Empire Of The Ring Chapter 259
Ever since the Arirang Hotel of the autonomous state was reopened, it had been receiving many guests. They were partnership business-related people.
The hotel was originally offered free to any guests of the autonomous state but after Kim Chun became the commissioner, he made it a charged lodging. He thought that it was reasonable to at least make money to pay for employees of the hotel and for the maintenance of the hotel’s facilities.
It was also better to encourage self-reliance for the farm’s residents. Since the farm’s purpose was not to do charitable work, it was better for people to earn money for what they worked for.
The hotel was now crowded with the staffs of D Drones, the American drone company, and the solar panel company. They came to oversee the factories on the farm and to find their market in Central Asia. They had made the farm as their base and went to other regions of Central Asia to promote their companies.
The reason that they made the farm as their base although it was located in a remote region, was that they had more access to information and connections from the farm than other bigger cities. It was because Youngho often provided the latest business-related news for them.
Especially, D Drones highly thought of Youngho’s position in Kazakhstan. Since any U.S. company in the defense industry had advanced information network than any small country, so it was not surprising how D Drones was treating Youngho well as an equal-level partner. Although the information Youngho offered to his partners now was mainly from Agent Smith who was working in the U.S. Embassy in Kazakhstan, he believed that in the near future, he would be able to provide information mainly from Jong-il’s Department of Intelligence.
Youngho was having a discussion with D Drones’ sales director from the Central Asian sector that came to visit Youngho’s office.
“Do you think our factory can handle this?”
“Mr. Lee. Small-sized drones don’t have a competitive price now since anyone’s factory can make them. You need to target bigger drones. Drones that could not only transport objects but also humans are in the process of developing now.”
It was not efficient to connect the vast regions of Kazakhstan and Central Asia with a traffic network. The measures for this was to use sky roads but it was also costly to use airplanes. Thus, drones were the best measures in the future. Since small drones could only travel a little distance, the development of mid-size drones was essential.
“We can support its development cost but we don’t have any researcher.”
“The headquarters will be in charge of developing the core technologies. I’m suggesting you to attempt developing body production. Our company will support part of the cost and send technicians as well.”
It was good news.
Once the drone body production technology had accumulated, the farm might be able to make bodies of aircraft as well in the future.
“Alright. We’ll be in charge of mid-size drone body production. Please send competent technicians for us.”
“Thank you. I’ll report this to the headquarters right away and proceed with the plan.”
It was a necessary step for D Drones to develop technologies to produce mid-sized drones to get along with the industry’s trend. Youngho was glad that the company chose to invest in the farm’s factory. The company had probably reckoned up the gains for investing in Youngho since his influence in Central Asia had great potential.
Workers were busy installing solar panels on each roof of residential houses of the farm. Although it was cold, it was somewhat easy to work since it was a snowless area.
Youngho ordered this to follow the eco-friendly city that he saw during his recent trip to Germany. There was plenty of electricity generated by solar power plants for the whole farm to use but considering the factories to be built in the future, the farm had decided to install solar panels for each house so that each family would use their own electricity.
The staffs of K Electronics were here because of solar panel installation.
The solar panel factory on the farm was already working over its capacity to produce solar panels to fill 82 acres of the land on the outskirt of the farm’s residential towns, and because it had to produce panels for 900 houses, it could not even produce panels for outside customers.
With the Kazakh government’s support, K Electronics had been providing solar panels to remote villages. With the growing demand for solar photovoltaic power stations, the company was willing to build more factories and expand its business in Central Asia. Since Youngho was their agent in Kazakhstan, a representative of the company came to discuss it with him.
“Mr. Lee. We’d like to build a factory in Almaty which is a base city in south and east regions of Kazakhstan”
“The prices and employee wages in Almaty are very high. It might not cost you like Seoul but it will still cost you a lot.”
Since it cost too much to transport parts from the farm in Atyrau, the company wanted to build a factory in Almaty. This meant that the company needed Youngho’s help. Although having a factory in the city was pricey, the city was a charming deal. Being one of the biggest cities of Central Asia, it had plenty of workforce and location-wise, it had great access to Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and even Xinjiang Uyghur.
“Alright. I’ll see what I can do for you.”
Youngho agreed to him readily because he wanted to make a base of the intelligence team in the big city. If Jong-il had heard it, he would have been exuberated. He had been nagging to make a base in Almaty.
“Hey. You didn’t even blink when I asked you to go to Almaty over and over. What made you change your mind?”
“I’ve been thinking, man. I just didn’t have a chance yet. Besides, your agents are still being trained.”
“You know when we went there last time, the rent was pretty high there. Why don’t we just buy a building and use it as a lodging and office facility?”
“I was thinking maybe we could open a hotel there.”
“What? Another hotel?”
“There are old buildings in the old city center where Russians used to live. I can buy one of the buildings, knock it down, and build a decent one. If we have a hotel as our base, our agents will look less suspicious .”
