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Empire Of The Ring 392 A Stretch 4

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The official visit was not a big deal.
Youngho was only visiting the presidential palace as a duke of the Arirang Autonomous State, not as an individual.
He had gone there alone before, and the difference was that Kim Il-kwon and Suh Min-seok joined the presidential palace together after registering their names on the official entourage list this time. It was not an event that would be exposed to the media, but a quiet drink of tea at the presidential palace.
President Aliyev had gotten a little bigger than before. In his 15th year as president, he was considered the same as the king of Azerbaijan. After his father, he served as the president and also played a role in appointing his wife as the vice president. Still, the public blindly followed him, so it was safe to say that Azerbaijan was an authoritarian state.

"Prince Consort, welcome. It's been long since I met you."

"Your Excellency, please call me Mr. Lee as before. I'm only called prince consort in the Arirang Autonomous State, but outside, I'm only a mere businessman. I am ashamed to be called that."

"But this is your official visit as a duke of the Arirang State. I don't want to make a mistake because of our friends.h.i.+p. This won't be acceptable by foreign countries."

It was funny that a person who appointed his wife and daughters to government posts considered foreign countries' opinions. Still, the Western press was quiet about him because there was no abuse of human rights or suppression of opposing politicians in Azerbaijan.
In fact, he and Youngho had a long friends.h.i.+p, so they did not have to be so formal as this. President Aliyev was only being polite because of the eyes around them. As soon as they sat down in his private room, he started to treat Youngho more comfortably.

"I was very disappointed. Did we become so estranged that we couldn't even be invited to the coronation?"

"Oh, Mr. President, that was an internal event for the local people of Arirang. What brought the press there was the Kazakh government that wanted to revamp its image to the global society. I'll make sure to send you a formal invitation to the Danish royal wedding ceremony soon."

"Right, there was also a wedding with the Danish royal family. Of course, you should, I think I deserve to attend the ceremony."

"Of course. A citizen of Azerbaijan will be the son-in-law of the Danish royal family. You should be the guest of honor."

"Wouldn't the Danish royal family dislike my presence there?"

"Why does that matter? I'm inviting you as the guest of honor from the groom's guest list. President Nazarbayev said he was coming, too."

"Why did the old man step in? Is he still in good shape?"

"I think he's going to be sitting in power for more than a decade."

"He's been in power since their independence and should've stepped down long ago already. I guess he doesn't have a successor."


President Nazarbayev had been a president for 28 years. It was indeed a long time. However, President Aliyev did not fall too far behind since he had been a president for 15 years.

"Your Excellency, to apologize for my disrespect of not inviting you to the coronation, I was thinking about setting up a food factory in Baku. Would you please help me?"

"A food factory? Would it have enough demand? We don't have a lot of population."

"It's a joint venture with Turkey's Eti the food company."

"Oh! If it's the famous Eti, of course, you're welcome in Baku, but our population is only about nine million, is there a chance of surviving though?"

"It's not a tough market if you target the entire Caucasus region."

The market was indeed small in the Caucasus region since Azerbaijan was the only country that had a population of more than 5 million. Rather than building their own factories and producing necessary products, countries in the Caucasus imported manufactured goods and daily necessities from the outside due to their cheaper prices. So, when there was a local war or when the border was blocked for political reasons, the price of daily necessities skyrocketed frequently.

"Mr. Lee, you didn't forget our Azerbaijan. I'm glad to hear your new business in Baku."

"Your Excellency, Baku is my second home, and I'm obviously a citizen of Azerbaijan. My base is here as well, isn't it?"

"Yes, your wine factory is here, and I almost forgot that you have a farm and a ranch here."

The president was lying since he was trying to figure out a way to make Youngho settle down.

"Even if the state of Arirang is in Kazakhstan, it doesn't change that I'm a Baku resident."

"But you should've at least let me know about the coronation ceremony for a state that was established by an Azerbaijani citizen. I would've sent a small gift for the state."

"Forgive me for being short-sighted, Mr. President."

"I'd like to give you a little gift, though it's late."

"Of course, I'd appreciate your gift."

"You know, it's not plausible to leave the place where the descendants of the Serbian Kingdom had been living. So we decided to declare the Serbian ranch a special area with historical heritage. It will be an extraterritorial area where outsiders can't get in and out without permission, and since we've decided to devote more land around it to the special area, the government will take action soon."

"Oh, Your Excellency, I'm lost for words."

"Don't be so dramatic. The Arirang Autonomous State and Azerbaijan's relations.h.i.+p is inseparable, isn't it?"

***

The countries directly or indirectly bound by Youngho were Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. Now Youngho just secured a safe base in both countries. Baku in Azerbaijan would have a shelter-like role. That was not to say that the autonomous state was unsafe. However, the state had no choice but to be exposed since it was now in the public's eye, but the Serbian ranch in Baku would be a secret place that no one knew about. It was also great since it was located at the entry of the Caucasus mountain range and was near Zeynep Farm.
President Aliyev devoted some land in the side of the mountain range to the ranch. The ranch now had about 10,000 acres more, but most of them were unusable since they were located on slopes. Still, it was more important than anything that it was designated as a special historical district.
He said that the government gave the ranch extrlegal status to prevent anyone, even government officials, from entering the area without permission from the Serbian ranch. It was because the mansion in the Serbian ranch was used as if it was a separate palace, the government had decided to respect its privacy as much as possible.

