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    Meanwhile, a storm was brewing in the Ministry of Military Affairs.

    “From the Junior Assistant Minister to the Minister, everyone gather here!”

    Upon Jo Mal-saeng’s call to “everyone below me and above you”, the officials hurriedly gathered in front of his desk.

    “Has everyone gathered?”

    “Yes, Your Excellency!”

    At the confirmation that everyone had assembled, Jo Mal-saeng threw a report on the desk and shouted.

    “If you’re going to do things this way, resign immediately!”

    “What? Suddenly…”

    “The report about the Huihui’s (Muslim traders) ships submitted to His Majesty! Really, is this the best you can do? Where is the detailed report on the structure and strengths and weaknesses of the Huihui’s ships?”

    “That, we have yet to instruct the craftsmen to write it…”

    “That’s the problem! If you’re only going to do as you’re told, why sit in a high-ranking position? Wouldn’t it be better to prepare in advance before His Majesty commands? If you think a little, there’s no need to do things twice!”

    “We apologize!”

    “If you’re sorry, then don’t create situations to be sorry for! Do you know how embarrassed I was at the royal audience!”

    * * *

    The incident began with a statement made during the royal audience.

    “By the way, may I see the report on the structure of the ships the Huihui arrived in?”

    At Hyang’s question, Jo Mal-saeng stuttered in response.

    “The re-report on the structure of the Huihui’s ships? That’s still…”

    “As you know, we are researching ships for ocean voyages, aren’t we? We even bought ships from Ming and Japan to inspect them.”

    “I am aware of that.”

    “But how can we be so slow when we have an opportunity that money can’t buy? We need the report to analyze it, and later, to make up for the shortcomings when mounting cannons on the ships.”


    * * *

    With the active exchange between Ming, Japan, and particularly the Ouchi clan, Hyang persuaded King Sejong to purchase large ships from Ming and Japan.

    “If only we had enough budget, we could have even bought and inspected Yu’s (Ming) ships… It’s all about the budget.”

    Hyang grumbled, remembering the scolding he received when he asked for additional funds to purchase ships.

    “Are ships something you can just buy in a marketplace! Do you think budget comes out of nowhere? Get out!”

    Thinking of the scolding, Hyang and the craftsmen thoroughly dismantled and inspected every corner of the purchased ships.

    Unbeknownst to Hyang, this was something that Shin Suk-ju[1] did during the reign of King Sejo.

    * * *

    As Jo Mal-saeng groaned, Hyang continued.

    “Let me repeat, the Huihui brought new ships, and we had the opportunity to scrutinize them thoroughly due to the issue of mounting firearms. Isn’t this an opportunity given by heaven?”

    “That’s true…”

    Seeing Jo Mal-saeng stutter, Hyang’s face turned stern.

    “Don’t tell me there’s no report?”

    “That’s not it…”

    As Jo Mal-saeng fumbled, King Sejong interjected.

    “Is there no report?”

    With King Sejong stepping in, Jo Mal-saeng hastily replied.

    “No, that’s not it! It’s currently being organized. We prioritized the report on mounting firearms, thinking it urgent!”

    “Is that so?”

    King Sejong nodded at Jo Mal-saeng’s response and added, “I thought you had forgotten your diligence from your days as a recorder.”

    “Forget? Never!”

    Jo Mal-saeng vehemently denied, sweating profusely at King Sejong’s words.

    “So, when can I expect to receive it?”

    “Within five days.”

    “You said it just needs to be organized, right? I want it in three days.”

    “I will do so!”

    And so, a storm descended upon the Ministry of Military Affairs.

    * * *

    “Why! Why! Why make us do twice the work for something that could be finished in one go! Why!”

    “We apologize.”

    “If you’re sorry, then don’t make mistakes to be sorry for! Do you even realize how much paperwork piles up every time you handle things foolishly? Do you know? Haven’t I repeatedly said not to increase unnecessary paperwork!”

    With Jo Mal-saeng’s return as the Minister of Military Affairs, several new rules were established in the ministry:

    – Do not create unnecessary documents.

