Chapter 318: The Special Administrative Region (1)
Jong-il returned to the Arirang Autonomous State after helping the state’s agents settle down in Almaty.
“Wow, we’ve got twelve people who are moving in? Isn’t that too many?”
“They’re all specialized in different types of expertise. The state ought to have that many researchers in our metal lab, don’t you think?”
“Dude, all of them worked at a weapons lab during the Soviet era. That’s got to attract the public’s attention.”
“So be it.”
“I get it. You have someone that has your back.”
Jong-il quickly read Youngho’s mind.
“The president’s got our back. He said he’ll support us.”
“If so, we need to restrict guests from outside. Every secret will be out soon if we keep our current system.”
“This is only an autonomous state of Kazakhstan. Anyone can enter the state. How are we going to stop them? Should we start issuing visas?”
“Jeez. What do we do? We can’t follow around all of the guests in the state.”
“I have a great solution to that problem. Now, don’t you worry about that. Just think about how we are going to send our wheat to Azerbaijan.”
“You know, as the director of the Intelligence Department of Arirang, I can’t allow this. Kazakhstan is like a police state, and we should at least try to mimic that.”
It seemed that Jong-il was concerned that the Kazakh government would soon find out about the weapons lab, but Youngho was not sure how his friend would resolve it.
Surrounding nations called Kazakhstan a police state because the country had 300,000 police officers which were about 1.8 percent of the country’s population. Many countries of the Caucasus and Central Asia also had similar police power. It was because many of the rulers and presidents of those countries wanted to stay in power for a prolonged period and needed absolute police power to suppress the public. Not only that, it was a well-known fact that most of the rulers would involve their relatives in politics to strengthen their power.
It was the same with President Nazarbayev. Despite the corrupted government, he was dearly loved by Kazakhstan’s people since 90 percent of them supported him even after his prolonged one-man rule.
Although corrupted, Park Jong-il envied the absolute police power of the nation. Police officers were often nasty because they would always rip off people who were passing by. They also asked for a bribe, but since their presence was everywhere, the public peace was well kept. They were so notorious that even people would say that everything would be safe as long as they stay away from the police.
“How are you going to restrict the visitors?”
“We can set up a checkpoint at the main artery and at the wharf that leads to the autonomous state before letting the visitors fill the entry form.”
It was like the entry card people would fill before entering another country.
“People won’t like that.”
“You know we’re getting more terrorist attacks in different places of Kazakhstan now. If we say that we’re trying to prevent that, they’ll understand.”
Just like many other nations around the Caucasus and Central Asia, there had been attacks from the extremists who joined the IS in Kazakhstan. That was the only reasonable cause for setting up a checkpoint for now.
The weapons lab was named as the metal lab of the state. Since it would be used for dangerous weapons, the lab would be built around a small ranch at the outskirt side of the city. It was about 25 kilometers away by car. The ranch was a peaceful place with a reservoir and pasture for sheep. The sheepfold was built with stones, so it could act as a bunker in case of an emergency. Since every ranch usually raised thousands of sheep together, it was also equipped with a lodging facility for shepherds. On the roof of the sheepfold, solar panels were installed, so heating was provided throughout the harsh winters of Kazakhstan.
Ironically, a weapons lab used for assembling, disassembling, and making arms would be secretly built at the peaceful ranch. To operate various facilities for the weapons lab, providing plenty of electricity was necessary. So, a small-scale solar power plant was being built nearby it.
Since this would be the facility that needed to be kept hidden from the public’s eyes, the scale of the construction was getting bigger. Now it also needed a lodging facility for security guards.
Youngho called the construction director Min and Jambyl Jabayev, who was chosen as the manager of the metal lab to discuss the scale of the power plant. Manager Jabayev insisted to build a dormitory for researchers and technicians. His reason was that they would be wasting time to travel to the city.
“Manager. We’re not in a rush or anything. Is there a need for them to stay overnight to do their research?”
“Oh, when you’re focused on your work, you often lose track of time. You can only get a good rest when you’re given work is done. They need some pressure. Otherwise, how would they get results when they get to have fun as much as they can?”
“I know that that’s how you used to work in the past. However, I want everyone to feel at home in the Arirang Autonomous State. I don’t want to stress them out. How will I be able to rest when you and other researchers can’t rest?”
“I understand what you mean. But, I still ask you to build a dormitory facility for the lab workers in case of bad weather and if they needed to work until late at night.”
Although he stepped back, he still wanted the dormitory for his zeal for research and achievements. So, Youngho gave in eventually. He had to promise that he would build the lodging facility for the lab workers.
“Do you like your new house?”
“I’ve never had a better house in my entire life. My coworkers also say the same. They’d been living difficult lives for hiding their past, but now they look like they found peace in the autonomous state. I’d like to thank you on behalf of my coworkers.”
“Oh, well. I’m blushing. If you need anything else, please tell the commissioner. We’ll try our best to meet your need.”
“We’re already given more than what we deserve. We’re immensely thankful to you for accepting us as who we are.”
