Seoul'd Out - Part 2


Seoul'd Out
Part 2
by Melanie Brown
Copyright  © 2016 Melanie Brown

Minsu wanted to see the world. But this wasn't what he had in mind.



The next two weeks were just a blur for me. I was exhausted every day. I was making great progress though. I could speak and understand Korean well enough and no longer sounded like a tourist stumbling through a conversation.

Mom had moved us to an apartment. It was in the same neighborhood. I was striking up casual friendships with neighbors and shop owners. They completely accepted me as a girl. Still, I worried about being discovered and having my career shot down.

For the first week of my grueling schedule, my sister Hye would meet me after the dance class and walk with me back to the apartment. The second week, she decided she had better things to do. Just what, I had no idea.

And then, a little over two weeks learning Korean and how to dance there was someone waiting for me after the dance class. It was Tan Min Soo, from S.M. Entertainment. He was leaning against the wall, just inside the entrance. He looked up and smiled slightly when he saw me. He said, “Come with me, Yeong. We need to have a talk.” I didn’t realize at first that he was only speaking Korean.

I followed him a short distance to an empty side street. He took off his sunglasses. Pointing at me, he said, “Look. I’m going to cut to the chase. We’re changing plans a little bit.”

I looked at him nervously. I said, “Changing plans? Am I screwing up? I can work harder…”

Tan Min Soo laughed. He said, “Slow down, girl. You’re actually doing great. We want to move your schedule up. We want you in the studio next week recording several songs. And we’ll start rehearsing for your video.”

“I’m not through with my dance lessons,” I said.

“You are now,” said Soo. “You’re done here. I talked to your instructor. He said you’ve been a great pupil and have learned fast. You display grace and femininity. Which brings me to my last item to talk about today.”

He reached into his pocket and pulled out two medicine bottles. He held them out to me.

“What are these?” I said as Soo held out the bottles. “I don’t do drugs. I thought this operation was on the up and up.”

Soo shook his head and said, “Not those kind of drugs. We’d like for you to use these.” He shook one bottle and said, “This will block your testosterone. The other is estrogen. Extra strong. It’s not required, but it will certainly help you. If nothing else, at least take the testosterone blocker. It will help you some.” He shoved the bottles into my hand.

Horrified, I said, “Dude. I’m not getting a sex change! This was only for a few months.”

Again Soo shook his head. He said, “Yeong, you’re going to be a big star. A very big star. Management is already having songs written specifically for you. Don’t worry, we’ll start with your ballad. But management sees you being popular for about two years now. Maybe even five. In everything. Videos, TV, commercials, Movies. We’ve been testing your picture with potential audiences. You’re very popular with the boys. That’s why you need to stay looking girly. Those pills aren’t permanent. Much.”

Chincha?! Two years? Five?” I said thunderstruck. “I can’t do this for two years or more!”

Smirking, Soo said, “You have something better to do? Look. We know what we’re doing. We make stars. You’re going to be a very famous and a very rich girl.”

I looked at the bottles. Just how far did I want to take this thing? Taking these pills could cause permanent damage if taken over an extended period. But to be an international star! Some Korean acts are even performing concerts in the states now.

Shaking my head I said, “I don’t know. I just don’t know.”

Punching me lightly on the shoulder, Soo said, “Hwa-ting! Don’t sweat it. You’re going to be great. I need to go.” He pointed at the bottles. “Think about it, okay?” He nodded at me and then turned and walked away.

*          *          *

“You’re late,” said Mom in Korean as she spooned some noodles for me. “I thought I was going to have to throw these out.”

I smiled as I sat down at the table next to my sister Hye. I said, “I wouldn’t miss your cooking for anything, Mom. Sorry I’m late. I ran into Tan Min Soo after my dance lessons. Hey, good news. I’m done with the dance lessons!” I pulled the bottles out of my pocket and set them on the table.

“You’re done already,” asked Hye as she took a bite of her noodles.

Frowning, I said, “Soo says I’m graceful and feminine.” I fingered the top of one of the bottles.

Hye giggled. “You graceful? That’s funny.”

Still frowning, I said, “We may be here longer than we thought, though. They think they can milk me for at least two years. Maybe more.”

“Two years!” said Mom sounding exasperated. “Minsu, that’s too long. You were just going to sing Yeong’s song and that was it.”

Leaning in towards Mom I said with a grin, “They want to make me an international superstar, Mom! Can you imagine? I’ll be known in not just Korea or Southeast Asia, but Japan, India, the States, Europe, South America! The whole freaking world! Isn’t that exciting?”

Mom just shook her head and said, “What about your life? Meeting a nice girl. Having a family. Your Uncle Cloo was about to promote you to a waiter’s position before you decided on this crazy notion to sing.”

Leaning back and frowning, I said, “Screw Uncle Cloo! I’m serious, Mom! I’ll be famous and making a ton of money!”

