My sleeping hours are still kind of fucked from my Korea trip last week, and despite going to be bed early, I woke up with a jolt and trying to rest my mind proved futile.
Finally I am allowing myself a moment to grief.
Today, I received a phone call that would render me dumbfounded and shocked for the rest of the day. And I believe, for many days to come.
Today, we found out that one of our closest Korean friends; a business associate at first glance, but a good friend on all counts; has passed away.
I was beyond shocked. I had no words. I don't even know what to think or feel. It's so sudden; I just met him in Korea last week! Drinking maek joo (beer in Korean) over lunch, and promising to meet me once more before I leave Korea. The call never came. He passed away the day after I saw him.
From a business point of view, he played a pivotal point in AZORIAS; a lot of the ideologies and strategies that we carry out now were inspired by him. And in fact, he played a very important role in part of our operations as well.
But from a personal point of view, our loss is more immense. For he is a friend, a brother, a tour guide, a mentor, a father figure.
You all don't realize it, but I've actually talked about him many times before in my blog. Here, where I talked about interesting drunk characters. Here, where I had one of the craziest nights in my life, and my best day in Korea by far. Here, when I announced about the launch of AZORIAS, and I talked about picking the brains of one of the top Korean manufacturers, one of the most hospitable, warmest locals one could possibly meet.
Have you all ever eaten all kinds of live squirming seafood, that you shove into your mouth after dipping it nonchalantly into some sauce? I have.
Have you all stepped foot into a noraebang (Korean karaoke box), and belted out songs emotionally into your microphone, while everyone else cheer you on with toy tambourines-- because the screen will grade you after you are done with the song (90%? 70%? will depends on how well you can carry a tune and how much you can emulate the original singer)? I have.
Have you had a local Korean buy you hot mocha, and walked you down Cheonggyecheon (a 6km long manmade stream that cuts across Seoul downtown), and into the ancient palace, telling you the most fascinating tales about Korean history and culture? I have.
Have you had your palms read in a make-shift plastic tent at the side of the road, not understanding a single word that the fortune teller is rattling on? I have.
Have you dined at the same restaurant as Rain? I have.
Have you ever seen a drunk Korean man rolled down a slope because he was that drunk, but the whiskey you bought for him, he continued to hugged tightly as he rolled down. I have.
Have you had a hand at whacking a toy hammer onto a pile of tiles with the objective of breaking them-- a popular street game-- at 3am in the morning? I have.
All my most wonderful experiences were realized through him. Despite being an owner of a demanding business, he insisted to take time out to bring us around, 'taking leave' from his wife whenever he drinks with us (his credit card is then surrendered to his wife) because he will never return home sober.
I've never had a middle-aged man as a friend before. But yet you didn't treat us as youngsters who have no idea what they are doing. Instead, you treated us as your peer, sharing with us your personal tales, your success and failures, your life experiences. I am always impressed by your inner strength, because although you have hit pit-bottom by going into bankruptcy before, you managed to soldier on and make something of yourself all over again. That, and your ability to speak fluent English the more drunk you are. :)
No doubt, the affinity you have for me is partly because of what you call the 'brotherhood' with my 남자친구. But whenever he walks off to the washroom or for a breather from all the soju, you have always shared with me little life anecdotes and your thoughts of me. How to be a good and understanding wife to a successful man, for 남자친구 is hungry for success. How to weather through all the storms and waves in life. How I am different from the other young women you've met. All this you told me as you pat my hand awkwardly.
Ironically, one of the last few things we exchanged before we parted was you telling me that I am so 'radiant' (I believe you probably had some other English word in mind), because I've an aura about me. That you have so much faith in AZORIAS. That please, if we are ever on the lookout for investors, please consider you. How come we parted on such such motivating and encouraging words for me? Why didn't you wait for us? Why didn't you wait to enjoy the fruits of our labor?
There is a lump in my throat as my thoughts drifted further back to bits and pieces of our last conversation. Last. How final. How you confided in me that you are so happy that your wife and sons are back in Korea after staying in China for a few years for their education. How proud and contented you are that your sons are growing to be fine young men. Your cheeky smiles as you recounted how you courted your wife. Do they know? Do they know how much you love them? We will be coming to Korea in a few weeks' time to pay our respects after the dust settle, and hopefully I can relay your stories to them. They will know; they will know.
I've no more words now.
대단히 감사합니다 (Tetanhi kamsahamnida), Mr. Andrew Kim.
Or, because I consider you a good friend of mine, 고마워요 (Komawoyo).