    – Actively use tables.

    – Keep sentences concise and clear.

    As a result, the documents produced by the Ministry were remarkably clear and concise.

    King Sejong even praised them, saying, “The documents coming from the Ministry these days are a pleasure to look at and read. They are simple and clear, getting straight to the point. Other departments should follow this example.”

    “We will heed your command!”

    After scolding his subordinates for a long time, Jo Mal-saeng shouted one last time.

    “What are you waiting for! Start writing the report and bring it to me! If it’s not on my desk within two days, we all die! I won’t die alone!”

    “Yes, sir!”

    * * *

    The military officers and craftsmen who had prepared the report were astounded at being told to write it again.

    “Write the report again?”

    Unable to hide their astonishment, the craftsmen repeated the question, and the official nodded.

    “Yes. The last report was about whether the Huihui’s ships could use firearms. This time, report on their structural strengths and weaknesses.”

    “Structural strengths and weaknesses?”

    “Yes. Remember the reports we made recently on the Ming and Japanese ships? Make it like those.”

    The head craftsman scratched his head and responded,

    “Understood. By when should we complete it?”

    “Within two days.”

    “Got it.”

    “Well, I’m off. Don’t forget.Two days!”

    “Yes, we understand! Safe travels!”

    After the official left with a quick stride, the head craftsman, once alone, cursed under his breath.

    “Damn it! We wouldn’t have to do this twice if they handled it properly the first time! These officials! Always complaining about being busy!”

    The head craftsman, cursing the unnecessary extra work caused by a lack of foresight, gathered his subordinate craftsmen.

    “Gather around! Gap-sik, get ready to take notes!”

    * * *

    While the storm was raging in the Ministry of Military Affairs, Kim Jeom, the Minister of Taxation, was reporting to King Sejong.

    “…and so, the merchant Mansur has selected his merchandise.”


    King Sejong pondered as he reviewed the list of items chosen by Mansur.

    “As expected, porcelain and spices are popular.”

    King Sejong was pleased to see large purchases of porcelain, a cutting-edge high-value product of the 15th century, and traditional luxury items like spices.

    While spices were common, porcelain was exclusively produced in the royal workshop, significantly enriching the national treasury.

    Kim Jeom added more details in response to Sejong’s comment.

    “The variety in porcelain shapes has boosted sales. The Crown Prince’s idea was spot on.”

    “Is that so?”

    King Sejong nodded in satisfaction at Kim Jeom’s words.

    * * *

    “Traditional porcelain is bland! It lacks competitive edge! It won’t last long like this!”

    Upon seeing familiar pottery designs, Hyang immediately sketched modern designs and handed them to the porcelain craftsmen.

    “These shapes are quite unusual, Your Highness.”

    “That’s intentional. Aren’t these shapes also made in Ming?”

    “But don’t the Ming and Japanese eagerly buy them as is?”

    Hyang nodded at the chief potter’s words and explained.

    “That may be true. However, the Ming might soon replicate them. We need to stay ahead.”

    “I see.”

    The chief potter’s expression was a mix of understanding and confusion, prompting further explanation from Hyang.

    “Moreover, the Westerners love porcelain too. Their dining habits are different from ours, so wouldn’t catering to their preferences boost sales?”

    “Ah! I understand now!”

    The chief potter nodded in realization at Hyang’s explanation.

    * * *


    King Sejong’s pleasant perusal of the list halted at one particular item.

    “They bought so much glassware? Wasn’t glass originally from their region?”

    At Sejong’s question, Kim Jeom immediately responded.

    “Though its origin is from them, the beauty and utility of our Joseon glassware surpass theirs.”

    “Is that so?”

    “Indeed, the Crown Prince…”

    As Kim Jeom subtly mentioned Hyang, King Sejong burst into laughter.

    “Hahaha! The Crown Prince has indeed done much!”

    The huge success of the glass products owed much to the craftsmen, but Hyang also played a significant role.

