-Do you think it’s right for me to do it?
She spoke with very little confidence, which he had never heard her frequently do before. The voice even sounded a little tragic, which made Maru cautious with saying his words.
“I want to hear your decision first.”
-I want to continue acting. I also want to stand on the same stage as you.
“I’m with you on that. There would be nothing more enjoyable than working on the same piece as you. In that sense, I’m in favor of you joining an agency. That president, while she said those words, I think she’s a good person. No, leaving aside whether she’s a good person or not, I’m sure that she doesn’t treat other people lightly. Business skills are important, but sometimes, their character is important as well. The fact that she tried to scare you might be for your sake, or maybe she had a completely different motive, but I like the fact that she didn’t try to lure you into joining with sugar coated words.”
-I feel the same. She definitely looked like someone who makes her intentions clear. I also liked how she didn’t just push a contract in my face because of the recommendation. It’s just that…
“You’re concerned about the image making that she’s talking about?”
-It’s a bit iffy. I know in my mind. This is business after all. I know that I can’t act immaturely and demand that everything is done the way I want. But I get cautious since it’s related to acting. If, and I’m just assuming here, I don’t get any of the roles that the president has picked for me, I wouldn’t be able to act at all while I’m in the agency.
“If the president is like how I think she is, then I guess it would definitely be like that.”
-That’s what I’m a little concerned about. I will hear about the details of the contract on my next visit, but I got the general content through text. Wait a sec.
She hung up for a while before calling again.
-It will be an exclusive contract, and the contract period will be 7 years. During that period, everything related to the entertainment industry has to be done through the industry, and if I make a mistake during the contract period which damages the reputation of the company, I will have to pay the contract penalty that was agreed upon at the time of the contract. She told me that that’s the most important part.
“It’s usually around 7 to 10 years. How was the atmosphere at the company?”
-It was really good. It looked like there was no barrier between the president and the employees.
“Did they not look like they were on too close terms?”
-They looked like they respected each other. It was only for a brief moment, but I felt that they were treating everyone else like coworkers.
“If you felt so, then I guess the company itself must be very good. Honestly speaking, I don’t think a ranking system is always just good or bad. If there’s a clear hierarchy, it might not bring out the proactivity of the members, but it will definitely be more efficient. If it felt like there was no order because everyone treated each other like friends, it would be a bad thing, but if you felt that they had respect for each other as colleagues, it might really be a good place.”
-If I do sign a contract, I do want to do it with this agency. I will have to know more to be sure, but I think the president is a good person as well.
“When are you signing the contract? Did you get a specific date?”
-No, but I think I should do it as early as I can.
“You talked to your mother about it, right?”
-Mom told me that I should do what I want. She’ll just go with me to the company for the contract as long as I’ve made a decision.
“She raises her child strongly. So it comes down to your decision in the end. From what I’m hearing, I think you’ve already made up your mind though?”
-Like you said, this is an opportunity after all. I won’t know when I’ll get the chance again. If I do join, I will have to start over from the basics, but that puts me at ease instead. I’m quite lacking right now after all.
“Then sign the contract. The people there are decent, and there wasn’t any bad news about that place, was there?”
-I did look it up, but I didn’t find anything.
“Hm, can you wait for a little? You said the agency was named Hwan, right?”
“I’ll call you back. Give me 10 minutes.”
After hanging up, Maru sent a text message to Joohyun. What he said was pretty simple - can I ask you for the favor you promised last time?. Instead of a reply, he got a call back. It didn’t even take 10 seconds.
-It’s midnight right now.
“Sorry, I usually would have never called you at this hour, but I had no choice.”
-I was a little surprised when I got your text. You’re quite sensitive when it comes to etiquette, yet you sent a text at this hour. So, what is it that you want help with? Considering what you did for Bangjoo, I am willing to do quite a lot.
“It’s just that the information I need is hard to access as an ordinary person, so you were the only one that came to mind.”
-What is it?
“Do you know about an entertainment agency named Hwan?”
-Hwan? I do. Ahyoung-unni is there after all.
Maru rewinded the videotape with the remote control in front of him. He then played it back again. He looked at the woman with the confident smile and spoke again,
“Is it perhaps the Ahyoung who used to be in the theater troupe Yechoen? I don’t know her surname, sorry.”
-She is, but how do you know Yecheon?
“I met director Lee Jincheol a little while ago. I got some videotape recordings of Yecheon from him.”
-Director Lee Jincheol?
-That’s a name I haven’t heard in a long time. I did call him a couple of times, but after something happened, we never contacted each other. Is he doing well?
“He got married and is doing well.”