Almaty was Kazakhstan’s center of economy and education, and it was the first city that foreign companies had chosen when they started their business in Kazakhstan. Since there was an Arirang Hotel in Baku, it was also fair to open one in Almaty. All of the Kazakh high officials knew that Youngho had a hotel chain and they must be thinking why he was not opening one in Kazakhstan. Hotel business in Almaty was very prospective due to an increasing number of visitors and tourists. Having a hotel as a base had some advantages. It was easy to collect information from people and the agents of the Intelligence Department of the Arirang Autonomous State could be disguised as hotel staffs.
“Let’s go there at once. I’m getting bored with hunting wolves.”
At Youngho’s call, Jong-il also got excited.
“Tell Agent Smith to come to Almaty too. I still have things to teach him.”
Agent Smith received the two friends who just landed at Almaty International Airport.
“I’ve been stuck at the embassy but you guys saved me.”
Smith was glad that Youngho and Jong-il called him. He was not sent to anywhere ever since he got back from his New Year’s break and was dying in boredom. He had been planning to go on a winter trip with his girlfriend and as Youngho and Jong-il called him, he brought his girlfriend along with him. There was a famous ski resort in Almaty where Asian Winter Games was held a few years ago, and he planned to go there with his girlfriend. Although it was not professional of him to bring his acquaintance to a formal trip, he knew that Youngho and Jong-il would overlook this since he was helping them.
“Smith. You said that there is a great building on Kurmangazy Street?”
It’s at the entry of the old section of the city, so it’s right next to the new town. There are a lot of tourists there. My source who lives around here confirmed it, so I can guarantee that. This building is put up for sale just in time. You’ll be able to have a bargain.”
The old city center of Almaty was a tourist spot because of landmarks such as Panfilov Park and Zenkov’s Cathedral which was made in Imperial Russia. The cathedral was the second-highest wooden structure in the world, and it was known as the only structure that did not collapse in the earthquake with a magnitude of 10 on the Richter scale that happened in 1910. Having such famous landmarks in the area, any building around it would be quite pricey.
“I love the location but the price will be the problem. I might have to buy more buildings around the building to build a hotel.”
Since the scale of the hotel would be quite big, Youngho would have to buy more buildings around it but he was not sure if the owners would agree to sell their properties.
“Director. Why don’t you trust my sources for this? I can also get help from officials in this area if necessary.”
“Are you saying we are going to help corrupt already corrupted officials?”
Receiving help from officials in Almaty meant bribing them. The officials of Kazakhstan were not recognized as civil servants but as authoritative governors, so they did not have the mentality to serve civilians. If people needed any official work done speedily, they would have to pay bribes. They were as terrible as robbers. It was easy to spot officials having a sudden inspection on travelers asking for a bribe. If they did not have their passports, disembarkation cards, or residential cards, they would be immensely troubled by police officers but bribes could get them out of these troubles. It was a bad tradition among officials which started from the time of the Soviet Union. Youngho thought that it was better to use his connections with the government’s high officials if sellers of the buildings would do their business unfairly.
Youngho and the group surveyed around the intended area for the new hotel and investigated the traffic amount and infrastructure around it. Then they went to the city hall to submit a request for building and construction permit.
Luckily, all of the building seller that Smith introduced was a Russian and he was pretty fair to Youngho’s group. It was because many Russians were very fond of foreigners who could speak Russian. Since they needed to buy three buildings to secure an area of 17800 sq. ft. for the intended hotel, they stayed there for several days to meet other building owners.
Although the prices of buildings in Almaty were high in Kazakhstan, it was not overwhelming for Youngho. Compared to many other European cities, the prices here were nothing for him. To build a seven-story three-star hotel with about a hundred guest rooms, it would cost him about 20 million dollars. Even if he wanted to build a bigger hotel, it was impossible since it was against the old city center’s law. If he had bought a building in the new city area, he could have built a bigger one but this was the best for him for now.
The reason for insisting the old city center was that there was a Baraholka market which was the biggest universal conventional market in Central Asia. Since countless people visited the market, it was the best location to collect information.
When they visited the Baraholka market and took a look around, most of the products displayed were Chinese. There were expensive European tableware and mid-priced Russian products as well but cheaper ones were imported from China. Although many Kazakhs had hostility toward China, it seemed that they could not resist the low prices of Chinese products.
“All of those are made in China?”
“Well, there are some Russian, European, and Asian products but most of them are Chinese.”
The reason for Kazakhs’ hostility toward China was many. Historically, there was a time that Kazakhstan had to pay tributes to the Qing Dynasty and the people of Kazakhstan considered it as a humiliating history. Many did not like Han people taking over their businesses, and some did not like how the Chinese government was persecuting Uyghur people who were trying to break free from China. There were many culturally complex issues.
Youngho would be having an operation in Xinjiang Uyghur, so he was learning Chinese now. Thinking about the cultural issues, Youngho felt mixed emotions in his mind.