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It was raining on the day when Youngho visited the headquarters of Otokar in Istanbul.
On a rainy day like this in Istanbul, which was located beside the Black Sea, the wind was heavy that the streets were often deserted. In this kind of weather, there was no terrorism either.
Youngho and Hong Sung-ki were greatly welcomed at the lobby. In the ceiling of the lobby on the first floor, even a banner with the phrase ‘Welcome’ was hung.
It was a little bit embarrassing, but who would feel bad about such a huge welcoming?
Youngho felt that the company was already giving him a positive message to the business partnership that he came to ask for.
“They know how to treat their partner, don’t they?”
“Looks like it.”
“Shall we go to the information desk and let them know we’re here?”
“You don’t have to. They know we’re already here.”
Youngho saw some guards running to the entrance of the spectacularly decorated elevator that was different from the other three or four ordinary elevators. Middle-aged men in tie soon stepped out of the luxuriously decorated elevator. He could sense that those were higher-ups of the company.
“They’re coming our way.”
“Talk in Azerbaijani as much as possible. They’ll understand us roughly.”
Because Azerbaijan was a dialect of Turkish, people in both countries were able to communicate without difficulty. The reason why Youngho asked Sung-ki to talk in Azerbaijani was that people preferred anyone who could speak their own language. It was a basic courtesy in business.
The two were escorted to the conference room.
The conference room was quite luxurious compared to the one in the autonomous state.
Otokar was one of the affiliate companies of Turkey’s largest company—the Koç Holding, and it produced tanks and armored vehicle cannons used by the Turkish Army.
The teacup that was brought out for Youngho was also shiny in gold, although Youngho was not sure if it was real gold. The executives’ teacups were ordinary, but Youngho’s cup was golden. Although he had visited Turkey numerous times, he had not received such a great welcome before.
However, today’s visit was special. Youngho was qualified as a special envoy of the Kazakh president, so maybe this was what he deserved. Such treatment should be taken as a matter of course since it was the “Duke of the Arirang Autonomous State” who visited as a special envoy.
He busily exchanged business cards with various executives and shared handshakes. Hong Sung-ki stood behind his back with his mouth shut. He was standing so solemnly and sternly that it was hard for anyone to dare to speak. He was a man with a solid figure and an angular face. It was intimidating to the Otokar executives. Regardless of what others thought of him, he did not budge while keeping his eyes up.
As if to break the mood, the most senior among them spoke first. Youngho did not remember his name, so he glanced at the business cards and found his name.
‘Hezarfen Ahmed Celebi’ was his name and his position was president.
“We sincerely welcome your visit to our company.”
“I don’t know what to do with this kind of hospitality I received.”
“I’ve had several deals with the Arirang Autonomous State, but I haven’t been able to meet you in person. It’s a pleasure to meet you. We’ll deliver the 30 tactical armored vehicles you ordered by next month.”
“Oh, please don’t flatter me for ordering a few armored vehicles.”
“What are you talking about? You are an important customer who purchased more than any other country around the Black Sea. Thanks to you, we received an order of 200 vehicles from the Kazakh government.”
Youngho was embarrassed to hear such compliments. So, he went straight to the point. The purpose of the visit should come first since he was a special envoy today.
“Is it possible for us to make your tanks locally?”
In order to reinforce the firepower of the autonomous state of Kazakhstan, there had to be tanks too. In the case of light armored vehicles, 20millimeter machine guns were all about firepower.
“We have reviewed various aspects of the local assembly plant you requested, and we think we can build a plant of a size that could produce about 100 tanks a year. But the tank is an item that must have the Turkish government’s consent, and it won’t be easy.”
“Kazakhstan borders Russia and China. The rest of the Central Asian countries are also bordering China. It is a stern state surrounded by the two superpowers. 100 units a year is far from enough. 200 units a year is not enough.”
“How big do you think the demand will be?”
“Isn’t the fact that our state-ordered 200 units at once is proof? That’s what we’re going to need to supply each year for the next five years.”
“Then there’s no reason for us to refuse. However, the local production of the tanks must be agreed upon by the Turkish government. I’m sorry we can’t confirm it now.”
“That’s the part where the leaders should involve, but I’m sure it will be easy. We are brotherly countries, aren’t we?”
After the meeting, Youngho sat face to face with Celebi—the president of Otokar in private.
“Will you be free tomorrow evening? The group’s chairman wants to see you, duke.”
“I have to go to Denmark tomorrow. By the way, your group’s chairman and I don’t have any contact at all. What’s this about?”
“Can’t you postpone tomorrow’s schedule by one day? He’s coming to Istanbul from Germany right now.”
“It’s possible to delay the schedule a little, but what’s the occasion?”
“I can’t go ahead and tell you, but I’m sure this won’t be harmful to you.”
Youngho could not refuse Celebi’s request since he looked desperate. There must be a good reason when the chairman of Koç Holding—a global group, asked to meet Youngho. Besides, he could easily find out what the chairman was up to if he asked a CIA agent in Turkey.