-Ah, right. I heard that he got married to Jinjoo-unni. How nostalgic. It’s a place that contains my studenthood after all. But wait, videotapes? Am I in them as well?
“Yep, you’re here alright.”
-That doesn’t feel that good. Wasn’t I like… a little cocky when I was young?
“Not really. You’re completely the same as you are now.”
-That doesn’t sound like a compliment to me. Why did you get those videos?
“You know the person called Jung Haejoo, right? I wanted to have a look at her acting.”
-...Haejoo-unni, huh. Do you perhaps remember what I asked you before?
Maru leaned on the sofa as he replied,
“Yes. You asked me if I know Jung Haejoo. Well, things happened and it reached this point. Can I ask why you asked me such a question back then?”
-Because you’re similar.
-Yes, you and Haejoo-unni.
“In what aspect?”
-Your acting methods. You told me back then right? That when you act, there’s another self that looks at you from an objective perspective. Unni said a similar thing. She said that if she took a step back, she would see another one of herself and that acting with that girl was too much fun. This is interesting. So you ended up finding out after all.
“That’s quite surprising.”
-Speaking of videotapes, when were they taken? I remember taking quite a lot of recordings.
“I’m watching the ones taken in 1987 right now, and I received up to January 1989. There’s about sixty of them.”
-1987, huh. That’s a long time ago. How is she? The Haejoo-unni on the screen, I mean.
“She looks like a charming person.”
-What about from the perspective of acting?
“I don’t know yet. I see some things that I can learn, but nothing that amazing. Once I get to 1988, I guess I will be able to see her polished acting skills that our president fell in love with.”
-You can look forward to it. She was incredible back then.
After that, Joohyun didn’t speak for a while. Maru waited patiently. He didn’t want to interrupt Joohyun as she was reminiscing about the past.
-Hm, let’s leave the old stories here for now. You said you wanted to know something after all. Hwan, huh. It’s a good company. I’ve talked to a couple of actors who belong to that agency, and they all have high opinions about it. I’m not sure about new actors, but as far as I know, the treatment there for veteran actors is very good. Also, I heard that they weren’t nurturing new actors because they are stressing the music side. Is someone you know going to join?
“She said she might sign a contract, so I thought I’d look into it.”
-Looks like she must be important to you. If you’re messaging me at this hour.
Maru replaced his answer with a small laugh.
-For now, they have a good reputation here. I haven’t heard of them having any discord, and above all, Ahyoung-unni is someone worth trusting. She’s a little overly sensitive when it comes to money, but she doesn’t let money direct her ways. In fact, she’s the type who controls the money. Hm, her strong point is that she doesn’t fear losses. Though, that’s pretty obvious from the fact that she’s investing in singers even though it’s not going well. As long as that person doesn’t make a mistake, she will keep holding onto that person’s hands. I’m planning to switch to that place once my exclusive contract with Yellow Star is over.
“You just said something that puts my mind at ease. If it’s a place you can trust, I guess I can rest assured.”
-Don’t trust me too much. I might be slightly biased since Ahyoung-unni is someone I know. I can tell you for sure though, that it’s not one of those trashy companies who run off with the money, so tell the person signing the contract that Hwan can be trusted.
“Alright. I’ll tell her that.”
-Is your business over now then?
“Yes. Sorry for calling you late at night.”
-It’s fine. I was watching TV anyway. Just keep watching over Bangjoo so that he doesn’t cause trouble. I’ll hang up now then.
“Have a good night.”
Maru sighed in relief as he hung up. The reason he called Joohyun was because she had once been wounded by the entertainment industry. She was still active in the entertainment industry, but her despise towards trashy companies shouldn’t have disappeared. Yet such a person said that the agency was trustable. From the impression she got from looking around the company, Joohyun’s evaluation, as well as the articles about Hwan in the news, it seemed to be sufficient to be her first company.
He called her back again. As soon as the signal sounded, she picked up the call.
“I asked someone I know, and she said it's a reliable company.”
-Can I ask who you asked?
“Senior Ahn Joohyun.”
“Yeah. She seems acquainted with the president there as well. She’s not someone who would be biased because of personal connections, so I think it’s worth trusting. The only thing on my mind is her opinions about your first work, but honestly speaking, I agree with the president.”
“Since you’re doing it, don’t you want to become an actress that sells well?”
Maru continued speaking after picking up his coffee cup.
“I definitely want to. Art is good, but to me, acting is a form of labor that I enjoy, and it would be troublesome if it doesn’t become a splendid means of income. I would one day have to feed my family with it, so I wouldn’t want to become an actor who doesn’t have value.”
