By popular demand, a sequel to “Sasaeng Control – Project Luhan”!
If you haven’t read the original, click this link and read it. The second part won’t make any sense at all if you haven’t read the first part.
You’ve been a resident of Project Luhan, a sasaeng rehabilitation camp, for about four weeks now. While detained, you’ve had time to familiarise yourself with the camp rules:
Several times a day, all the inmates (referred to as “clients” by staff, but you know better) gather at specific times for therapeutic scheduled activities. Some of these include:
* Group listening and discussion of new music, with a different musical genre chosen each day by staff. Commercial pop music (Korean or international) is never a chosen genre.
* Two hours of mandatory outdoor yard time during which access to any electronic devices at all (including television and radio) is prohibited. Outdoor facilities in the spacious yard area include a sports oval, gym equipment, asphalt sports court, tables and chairs, a swimming pool, constructions to provide sun shade and a picnic area, all lovingly surrounded with SM Entertainment’s carefully curated flower gardens and barbed wire fences.
* Art and creative writing classes, where students learn to draw and write about things other than k-pop idols.
All inmates are also fed the “Project Luhan Diet”, a healthy yet filling regime of three generous protein/carbohydrate-rich meals per day, which SM Entertainment assures you is “nothing like what idols eat” and “designed to make sure that idols do not consider you dateable material”. Finishing of all portions is mandatory.
Needless to say, you’re in hell, and you can’t wait to get out of here, but you don’t see a way out soon. Every week the guards visit your cell for your “exam”. This was the interrogation you saw when you first got here – it involves answering a series of questions to show that you have “a rational view of a fan’s place in idol life” – if you can pass the exam, they say that you are free to go. You’ve failed your first three exams so far, the last one you flunked when the guard taunted you with:
“LUHAN DATING A FAN – HA! THE ODDS ARE ONE IN A MILLION!”
and your response was:
“…but there’s 50 million people in Korea, so that means there are 50 chances! What if one of them is mine?”
A bad slip-up – next time you’ll have to be more careful and hide your true feelings, but you’re not sure if you can. The exams are difficult and the questions change every week, so it’s more than mere memorisation, you actually have to think like a normal person. Oh god. You could be here for months learning how to do that! There must be a quicker way!
One day during yard time, you’re sitting with your friend, #1063, at the picnic tables. She beckons you to come closer, so she can whisper in your ear. You slide along the bench and tilt your head towards her.
“There’s got to be a way to escape this place. It’s only a rehab camp, it’s not like a prison. It can’t be that secure!”
You’re apprehensive. “I don’t want to think about what happens if we get caught.”
“But we’ll be here forever! We need an escape plan!”
A guard wandering the yard stars getting closer to your position so you stop whispering to each other and start acting more casual. You nod your head to her in understanding and she nods in return. You understand each other, and for the rest of yard time, both of you spend your time scoping out the area for potential escape routes. There’s no way known that you can get through the barbed wire fences, and all the buildings are solid concrete and practically airtight. It seems pointless to contemplate it, but then, near the netball court you notice something on the ground that gives you hope:
You motion to #1063 and she comes over to take a look. She smiles. Yard time is fast ending so you make a pact – the next day, you will meet her and see if you can find an escape through the sewers.
The next day, you meet #1063 by the netball courts. You practice some netball for a while until the guards wander over to the oval on the other side of the yard, then you both gradually lift the manhole cover off (it’s heavy), climb down the hole and carefully seal it over yourselves, trying to make as little clanging metal noise as possible. You’re now on a ladder and it’s pitch black. You didn’t think of that.
“Don’t worry, I’ve got something to help.” – girl #1063 produces a mobile phone.
“A friend smuggled this in. She’s got all types of EXO contraband, I managed to buy this off her. We’ll be able to light the way with the screen.”
You’re immediately jealous. You didn’t know about this EXO contraband business! “How did you get her to sell you that? We don’t have money…”
Girl #1063 doesn’t answer, but you consider it trivial at this point and you’ll hopefully both be free soon anyway. Luhan’s face on the phone is gorgeous – he has never looked prettier to you than at this moment. How fitting, that a phone with his image is lighting the way and aiding your escape and maybe even eventual unification!
You try to focus on the task at hand for now. You both climb down a ladder and move along a narrow sloping passage that also contains running water in its center. Even with the phone’s light you can only see a foot in front of you at best so you both have to move slow. After a while, you hear something unusual… voices coming from up ahead, and even a dim light. It doesn’t sound like guards, or does it? You both remain as quiet as possible and inch slowly forward, eventually reaching a small gap high in the wall.
It’s just big enough for you to climb through, however the voices are up there and who knows what they are. Maybe it’s freedom, or maybe it’s another part of the facility. You’ve kind of lost your sense of direction down here, so you don’t really know.
“Give me a boost! I’ll poke my head up and take a look.”
