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The following is a tip on traditional Korean language and customs in response to a query from a Mr. Smith, who wrote to us from Seoul:

Q. Mr. Smith:
A young Korean salesman knocked on my door recently and asked me if I’d be interested in signing up for a membership at a new sports center, which was located not far from where I lived and worked. I thought that a little workout would be good for me and invited him in to hear more about the brand-new sports club.

Then I asked if I could take a look. The salesman explained it hadn’t even been built, but showed me a drawing of the proposed sports club. He said membership fees would be a whopping 8 million won ($6,744) per year if I signed up now, but more when it actually opened. Why would anyone buy such a pricey membership in a place that doesn’t even exist?

Membership in a sports club in Korea is often treated like a real-estate investment. Many construction companies get funding this way, by preselling units at a lower price. After reviewing the blueprints and local economics, buyers purchase a membership as a short-term investment, with hopes of turning a profit after the club opens and starts selling memberships at higher prices.

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