-I’m the same. I mean, everyone would be like that. No one wants to stay being a nameless actor.
“That’s why the president suggested such a thing to you. It might be bias or even discrimination against women, but the reality is that image still matters a lot to actresses. Not just anyone can be like senior Joohyun. I believe that she managed to make a splendid comeback only because she had proven her acting skills by the time she got caught up in something bad. Without popularity, you can’t even prove yourself in the industry. That’s just the way it works, and you should know that.”
-What if I never get to do anything decent for seven years?
“You aren’t going to be doing nothing for those seven years. In seven years, you’ll be 26. Don’t you think you’ll be in your prime as an actress? It’s the age where mature charm coexists with the purity of youth. Even if you end up not doing any activity for the next seven years due to a series of absurd coincidences, it doesn’t mean that it’s over for you. Also, if the agency is intentionally not letting you do anything, you can sue them as well. Once you start worrying, it will never end. You have to start something one day. What do you think? I think you’re plenty ready to start things off.”
-Do you think I can do it?
“You can do it.”
-Good, I’ll do it then. I’ll try.
“You actually made your decision before you called me, didn’t you?”
-Not entirely, but I was leaning towards it. I wanted to hear your opinion for some reason though.
“Would you not have done it if I told you not to?”
-I’m not sure. But I think that I might not have done it.
“That makes me happy, and a little awkward.”
-Why? You don’t like me relying on you?
“No. It’s awkward because I feel way too happy. I feel like it’s the first time you told me your worries of your own accord. Now I feel like you’ve opened up to me. I guess the only thing left now is to open up when farting, huh.”
-You always stray off to weird directions, you know?
“That’s what’s good about me.”
-Right, that’s your charm. Oh, one more thing. Actually, I’m gathering some opinions about this since it’s a pretty important thing.
“What is it?”
-A stage name.
“A stage name?”
-I heard that a lot of people use the same name as mine. Apparently, there’s also an actor who used the same name as me before.
“Ah, right. I guess it is pretty common. So? What did you decide on?”
-Nothing yet. I thought about it, but nothing really came to mind. Mom’s the same. Actually, my mom might be good at writing novels, but she has a terrible naming sense.
“Don’t say that. Your name is really cool. I really like it because it feels similar to mine.”
-Dad named me.
He felt like he heard this once before. Maru felt like there was a vague error in his memory, but he didn’t think deeply about it.
-Did anything come to your mind? I’m going to come up with a few and talk about them when I write the contract.
“Now that you say it, I don’t think anything comes to mind.”
“Are you going to change your surname as well?”
-No, I’m going to leave it be. Just my given name.
“So I guess, it’s still Han, huh.”
“I think about this sometimes, but if I met you ten-or-so years ago, we wouldn’t have been able to get married because we have the same surname and lineage.”
-You’re always on about marriage. I forbid you from talking about it from now on.
“It’s one of my only joys in life though.”
-Quit joking. Anyway, don’t you have anything good? Just tell me one. I’ll go to sleep afterwards.
He faintly smiled and looked at the ceiling. A name popped up in his mind. He was surprised by the two characters that filled up his head. He was even given the feeling that this has to be the one.
“I got one. It’s the commonality of our two names.”
-I wonder what it is?
-Han… Gaeul. It’s pretty. It sticks to the mouth too.
“It’s just one option, so think about other options as well. There must be many good names out there.”
-Okay. But I quite like Gaeul, you know?
“I’d be honored if you use it.”
Then good night - Maru whispered before closing his phone. The night winds slightly blew into his house from the slightly open window. Perhaps due to the fresh air, he felt a slight pain in one corner of his heart. It was quite weird.
“They say you become emotional with time.”
Maru sipped some of his cooled coffee before picking up the remote.
The night was still young.
 Here, ‘lineage’ refers to your family descent. Most commonly noted by ‘region’ then ‘surname’. For example, “I am a Choi from XX region”. Marriage between those of the same ‘lineage’ was forbidden until it was officially changed by law officially in 2005 (same year in the novel) but people have been ignoring it for quite a long time, since this ancestry/lineage was never a rigorous concept in terms of genetics (A child would blindly follow the father’s lineage; it was possible to ‘buy’ lineage with money; and many records were lost in the 20th century due to war.). In this case, Maru and his GF must be a Han surname from the same region. If they are two different Hans from two different regions, the law wouldn’t have applied to them.
 Means autumn
 Meaning it doesn’t have a Hanja representation.
So... their daughter's name now became Bunbun's stage name...
No wonder Maru's memories of Bunbun and his daughter mixed.