Frowning as well, Mom said, “How dare you talk about your uncle that way! And no. Yeong will be famous and the record company will make a ton of money.”

Frustrated, I almost shouted, “Don’t you understand? We’ll be able to move into a nicer house in a better part of town! Or somewhere new altogether! It’s a fantastic opportunity!”

Mom stood up and said sternly, “Just look at you, Minsu. Wearing your hair like a girl. Wearing lipstick and eye make-up, nail polish and a skirt shorter than I let your sister wear. I should never have said yes to this.”

I stood up and placed my fists on the table. I said with a tinge of anger in my voice, “I want this Mom. I want this more than anything in the world. If you don’t want to see me this way, then go back to America! Take Hye with you! I can live on my own here.”

Hye said, “Minsu! You can’t talk…”

Mom said, “No. I think you need me now more than ever. You’re letting them corrupt you.”

My anger subsiding some, I said, “Mom. Sis. Both of you need to promise me one thing. It’s important. Never call me Minsu again. I’m Yeong.”

Hye folded her arms and said, “I think I’ll start calling you bitch.”

*          *          *

I was sitting cross-legged on the bed in my room when there was a knock on the door. I frowned at the door and said, “Yeah?”

The door opened and Hye walked in. After entering she closed the door and then just stood there staring at me. Putting her hands on her hips she said, “Just what the hell was all that about?” Since I learned Korean, we rarely spoke in English anymore.

“What are you talking about?” I snarled. “Mom suddenly doesn’t want me to succeed!”

Sitting on the edge of my bed, Hye said, “No, stupid. She doesn’t want you to ruin your life. This all started as just a lark; to get Yeong’s song out to the world. We all got carried away when a major studio wanted to record the song and put you in a video. You pretending to be a girl was just a fun and goofy thing to do. But now look at what they want you to do! This basically means you becoming a girl twenty-four seven for the foreseeable future. Is that what you really want?”

I shrugged and said, “I don’t know. I was just hit with this today. When you made me dress as a girl for your little video, I never dreamed I’d be offered such a huge opportunity.”

Frowning, Hye said, “I wish now I’d never made that video. Our lives would still be normal.”

Narrowing my brows, I said, “Yeah. I’d still be busing tables at Uncle Cloo’s restaurant. That’s living the dream. Or I could become a global star. Hmm. Which to choose?”

“But it’s not really you, Minsu,” said Hye. “It’s a fabricated person that will be famous.”

“It’ll still be my voice! It’ll still be my face people will see,” I said. “Does it matter what clothes I wear?”

“They’re selling you as this cute, teenage girl,” said Hye. “Most of your fans are going to be teen boys. Can you handle that? Having boys want to date you, marry you, or have sex with you?”

“I don’t have to deal with fans directly,” I said. “Fans are an abstraction. They’ll be kept at a distance. And I’m not a teenager.”

Looking annoyed, Hye said, “Have you not looked at the promotional material the studio has sent over? They’re saying you’re a seventeen year old Korean girl. For now, yeah you can pass for seventeen. But how much longer will you look girly? And fans are hardly an abstraction.”

Frowning, I said, “Well, right now I have zero fans. Even in my own family. I’ll worry about that when the time comes. As for looking girly…” I reached for the two bottles that were lying on the bed behind me. “I was given these today by Soo.” I handed the bottles to Hye.

Puzzled, Hye looked at the bottles. She said, “What are these for?”

“One blocks testosterone. The other is something to feminize me.”

“Estrogen?” asked Hye.

“It’s more than just that, I think,” I said.

Hye just stared at me for a few moments. She said, “Is this what you want? Do you really want boobs? Be soft and more rounded? And who knows how this will affect your mind.”

I took the bottles back and said, “I’m willing to pay that price. I want this, Hye. I really do. Can you imagine being famous all over the world?”

Hye grunted a laugh and said, “Yeah. Everywhere except the country you were born in.”

I frowned and said, “Yeah. But K-Pop is starting to gain ground in America. Look how popular J-Pop is getting.”

Hye laughed and said, “Yeah. Among you anime watching geeks and nerds! Most people still know nothing about it.”

“True,” I said. “With a few exceptions, foreign music has a hard time being heard in America. Maybe I can change that.”

Hye rolled her eyes and said, “Don’t hold your breath. But who knows, right?”

Silence filled the air of my room for a minute. Shaking the bottles I said, “Don’t tell Mom about these, please? At least not yet.”

Hye said, “You’re not going to tell Mom that you’re having a sex change?”

Scowling, I said, “I’m not getting a sex change!”

Hye pointed at the bottles in my hand and said, “Two years on those pills and living as a girl the whole time? Even if you don’t get anything cut off, you’re changing your sex.”

*          *          *

End of Part 2

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