“If it’s an informal meeting, I’ll agree to the meeting.”
“Nobody will know about the meeting.”
“All right. I’ll rearrange my departure schedule.”
As Youngho tried to go out alone, Hong Sung-ki panicked and tried to catch up with him. He managed to get rid of Sung-ki who was clingy like a leech, but he could not tell him that he was meeting a CIA agent since he had no idea that Youngho was also one. It was Saturday when the flea market was open, so he told Sung-ki to go out and buy something for himself.
An agent sitting at an outdoor cafe recognized Youngho and greeted him.
“Mister Lee, I got a call from the headquarters. Here’s the data you asked for.”
“I’m sorry I bothered you with this.”
“Not at all. It was already collected before, so it wasn’t annoying. The Koç Holding Group has been having a bit of a bad relationship with the government lately.”
“The defense company is on bad terms with the government?”
“There was a small incident at a hotel owned by the Koç Holding Group. Anti-government protesters fled to their hotel after being chased by police, who fired tear gas at the lobby. The government is blaming the hotel for protecting the protesters, and the Koç Holding Group accused the police of using excessive force. And now, even the Turkish president joined the quarrel.”
“You mean the group that was doing so well is now out of favor with the president?”
“That’s the outcome, but it’s more complicated than that.”
“Was the company unable to do well with paying political funds?”
“Well, they’re kind of in a political love and hate relationship.”
“If it’s a love and hate, they’ll make up sooner or later.”
“I don’t think it’s going to be that easy. The Army turned to a foreign defense company and ordered this year’s supply of tanks. It’s like the Turkish president turned a blind eye to a defense company of his own country.”
“I see. Thank you for your busy time. I would offer to treat you for dinner, but I’m afraid that I have to part ways now. When we meet at the European chapter, I’ll treat you nicely.”
“I’ll look forward to it.”
It seemed that there was a reason why Celebi said that he would easily build a local assembly plant in Kazakhstan. He knew that the president would not mind. Since Kazakhstan was not as developed as Turkey. The president might be secretly waiting for the company to fail, after losing the cost to build a local factory in Kazakhstan.
Although the company and the Turkish government were in bad terms, it was a great chance for Youngho. For the Koç Holding Group, which was looking for a breakthrough, Youngho would be like a savior, and Youngho had a great opportunity to use it to get all kinds of high-end technologies.
“Duke, this is the chairman of Koç Holding Group.”
A handsome man in his 60s, introduced by the president of Otokar, politely greeted Youngho. Youngho also hurriedly reciprocated the greeting.
“I’ve heard a lot about you, Chairman. I’m Lee Youngho.”
“I’m Enes Kaya. You’re fluent in Turkish.”
“I studied Turkish because I had a deep connection with this city.”
“Oh! You have a connection to Istanbul?”
“The direct line of the last Archduke family of Serbian Kingdom used to live in Istanbul for a while.”
“That’s an impressing story. When I get a chance, I’d like to hear about your connection to the Serbian Kingdom.”
Basten, the co-representative of the Information Agency, expressed curiosity about Youngho’s private life, and Kaya was the same.
This would surprise Fatima if she heard it since it was not plausible to advertise that she once lived in a slum.
“I heard you asked to see me. But, I’m just a mere businessman.”
“What do you mean? You’re an outstanding figure in the business world now. Compared to you, I’m nothing. I can’t even keep up with my father’s good fortune.”
It was impressive of him to say that he was ashamed of himself as a second-generation tycoon. He was very modest for someone who was born in a filthy rich family.
“I’m just a lucky guy, too. I don’t think my efforts played a big part in the process to come this far.”
“In your case, luck is a skill too. I’m struggling with the luck that I was given. The Turkish government is really bothering me these days.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“So, we are planning to become a global company. I just wanted to meet, to thank you for giving us a great opportunity.”
“I haven’t done much. It’s because the president of Kazakhstan is greedy for weapons.”
“I heard you’re very close to the president.”
“Well, if you’re too close to the highest authority, you can easily get burnt.”
“It’s not so great to be far away from it either. It can be too cold. We’re really having a hard time because of our relationship with the Turkish president.”
“Our management group decided that the only breakthrough is to look overseas, but you showed up just in time. I’d like to ask you to arrange a meeting with President Nazarbayev.”
“Kazakhstan always welcomes foreign investors. Representatives of foreign companies can meet with the president at any time.”
“But if the duke of the Arirang Autonomous State himself introduces me to the president, he’ll remember me as a special entrepreneur, right?”
“You’ve already become a special entrepreneur by agreeing to set up a local assembly plant.”
“I’m here to ask the president for a favor.”
“A favor? Is this something I shouldn’t know about?”
“Of course you should, in order to work as a bridge. I’m thinking of getting some land.”
“If it’s land, it won’t be a problem. Kazakhstan is full of it.”
“Even if it’s the land full of underground resources? ”
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