"Boss, if we take a detour to the mountain road, we'll be able to get to Zeynep Farm."

"That's not the land we've been dedicated to."

"Does that matter? There's no one going around in this mountain anyway. Wild animals like wolves and bears show up frequently."

"Could we drive a light armored vehicle in this mountain?"

"The vehicle's body is high and strong enough. I'll check it out in my free time."

"Mr. CEO, why are you going to take the mountain path and not the good path that's already been established?"

Not fully understanding why Youngho was trying to use the mountainous path, Min-seok asked. He asked since he did not know about the Caucasus well enough.

"I'm trying to secure a hidden path for an emergency in advance, Armenia and Azerbaijan are now in the middle of a cease-fire, but it's like a time-bomb. We just never know when it's going to blow."

"If there's a risk, shouldn't we just get out of here?"

"To throw away the land flowing with milk and honey? A place that not many bothered to come will make you money. It's not a big deal in life, but people are just scared to try."

"…"

"I started here, and I'm sure I'll protect this place no matter what."

"Of course, Boss. You have to keep it. We've sweated so much to secure this place."

Il-kwon commented. It was also a second home for him. It was a grateful place that took him and his family from North Korea when they had no place to go. He was especially attached to Baku. He devoted himself to grape farms in an effort to repay for saving his family, who were as good as dead back then. His family and his wife's family were still living in the Charles farm in Baku.

"Why don't you let your parents stay here and bring your wife and children to the autonomous state?"

"My wife is so stubborn about not leaving the farm. She wants to continue to work there. It's okay, I can go there every weekend."

"The family should stick together, if not, what kind of family is that? How about this? Come to the state only when I have business trips outside. There's Gerhardt here, but it's not enough to take care of two grape farms. You take care of the vineyards and the wine factory. I have Suh Min-seok with me, so I'll be fine."

"I can't do that. Does it make sense that there's no security guard around you, Boss?"

"n.o.body recognizes me anyway. Just listen to me. You're only coming with me when there are an official schedule and long-term departure. This place is as important as the autonomous state. I'll only have peace if you stay here to take care of it."

"Okay. I'll protect Baku for the time being. However, you have to call me in your free time."

Kim Il-kwon had little kids, so Youngho did not want to take away the joy of raising children and building a family from him. If he stayed in the autonomous state and only went to the farm on the weekends, it was not fun, not to mention, he might get burned out easily. Also, there were not many people who could replace Youngho, and Il-kwon was one of those rare people. It would make a big difference if he stayed in Baku taking care of the farms.

***

Now that Youngho had a big stretch, it was time to spread his wings.
Spreading his wings meant business. In the autonomous state, businesses such as drone a.s.sembly, bearings, instant noodles, and food factories were the major pillars, while hunting guns, bullets, and carpet businesses were produced in the form of cottage industries.
Since agricultural products were produced everywhere, it was Bentonite and s.h.i.+pbuilding businesses that could be specialized and developed into something big. Bentonite was still in the test production process, so it would take several years to enter full-scale production. If that was the case, the s.h.i.+pbuilding industry was the market that was immediately tangible to the autonomous state.
The Danish s.h.i.+pyard company was specialized in making large special s.h.i.+ps. Only s.h.i.+ps that weighed 5,000 tons or less could travel the VolgDon Ca.n.a.l, so Youngho thought that the state's s.h.i.+pyard would be compet.i.tive in the smaller-size s.h.i.+pbuilding industry around the Caspian Sea.
The state was in a pretty good location for the business. It was close to Russia and across the Caspian Sea, and it was adjacent to the Ural River. It was a blessing that there was a waterway that connected the Ural River to the Caspian Sea and the VolgDon Ca.n.a.l. The countries around the Caspian Sea were content with the fact that there was a ca.n.a.l that connected them to the Black Sea because there were not many s.h.i.+pping amount around the area.
On the other hand, Russia was trying to make its way into the Indian Ocean because of the railway project that connected Azerbaijan and Iran. It was to secure a safe transport route that n.o.body would interrupt. As it was a huge country, it had a huge s.h.i.+pping amount.
However, the railroad project was being pushed for years now since Azerbaijan and Iran have been pa.s.sive about the project because of the Ukraine crisis. When the railroad project began, Youngho expected a lot too from it, but his effort was only wasted so far.
When he met President Aliyev alone recently, he talked about the railroad project, but the president did not give him a clear answer.

To establish the s.h.i.+pyard business, Youngho would have to win new s.h.i.+p orders. So, he sat down all day with Jong-il to come up with an idea.

"The railway project is in a state of limbo, and I think we won't be having the answer to it for a while. What do we do?"

"I'm planning to build freighters from our s.h.i.+pyard. We won't have any future in only making small battles.h.i.+ps."

"Do you think our technology is sufficient?"

"I'll check it out. Making a blueprint is not a hard job. Also, we have a goliath crane. We should at least try it."

"If we succeed to make one, there will be plenty of buyers. Baku's s.h.i.+pyard can't digest its demands recently, either. It's evidence that everyone is paying attention to marine distribution."

"You know about Mr. Ulmaz, right? The owner of the Turkish bulk carrier company? Contact him and ask him if he's willing to buy a new s.h.i.+p."

"I don't know if he'll have the money."

"Just ask him if he's willing to. If he wants to buy, I'll take care of the rest."

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