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Keep My Heart

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Moving back to Korea was the last thing she wanted to do. Growing up she remembered that her parents had never been around, not really. They took her from Korea when she was only two and raised her in the United States. Because she resented her parents, she fell in with the wrong crowd in middle school and high school. Doing a lot of things to try and get her parents attention. Lying, stealing, sneaking out, drinking…you name it. When she turned fifteen, she got her first piercing. By the time she was seventeen, she had ten piercings. As soon as she was eighteen, she got her first tattoo. Now she is twenty-two and has five tattoos. Her parents claimed that they didn’t know where they went wrong with her and decided to ship her off to Korea to live with her maternal grandmother. She was leaving her life behind, but hopefully she would find some semblance of normalcy. She knew that in some ways, this would be good for her, but in others, she knew what she would be judged on. Korean customs were foreign to her, even though she is a Korean citizen, she doesn’t know a thing about Korean culture. Her parents, due to not being around, caused her to not learn anything. She was basically raised by American television and American celebrities. The only thing she knew was American culture. To say she was overwhelmed when she set foot in Korea would be an understatement.

Lucky for her, she was taught to speak Korean, so she could at least read and navigate her way to her grandmother’s house. From the airport, she caught a taxi that drove her through the busy streets of Seoul. Her grandmother lived in a district of Seoul that consisted of lots of Hanok (Traditional Korean Homes). The house her grandmother lived in was the traditional wood style home. It had been in the family for generations. She remembers seeing pictures her grandmother showed her once when she had visited Ji-Yeong in America. The walls were covered in these beautiful traditional ink paintings and littered throughout were several celadon vases resting on tables and in cupboards as well as a variety of other types Cheongja scattered in the home. Her grandmother said she never once got rid of anything nor did their ancestors get rid of the historical artifacts. She also knows that there are several older families that live in the area, not older in age, but older in history, like her family. These few families that remain living here hold the life story of the area within their homes.

Ji-Yeong is broken from her thoughts when she is dropped off at the end of the street leading to her grandmother’s house. She pays the driver and thanks him after she has grabbed all her suitcases. The rest of her belongings had been shipped to Korea a few weeks ago and should already be at her grandmother’s house. Sighing to herself, she began the trek up the sloped road. Her arms burned a bit as she dragged her heavy suitcases behind her. She definitely did not work out enough for this. She also was not dressed appropriately for the end of June in Korea. The baggy black sweatshirt paired with her blue jeans was a bit too much for the warm summer day. With the sun beating down on her, she just wanted to get inside and sleep while trying to forget the hurt of her parents shipping her off to Korea. Finally, the house was in sight and she breathed in relief.

“Ji-Yeong-ah, finally,” her grandmother called from the doorway. “You were supposed to be here an hour ago.”

Ji-Yeong smiled softly and embraced her grandmother. Hwan Eun-Yeong was a bright woman. Already in her seventies yet not looking a day over fifty…is what Ji-Yeong likes to tell her. Age is started to show on her since the last time they had seen one another. She loved her grandmother dearly. The only family member of hers who stayed in touch with her constantly. The only reason she didn’t put up too much of a fight when her parents forced her to stay here. “Sorry, the traffic getting here was terrible and there was a small delay in my layover from Boston to Korea.”

“That is fine, I am glad you are here and safe,” was the reply before she was pushed arm’s length away to allow her grandmother the chance to look her over. A ‘tsk’ was all she heard before she was laid into. “You are far too skinny, and you need to lose these heavy layers. You’re a pretty girl, no need to hide yourself. How are you going to meet anyone if you always hide yourself?”

“Grandma…”

Smiling widely, her grandmother grabbed one of the suitcases and helped Ji-Yeong into the house. “I have a surprise for you, sweetheart, but let’s get you into some cooler clothing and get some food into your system.”

After being shown her room which was filled with taped brown moving boxes, she laid her suitcases down. Taking the advice of her grandmother, she grabbed a light tank top and a pair of shorts before heading to the bathroom to shower off the grime of travel and change into something cooler. When she was clean and cool, she made her way through the house, admiring the paintings. Not paying attention she bumped into a table and if she hadn’t have looked up, a vase would have come crashing to the ground. Luckily, she had caught it in time. She doesn’t know what her grandmother would say if she had broken that.

“Be careful there, child.”

Her head snapped up and found her uncle standing in the doorway. “Uncle Si-Hyuk! What are you doing here?”

He smiled adjusting his glasses before pulling her in for a gentle side hug. “Eun-Yeong invited me. I’m surprised the old lady still has my phone number.”

“That’s because unlike your good for nothing brother, you actually care about my Ji-Yeong,” came the voice of my grandmother as she walked out of the kitchen. “Why don’t you two have a seat, I am just grabbing the last of the food.”

