Dick Cheney was surprised about how little leg room there was in the front passenger seat of a Hummer. Lots of arm room. But the right front wheel well cut off significant floor space that Cheney had to move his right knee to the left. Cheney glanced to the driver. A good three feet separated Cheney from the female Marine officer. He could not touch her if he wanted. She was wearing dark sunglasses, and she had blond hair cut to the shoulders. Marine officers were getting better looking. It made Cheney proud. She was driving on a dirt road along the southern rim of the hills that formed much of the Demilitarized Zone between North Korea and South Korea. Cheney was on the South Korean side, of course, and this was a trip he had hoped to take before his tenure as Vice President came to an end in January of 2009.
In the back seat sat Park Jin Woo.Park was 77 years old and lived in the northern suburbs of Seoul. park owned several auto dealerships throughout South Korea and was also a partner with Cheney in various real estate investments in the United States. In the year 2000, just after George W. Bush was elected President of the United States, Cheney contacted park about the possibility of buying options on land in the Civilian Control Zone, an area extending about ten miles south of the Demilitarized Zone. The DMZ itself inside the South Korean border was about 2.5 miles wide and was off limits and heavily burdened with land mines. This was also true of the Civilian Control Zone, but less so.
As the Hummer drove from village to village, Cheney noticed that all the buildings were low and made of very cheap plywood. This was purposeful, structures made to collapse easily so they could become obstructions to an invading North Korean army. The green pristine hills behind the villages had been untouched by the military standoff between north and south. Well, this was all going to change, and very soon.
Cheney remembered coming up with the idea of buying options on land in the Civilian Control Zone as well as the Demilitarized zone, land that was essentially free. No one wanted it. Back in 2000, Cheney, though the assistance of Park Jin Woo, acquired options on 125,000 acres of land, land mostly in the Civilian Control Zone, but also about 30,000 acres in the Demilitarized Zone. The beautiful green hills, replete with land mines, were starting to attract speculation. Cheney had decided to exercise his options, which meant that he would acquire his 125,000 acres for less than $200,000.
“What about the land mines?” asked Park Jin Woo in the back seat of the Hummer. The female marine officer, wearing dark sunglasses on this bright clear sky day, showed no interest in the conversation.
“Not a problem,” said Cheney. Cheney did not wish to reveal to Park Jin Woo that a small company purchased by Halliburton back in 1994 was the subcontractor that layed ninety percent of the land mines and created detailed maps of their location. Cheney estimated that the expense of removing the mines with the assistance of these maps, maps unknown to the South Korean government, would be about a million and half dollars, about a hundredth of the cost without the maps. So to Cheney, he was purchasing 125,000 acres for nearly perfect real estate a days drive from Seoul for 1.7 million dollars. Pocket change. The cost of a two bedroom condo in Manhattan.
Cheney surveyed the hills as the Marine officer picked up her speed since the Hummer hit pavement. Cheney smiled. Make war with Iraq for the oil. Make peace with the North Koreans for the real estate. It all makes sense.