Why do Koreans work like beavers?

You may have seen construction sites to dig out pedestrian sidewalks and change defect-less bricks in every December. Nobody likes wasting of government budget like that, except the government officers and the construction workers. The officers have to spend their annual budget 100% as they planned, or the budget will cut off next year as much as they don’t use, because central government will judge the officers aren’t diligent. But, some officers would be smart enough to save some budget with flexibility, though the only desirable character for them isn’t smartness but diligence.

Diligence is the first step to be successful at work, but it’s not everything for a success. Your students may have told you this, “I’ll study harder for the next exam.” They believe they’ll earn a higher score at an exam if they spend more time at desk.

The paradigm “working more+harder = success” worked well through 1960 ~ mid 1990, the period of “miracle of the Han river” in Korea. The problem is that the culture, people, system in entire country still clinging to the old paradigm, because it’s the only way they have succeeded in economy.

Those are why Koreans have to work all day long and they actually do. Korean workers sell their labor time to produce goods with already patented technologies of somebody else. People in high technology industries work like making dolls and shoes in 1970’s Korea. Probably they must work all day to survive at competitive markets. One counter example is Germany. German technology is the best in the world and Germany probably is the only industrial western country with current account balance in the black, by selling industrial goods, among other developed countries. They don’t sell workers’ time, but patented technologies. Think about Chinese manpower in industries. Definitely, Koreans are having a hard time, sandwiched between high tech countries and high man power countries.

I know it’s a scanty conclusion. But, it’s undeniable truth that it’s time to change.


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