face seemed pleasant enough, but Scott sensed something sinister lurking beneath the surface. After a few moments, he at last recognized the woman from the news reports since the start of the Olympics.
“Hello, Major Parker. My name is Kim Yo-jong,” she said. “I represent my brother, the freely elected leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Kim Jong-un.”
“I know who you are, Ms. Kim,” Leon replied stiffly.
“Ah, there she is!” said Yo-jong. “Chin-sun, naneun nega musahadago gippeohanda. Wa, jib-e gal sigan-ida.“
As Yo-jong tried to pass through Willie and Leon, Chin-sun clenched Scott’s arm in a death grip. She was not fooled by her words of concern and promise to return home safely.
“Do not let her touch me! She will kill me!” she protested.
“My dear Chin-sun, you wound me!” Yo-jong replied. “I would never do such a thing! We are gajong. Family.”
“NO! Please, do not let her take me!” Chin-sun begged Scott. “You promised you would allow my defection!”
“Oh my, the poor girl is delirious,” Yo-jong said, shaking her head.
“Ms. Kim, you’ll have to forgive me for not believing you,” said Leon as he and Willie closed in to shield Chin-sun. “This young lady came to us of her own volition seeking asylum, and I’m of a mind to grant it.”
“Not your call, Major Parker,” said Suck-chin, stepping up beside Yo-jong. “This is our land, and you arrogant Americans have no say as to our immigration decisions. You may not value the good will that has been gained between the North and the South during these Olympics, but I do. Our nations have signed an agreement to disallow any defections during these games, as I am sure you are aware. Besides, our northern neighbors have behaved most properly in this matter. Ms. Kim came to me in peace seeking my help in finding one of the North Korean Spirit Ambassadors that had gone missing. She is fortunate she only received a minor injury and not anything worse.”
Scott snorted. “Ms. Kim should know. It was one of her own men that did it.”
“Oh dear! Her own handler did this to her?!” Yo-jong gasped. “Major Parker, you have my word that I will personally investigate this matter and find the individual responsible for harming this poor girl. He will face justice for his actions.”
“In any case,” Suck-chin continued, “it is my full intention to allow Ms. Kim to take her citizen back home with her tomorrow as soon as the Olympics come to a close.”
“She came to us seeking asylum!” Leon seethed. “If you won’t grant it, then we’ll bring her back to the United States with us!”
“You will do no such thing,” Yo-jong rebuked him. “That would be considered an act of kidnapping against one of our citizens, an act of extreme aggression. I can assure you that our government would take swift and decisive action against this.”
Suck-chin agreed, “And even if you decided to do this, good luck getting her through customs. The KIS will make sure she cannot leave the country unless it is with her people across the northern border.”
Leon gritted his teeth at hearing this. If Suck-chin had enough influence to ensure Chin-sun couldn’t leave the country, Leon had underestimated his overall power. And with the threat of international kidnapping charges from Kim Yo-jong, they had no means with which to hold Chin-sun.
“You don’t want to do this,” Leon at last seethed.
“Actually, I do,” Suck-chin replied. “Everything I do is with the best interests of my citizenry at heart. To become taken in by the delirious cries of one traumatized girl while incurring the loss of all goodwill with our northern neighbors would not only be irresponsible, it would be stupid. Chin-sun is not granted asylum and will return to her homeland with these representatives of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”
At that, two men in North Korean jackets entered the room and flanked Kim Yo-jong, who proceeded to push past Leon and Willie. Scott backed himself into a corner, trying to shield a weeping Chin-sun as best he could, but the men soon restrained him and moved him aside. Yo-jong looked at Chin-sun as if she were a long-lost family member, but Scott saw how roughly she grabbed the girl’s arm.
“We will be leaving for home tomorrow. That will be the end of this,” said Yo-jong. “Major Parker, in spite of your hateful demeanor, know that I hold no ill will against you or your nation for the events of this evening. I am only happy to have our beloved Chin-sun back.”
“NO! NO, PLEASE!” Chin-sun cried as she was dragged out the door.
“Let her go!” Scott roared, but it was no use. The men had him pinned. The last thing he saw of Chin-sun was the red ribbon in her hair. Once they were gone, the North Korean goons released him and left to follow. Scott as about to chase after them, but Willie’s firm hand on his shoulder managed to deter him. Once Suck-chin had left, Scott glared at Leon.
“Don’t look at me like that,” Leon said.
“How could you let them do that?!” Scott berated him. “She came to us for help and you threw her back to the most oppressive government in the world!”