    For the artisans who traditionally worked with ceramics and earthenware, glass was a ‘gift from heaven’. Unlike pottery, where the outcome remains uncertain until it’s fired after shaping, drying, and glazing, glass revealed its final form as soon as it cooled.

    If they didn’t like the result, they could simply melt it in the kiln and start over, a convenience that greatly ignited their creative passion.

    Hyang subtly fueled this fire.

    “Can you make this shape?”

    “Is this design also possible?”

    “What if we mix colored glass liquid into the clear one?”

    Every time Hyang suggested designs based on 21st-century glass products he had seen, the artisans’ creativity flared even more intensely.

    Thanks to the properties of glass and Hyang’s interventions, their products were superior in design to contemporary European and Arab counterparts.

    “I have hundreds of years of evolved designs at my disposal…”

    Stimulated by Hyang’s ideas, not only Pietro and Raphael but also the Joseon artisans energetically blew into their blowpipes.

    * * *

    King Sejong, unable to hide his delight at Hyang’s achievements, suddenly looked around.

    “Now that I think about it, where is the Crown Prince? What is he up to?”

    Sejong, accustomed to the Crown Prince’s frequent requests for more budget, felt a sense of emptiness in his absence.

    Responding to Sejong’s inquiry, an official replied,

    “The Crown Prince is currently experimenting with making tea using Qahwa.”

    “Qahwa? Ah, black bean tea. Hmm…”

    After a moment’s pause, King Sejong stood up.

    “I think I need a break.”

    “Yes, Your Majesty.”

    Declaring a recess, King Sejong left the hall and headed towards the Eastern Palace.

    * * *

    “Hmm, hmm, hmmm… Ah! Perfect aroma!”

    Having finished roasting the green coffee beans acquired from Mansur, Hyang smelled the aroma and was visibly pleased.

    Dissatisfied with the roasted beans Mansur and the Muslim traders used, Hyang decided to roast them himself.

    “All those hours being scolded for my diverse interests, and now they’re paying off.”

    When Hyang watched dramas set in 21st-century coffee shops, he was more fascinated by the coffee than the protagonists’ love stories.

    Consequently, Hyang developed a considerable expertise in coffee, to the point where he was advised to open a coffee shop instead of a smithy.

    Using a brazier and a panjeol (traditional Korean pan), Hyang finished roasting the coffee. He then ground the beans in a small mortar and brewed his coffee.

    “Hmm~. This is the aroma. Reminds me, I should make some professional tools for this.”

    As Hyang was about to pour the freshly brewed coffee, feeling pleased at the thought of enjoying it, an eunuch announced the arrival of King Sejong.

    “His Majesty the King has arrived!”


    Hyang quickly adjusted his official attire and respectfully greeted King Sejong as he entered.

    “I am honored to see you, Your Majesty.”

    “Ah, is that the Qahwa?”

    At Sejong’s inquiry, Hyang nodded affirmatively.

    “Yes, Your Majesty.”

    “The tea the Westerners drink? Serve me a cup as well.”

    “Yes, Your Majesty.”

    Following Sejong’s request, Hyang poured the freshly brewed coffee into a coffee cup—a prototype made for Europeans—and presented it to Sejong, along with a dish of sugar and a jar of milk brought in from Neobeolseom that morning.

    “Please try it as is at first, Your Majesty. Then, you can adjust the flavor to your liking with the sugar and milk here.”

    “Is that so?”

    Sejong took a sip and frowned slightly.

    “It’s quite bitter, but the flavor is rich. Let’s see…”

    After mixing in some sugar and milk, Sejong tasted it again and nodded in approval.

    “Not bad.”

    After slowly savoring the coffee, Sejong looked at Hyang.

    “Indeed… It seems to invigorate one quickly.”

    “It’s a very effective tea, Your Majesty.”

    “I believe the ministers would enjoy it.”

    At Sejong’s comment, Hyang wore a troubled expression.

    ‘I just hope they don’t end up complaining about it.’

    1. a Chief State Councillor during Sejo’s reign[]

    And thus, the birth of coffee addicts throughout Joseon were born…

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