[Letters] Slow down, Koreans

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[Letters] Slow down, Koreans

Among the first Korean expressions foreigners learn when they come here are “Annyeonghaseyo” (an all-purpose greeting) and “Bballi- bballi” (Hurry, hurry). The spirit of bbali-bbali has become part of Korean culture. I don’t want to make a judgement on whether this cultural trait of ours is good or bad; it has both advantages and disadvantages.

Koreans have retained both their natural spontaneity and anxiety ingrained by their experience of modernization following Korea’s liberation. Thanks to its agile, adaptable culture, Korea achieved rapid economic progress and the world has come to regard Koreans as industrious people.

Korea’s IT infrastructure is the best among the world. Jeffrey D. Jones, who once headed the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea, said he has found one of the reasons why Korea is such a strong IT nation. Koreans’ impetuous temper, he found, always pushes them to pursue new things quickly. When Koreans travel to other nations, slow service can be maddening. Korea has gotten used to completing work as soon as possible. Therefore, quick decision making and executive ability is surely a great home advantage.

However, this hurry-up culture includes being blunt or even cold, which can be a problem at times. This is a chronic disease in Korean society. Foreigners cannot understand why Koreans walk out of a restaurant if the food takes too long to arrive. Also, the high rate of traffic deaths in Korea is among the worst in the world. Ignoring traffic signs is common and running red lights is too often seen in major cities like Seoul.

But our eager personality, wanting to get to the next thing in the shortest time possible, is also found among our scientists and researchers. A few years ago, Hwang Woo-seok fabricated stem cell research results and documents. In addition, most scientists in Korea usually quote from other people’s written reports without permission. This practice has devastated the country and tarnished the nation’s reputation. The reasons behind plagiarism and buildings collapsing are varied, but the common factor is quality take second place behind finishing the job quickly. Doing things quickly is always the priority.

Our impetuosity affects our mentality as well. Expressions recently gaining currency among psychologists are “quick-back” and “buffering syndrome.” These are apt descriptions of people wanting to get a quick response to their own behavior and a feeling of uneasiness about their rate of progress. These symptoms are very harmful. When we are anxious for results we get exhausted. It results in the mentality of wanting to get things done rather than getting them done right.

Koreans have been running so fast until now. However, sometimes we feel it’s too hard to manage our work. Nowadays many people commit suicide because they cannot endure the financial crisis. Considering the economic crisis at the moment, Koreans find themselves with the dubious distinction of being the top country in the OECD for suicides.

We should not be overtaken by panic; we should make efforts to meet our own goals at our own pace.

Park Su-hyun, student, Gapyeong, Gyeonggi
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