“In the meantime when we build the lab and buy all the necessary facilities, could you teach the technicians at the hunting rifle factory?”
“I’m not sure how much of help we would be since we specialize in precision strikes and high explosives. I guess we could help to improve shells.”
That was good news. If the state could produce different shells, it would mean that missiles and cannonballs could be made too.
“Manager. Do you think we can do a small quantity batch production?”
“If we have equipment like mold and press, we can make anything in any quantity. With the automatized machines these days, it’s especially easier.”
“I guess we need workers then.”
“Yes. We’ll have to train professional manpower since it could be a dangerous process. If there’s any person who’s interested in the production of arms, we’ll pass down our knowledge.”
Youngho was excited to hear that. On top of a weapons production lab, the state would be equipped with professional arms technicians. He thought that his friend Jong-il would be exuberated to hear this.
The news that officially announced the designation of Arirang Autonomous State as a special administrative region was broadcasted on TV. Most of the residents did not know the meaning of this, but people who knew what it meant got very excited.
It meant that another country was born in Kazakhstan.
Kim Chun rushed into Youngho’s office with a pale face.
“Boss. What is this all about? A special administrative region?”
“You could say that we’ll be just like Hong Kong. We’re a lot bigger though.”
“Boss, you know that’s not what I meant. How on earth did our autonomous state become it?”
He almost jumped out of frustration since Youngho acted as if the big news was nothing.
“Alright. The president promised to assign our state as a special administrative region during our last meeting. In exchange, he asked us to do our best to fulfill the maritime police’s responsibilities.”
“Does that mean we’ll have to pay more expenses from now on?”
He was now more concerned about money.
“You know all of the vessels we are making at our shipyard are for sea patrol duties. We won’t have to pay more, so no worries.”
“When the state doesn’t have enough money, you’ll have to use the money from your own pocket. It’s no different from buying the title with money.”
Kim Chun had a different perspective. He was rather worried about the president’s request. However, that was just because he did not know the privileges of a special administrative region yet.
So, Youngho thoroughly explained what it would be like to become a special administrative region. After listening, Kim Chun got even more excited than when he first came through the door of Youngho’s office.
“Are you saying that not just anyone can enter the autonomous state from now on? We could decide who can come and who cannot come.”
Kim Chun liked the fact that the autonomous state would be able to limit visitors from now on.
“By the way, now that our territory will be increased, we should start marking the new land soon.”
“I will do that kind of job a hundred times. We won’t have to forcefully form pastures under pressure.”
“That’s true but we should still hurry if you want to be free from the dust storm.”
Including the area that was assigned by the president this time, the total area of the autonomous state was about 321,340 acres. Simply said, it was about twice the size of Seoul.
The location of the added land was in the southern and western parts of the state. Since the western border was naturally marked by a valley, it seemed that only the southern border needed to be remarked.
The area was huge, but it was only a tiny region compared to the whole area of Kazakhstan. The president had given the wild area to Youngho so that he could develop the land into pastures and farmland, which was basically the Kazakh government’s duty. It was an overwhelming size of land, but Youngho could not complain since he was given much more than he deserved.
Since a large volume of underground water was discovered recently, it seemed that the state would have enough water to develop the new area as well.
At the conference room of the administrative building of the autonomous state, every leader of each department was gathered. Because of the recent change in the status of the autonomous state, Youngho held a question and answer session with the leaders of the state.
“Prince consort, may I ask you a question?”
“Please go ahead.”
Since it was a very formal and official meeting, Jong-il respectfully asked Youngho.
“Now that we have our separate jurisdiction and taxation, are we allowed to make identification cards on our own?”
“We’ll be able to make our own passports but I’m going to keep the current residential cards and passports.”
If the state’s own identification card was issued, residents of the state would be identified as foreigners by Kazakhstan, but that did not seem to be beneficial for the residents since they would still frequently travel to different regions of Kazakhstan.
“Boss. So, we’ll be exempted from paying tax to the Kazakh government. How are we going to figure out what to do with the profits we make from the Koryoin mine?”
Kim Chun brought up one of the most sensitive issues.
“If we make profits outside of the autonomous state, we’ll have to pay appropriate amounts of income tax to the government. We didn’t discuss any detail about such subjects yet with the central government, so I guess we’ll have to keep our current system and rules until things are settled.”
Although the state was free from tax duty, it gained the full duties of maritime police, so the expense would be increased. Legally, the state would be a special administrative region, but to the Kazakh military and the residents of the state, it was still the same autonomous state.
However, it was true that the Arirang Autonomous State was given an exceptional privilege by the government. Since Congress had determined that the autonomous state would be beneficial to the development of the country, it had given permission.
If so, the autonomous state would have to show something that would suffice the expectations of the politicians of Kazakhstan. In order to show that the president’s decision was right, it would have to show a visible achievement.
The fastest way to help to strengthen the national defense was to reinforce devices for maritime police. Youngho thought that the state should come up with something to show off even if he had to grill the workers at the shipyard.
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