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Hurry! Hurry! Wait…? (빨리! 빨리! 기다려…?)

빨리! 빨리! Culture

As is obvious from the video above (and for anyone who’s lived in Korea for any length of time), Korean culture is one of speed. Business is booming, profits are soaring, and Korean has steadily enjoyed outstanding economic growth since the end of the Korean War (save for a minor hiccup in 1998 during the IMF crisis).

However, with all that speed, there also comes a price. Corners may be cut, accidents may happen, and years of education may eventually culminate in student inability. Here are three examples of exactly what I’m talking about:


Buildings go up so fast around here, that sometimes glues aren’t applied or allowed to dry properly before use. Many new one-room villas that were built within the last 2-3 years already have tiles falling off the walls, mold under wallpaper, and scores of other leaking or condensation problems. Maintenance on these places is becoming a full-time job and some landlords still want to cut corners.

One of my friends has a landlord who hasn’t been very helpful in dealing with their bedroom mold.

  1. He told them, “Oh, it’s moldy because you don’t open the windows. Just open the windows.”
  2. He re-wallpapered the room – over the top of the old stuff.
  3. He bought them a dehumidifier.

They still have mold and it’s getting worse. They’re moving out soon.


Is it any wonder that Korea has one of the highest rates of traffic accident deaths in the OECD countries? Just observe the traffic one day.

  1. Taxis routinely run red lights and speed (at over double the posted limit).
  2. Cars don’t signal.
  3. Drivers don’t check blind spots.
  4. Drivers pass each other on back roads in oncoming lanes if they appear clear.
  5. Buses and big trucks inch their way over and expect others to move because of their size (and traffic congestion).
  6. Motorcycles (particularly delivery drivers) swerve in and out of traffic, run red lights, and pop up onto sidewalks to bypass crowded sections.
  7. Pedestrians begin crossing at crosswalks with only 1-2 seconds remaining on the “walk” light.
  8. Pedestrians and cyclists cross crosswalks even as oncoming lanes have a green light if it appears “clear.” (And at the same time, motorists in the oncoming lanes increase their speed in order to make the green, or yellow, or just-turned-red light.)


English education is a great example.

  1. Students only study for the test. They don’t bother to actually LEARN English, just “hurry, hurry” to memorize something for the test.
  2. A handful of my students memorize answers for their spoken midterms (perfect fluency – until I ask a follow-up question).
  3. Most regular students are in school for 8-12 years for English, yet when they reach out university, they still only know the basics.
  4. Teachers just want to get through the books.
  5. Some Korean English professors and high-scoring TOEIC students know grammar inside and out yet can’t carry on a conversation.
  6. Textbooks all follow the same structure, format, and topics (chapter 1 is always “Introduction”; chapter 2 is “My Family”; chapter 3 is “Food”; etc).

Hurry! Hurry! Wait… (기다려?)


Why hurry?

Hurrying is good for you because it stretches you in a good way – to meet a deadline, to improve a certain amount. Hurrying (proper hurrying) isn’t just rushing for the sake of rushing (just like “being in love with being in love” isn’t good for you). Proper hurrying sets goals and milestones before us that we must push ourselves to meet. 

Sometimes we need to knowingly push ourselves BEYOND our limits in order to expand our boundaries. After a mad hurry and necessarily exhausting ourselves in the pursuit of some goal, we can soon realize that (after we recover from the ordeal) our limitations have been expanded. What used to be hard no longer is. What used to be impossible is now merely difficult.

Why wait?

Waiting is not only good for you in order to recover from your HURRY, but it’s also a NECESSARY thing in order to solidify the RESULTS of your hurry. Take the three examples of Korean hurry from earlier:

  1. Construction: If there is not WAIT after construction, the glue won’t have time to dry properly. Things will start to fall apart.
  2. Traffic: If there is not WAIT at the proper times, accidents will result and people will die.
  3. Education: If there is not a period to WAIT after studying intensely, your memory won’t retain the knowledge long-term.

I’ve written a number of posts on the importance of rest after study:

  1. Learning is actually the “space between” consistent study
  2. Like money in the bank or muscles in bodybuilding, your brain needs TIME to grow

But the important takeaway from all of this is simply:

There is a time to hurry.
And there is a time to wait.

Learning to recognize each is the key.

What should you do right now?

That’s a good question that requires a few more in order to give a good answer:

  1. Are you currently waiting for something? Are you bored? Then HURRY! Find something new to study, learn, build, or create and DO IT!
  2. Are you waiting but exhausted from your previous endeavor? Then WAIT! Wait a little longer until you’ve fully recovered!
  3. Are you currently hurrying on something specific? Do you have a goal or deadline just in sight? Then HURRY! Finish this task to the best of your ability!
  4. Are you hurrying but lack direction or purpose? Then WAIT! Give yourself some time and breathing room to figure out what should come next! Regain your purpose and direction by waiting and recovering!

But whatever you do, remember:

There are periods of HURRY that should be followed by periods of WAITING.
And WAITING should be followed again by periods of HURRY.

Neither is an endless period of time. What you are looking for here is GROWTH. And growth comes in spurts. Ask any parent.

Are you currently Waiting? Or Hurrying? What are you waiting or hurrying for?

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One thought

  1. This post follows a period of HURRY for me. I just taught a 3-week Winter Camp (8-12 hour days, 6 days per week) while also trying to maintain this blog. Now, it’s time for me to rest, wait, recover, and prepare for the next big HURRY (the new semester of school).

    My sister also had a period of HURRY for the past 3-weeks. An intensive Korean class in Seoul. Now, she needs to WAIT and review what she’s learned before moving on with more HURRY or what she learned in Seoul won’t stick.

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