Girl #1063 puts her phone down, bends over and provides a knee support. You climb up on her knee and poke your head up through the hole to take a look. What you see astonishes you. A basement room with several guards, a line up of young teenage girls from the camp on one side of the wall behind a pane of glass in a separate room, and looking them over is…
…Park Bom from 2NE1. What the hell is SHE doing here? Isn’t this an SM Entertainment facility? You keep your head down as low as you can while still being able to observe what’s going on. Damn she sure looks different in person without the makeup, a lot rougher around the edges, you’ve never really followed 2NE1 but you’ve only ever seen her in videos before. She’s looking the girls behind the glass over, one by one, and talking to the guards, but you’re not close enough to hear what she’s saying to them. After she looks over each girl, guards go behind the glass, take the girl out of the room behind the glass, and off somewhere that you can’t see. The girls in the other room show no reaction while Bom looks them over and they don’t seem to make eye contact with her or even register that she is there. What the hell is that all about. It’s too much for you to process.
All of a sudden, you hear a tinny noise coming from somewhere below you. “ULF NEGA ULF, AWWWOOOOOOO”.
Oh fuck. It’s the mobile phone’s ringtone.
Instantly, guards turn around. “There, that hole!” one of them points, staring directly at you. “Let me down!” you scream to #1063 who has also realised that you’ve been spotted and quickly helps you down. She grabs the phone and you both start running, but it’s dark and you can’t see well enough in front of you to run at this speed. It doesn’t help that she has the phone, not you.
Pissed off, you start telling off #1063 while you’re scampering away through the darkness – “Why didn’t you put the fucking phone on sil…”
That’s the last thing you say, as your face slams straight into a concrete wall and you knock yourself out cold.
You wake up. You’re feeling groggy and your whole head and neck really hurts. You’re sitting in a chair. You’re being slapped in the face, gently, a little wake-up slap, which stings unbelievably as the tension pulls on your sore neck muscles. You look up – a guard is in front of you. He sees that you’re awakening and he stops hitting you. You look around. You’re in a room with a door behind you and a pane of mirrored glass in front of you. You recognise the room instantly, it’s the room that Park Bom was looking at before. Now you know why those girls weren’t registering Bom’s presence – the glass separating the two rooms is a one-way mirror. She can see in, but you can only see your reflection. You wonder if Bom is looking at you right now, or somebody else. Looking to the side, you can see #1063 who is already awake, and looking at you.
“I’m so sorry.” she says to you, with tears in her eyes. “You look like shit. Are you okay?”
You mumble out the words. “No, my face really fucking hurts.” It hurts to talk, it feels like you have some kind of jaw damage.
The guard interrupts. “BE QUIET! STARE STRAIGHT AHEAD!”
You do your best, although you’re still feeling dizzy and it’s difficult to keep your head still even while sitting. Girl #1063 looks fine, not injured at all. You figure that she navigated through the tunnel okay but the guards caught up to her some other way. After a minute of staring, the guard’s belt makes a noise. The guard picks up a radio on his belt and puts it to his ear.
“#1064, YOU WILL BE ESCORTED BACK TO YOUR CELL. YOU’RE LUCKY YOU HIT THAT WALL! #1063, YOU ARE COMING WITH US!”
Suddenly, girl #1063 starts screaming. “You can’t do this! You can’t! It can’t end like this!” Over and over again. Over and over. Why so upset. You mumble to her “We tried to escape and failed, what’s the big deal?” She just keeps screaming, the same thing, non-stop. You start feeling dizzier, and soon you pass out again and slump back in your chair.
Three weeks later, you’re back in your cell, killing some downtime before lights out, and eating some SM-approved salt and vinegar flavoured potato chips. Your face is feeling better, the pain and swelling has gone down, but there’s still a bit of scarring. The doctors told you it will heal in a month so you’re not too worried. They told you a while back that you were lucky not to snap your neck down there, and that people have died in those sewers before.
You haven’t seen #1063 since the escape attempt. You’re watching TV in your bed. EXO is of course banned here, so you’re watching a YG Entertainment special. You’re not really into YG artists, especially the overrated BigBang who are nowhere near as good as your faves EXO, but any port in a storm, you figure. All of a sudden, footsteps and a now-familiar clank of bars as a new inmate is admitted into the cell opposite you, where #1063 who tried to help you escape used to live. This happens all the time, there have been five or six inmates through since she left. You look over at the new arrival. She has bandages all over her face, she is almost completely 100% bandaged, she looks positively mummified. She stares back at you, tears of recognition well in her eyes. Then you realise… it’s #1063.
“What happened to you?” you ask.
She opens her mouth as if to say something, but just starts sobbing instead, like she can’t get the words out. She then starts pointing at you, and not just sobbing, but positively howling in tears. Like someone just died, or something. You give her a look as if to say “why are you pointing to me?” She motions to your side. Then you realise… she’s not actually pointing at you… but something next to you, really close. It’s the TV screen you were just watching. You turn to look at it, it’s 2NE1’s latest MV, “Missing You”.
You look at the screen – “Gosh, Bom sure looks pretty there. Much better than when I saw her in that basement, hey – damn she looked ragged then. She’s got a nose like yours in that video, actually. How much of that look do you think is surgery?”
Girl #1063’s howling tears raise another pitch and become a scream. “THAT FUCKING BIIIIITCH, FUCKING BIIIIIITCH SLUUUUT” over and over again. Guards alerted to the noise quickly come in and administer a sedative, or something – it takes two of them to hold her in place while a third guard operates a syringe filled with god knows what. Meanwhile, the penny drops. You’ll be on your best behaviour from now on.