“Let me help,” Si-Hyuk said, making his way to the kitchen only to be thwarted by grandmother slapping his hands and redirecting him to the table. “Fine, fine. Have it your way, crazy old lady.”

Grandma had the table set with some delicious looking food. Everything from bulgogi to sundubu jjigae to kimchi and even some japchae. Ji-Yeong looked up as she brought in some bowls of rice and more side dishes. “You didn’t have to make this much food, Grandma.”

She scoffed. “You shush and let’s eat. You need more meat on your bones. All you are is bones. Do you not eat enough food in America?”

Dinner was met with relative silence. Only the sounds of their chopsticks and the soft sounds of chewing. This allowed for her to get lost within her own thoughts. It seemed like all she has done these last several months was think. Ever since her parents first sat her down and told her they were sending her to Korea, she couldn’t stop thinking. Did they not want her anymore? Was she not loved…was she ever loved? Did they not want to care for her anymore? She knows she had acted out a lot as when she was younger, but she had finally straightened herself out. Maybe it was too much for them. Now here she was stuck in a different country and jobless. Her grandmother was a strong lady, but there she was getting old and Ji-Yeong couldn’t always rely on her. She needed to get a job. Voicing this aloud, her grandmother and uncle looked up at her then at each other.

Clearing his throat, Si-Hyuk spoke up. “That is actually what I came over here to do today. Eun-Yeong had approached me when she found out that you would be returning to Korea and asked me to see if I could find a job for you. I’m sure you remember that I work in the music industry and run my own entertainment company. Well my boy group is going to be embarking on their first world tour within the next several months after their next comeback. So I wanted to ask you, if you would help me with something you know better than we do. I want you to help train these boys on the appropriate ways to handle foreign fans. They already know how to handle their Korean fans and their Japanese fans because they’ve had several concerts with them, but since this is their first time traveling to these other countries, especially the US, I want them to be prepared for what can happen with fans that may not be familiar with the customs of Korean Idol culture. I don’t doubt their fans, because they are amazing fans, it’s just that they are actually getting to meet their idols in person rather than through a computer or TV screen. What do you say?”

“Oh…um,” Ji-Yeong hesitated, what knowledge could she really have. “I guess…it gives me something to do.”

“Perfect,” he grinned. “I will have a car meet you over her on Sunday to bring you over to my company. We can go over the details a bit more and I can introduce you to the boys before they start their intense training for comeback and concert prep.”

Nodding, she returned to picking at her food before she got a glare from her grandmother and began to eat everything that had been placed in front of her. She was in for a long summer.

***



Today was not Min Yoongi’s day. He was finally looking forward some sleep and then he was going to work on this song that had been nagging him that he had yet to write on paper. Huffing, he threw himself into the bench seat irritated that he had to get out of bed on what was supposed to be his day off to come here for something stupid. Last night after they finished up dance practice, their CEO came in and informed them that due to the increasing popularity of Korean idols in foreign countries, they would be doing special training on how to interact with those fans. So not only are they taking language classes to improve their other languages, they now have to take additional classes.

Kim Namjoon sat down next to him and bumped his shoulder in acknowledgment. “Hey, are you ready for this? I know you had plans to catch up on your sleep. I can promise you will be able to sleep all day after this if you want.”

Before he could reply to his leader, everyone had arrived and then in walked the CEO with a younger girl. Her straight black hair was pulled up high. She looked of Korean descent, but she had the air of a foreigner. Yoongi leaned over and whispered to his leader. “Bet this girl only talks to us in English.”

“Okay boys, this is Hwan Ji-Yeong. She is from the US but has recently moved to Korea. We scouted her through a mutual contact and she will be working with you, so you know how to interact with your international fans once you start your world tour.” The CEO smiled softly. “That is all from me. Have fun learning.”

Ji-Yeong bowed to the CEO as he left before turning to the board and she began to write in English. Yoongi looked at Namjoon and a smug smirk graced his face. She turned back to the boys and bowed politely.

In fluent Korean, “Hello, my name is Hwan Ji-Yeong. I am from the US, but I was born in Korea and have moved back to live with my grandmother. Please let me know if you have any questions. I apologize that I have to admit that I do not know much about idols, but my uncle believes that I can teach you, so I will do my best.”

Yoongi froze. Fluent Korean and her uncle? He raised his hand. “Uncle?”

“Yes, my uncle is Bang Si-Hyuk, the CEO of Big Hit Entertainment.”

Disbelief hit him hard, this girl who irritated him for some unknown reason and who just admitted to not knowing about idols is the niece of their CEO? He was screwed.