How Many Lazy Koreans Do You Know?


Seoul is exploding with activity.

I was last there a couple years ago and was blown away by the energy and sheer willpower on display.  Every weekday my roommates woke up at about 5:00 AM to rush to work and school respectively.  I would get in the spirit and go jogging down the streets of Gangnam-gu (Seoul’s Beverly Hills) before dawn and swarms of people would already be out, rushing to their first appointments. “Diligence” seemed to be the word on everyone’s lips.  People worked ridiculous hours.  School kids were in after-school classes until 8:00 PM or later at night.  The city never seemed to stop.  It blew my mind.

Facts like these had me mesmerized:

1) Koreans work the longest hours in the industrialized world.

2) The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) listed Koreans as spending the least time doing unpaid shopping each day (13 minutes) of all OECD country members.  (France had the most at 32 minutes… those slackers…)

3) Koreans spend more money per capita on education than any other country

4) Koreans, on average, take so little vacation time that, in 2010, the government felt the need to intervene and force government employees to submit plans to their bosses to take 16 days off that year. 

With this incredibly strong work ethic you would expend tremendous results.  And to be fair, since the Korean War, South Korea has risen to and joined the ranks of some of the most wealthy countries in the world.  However, all the hours and exertion don’t automatically translate into results.  Korean productivity ranks very low compared to other industrialized countries.

Why?  Check out these thoughts from Korean politician Moon Kook-hyun, head of the Creative Korea Party.

“Yes, sometimes we should work harder, but most times we should work smarter,”

“Government policies will determine whether Korea stays a muscle-based economy, or is upgraded to a knowledge-based economy,”

The habit of working long hours at low levels of productivity is “like brainwashing for Koreans,” he said. “Our leaders need to be disconnected from their former ways.”‘

So take a lesson from the Korean example.  Be diligent, by all means, but value results over dedication.  You have a life to live.



Bjorn Karlman

12 thoughts on “How Many Lazy Koreans Do You Know?”

  1. Bjorn – I don’t know any lazy people on the Asian continent. Most Asians (koreans included) I know love to work long hours, hate shopping, love bargaining, love education and never take vacations.

  2. I knew a few lazybones in college. Thanks to advancements in video games, laziness is pandemic. But, laziness to me means spending a lot of time doing the wrong thing. Being able to spend a long time doing nothing is called meditation.

  3. This is true, great little post..

    The education and hard work ring a bell. Though, I tend to think of Japan as a massively overworked population. Are Koreans known as the same? I also know they love to partay. This coming from a friend who taught English there for a year or two.

    This came across my radar the other day: I also tweeted it:

    Koreans and Uzbeks on Education reform. They understand the knowledge-based economy.


    1. They DO like to party too…. which is why I like them so much:) Good to see they are reaching out to the Uzbeks… The distance Korea has come in such a short time is seriously impressive… younger nations or underdeveloped ones could stand to learn a lot…

      1. Wow… well, you know what Jung says. He says that oftentimes people who commit suicide don’t want to die, but they want a symbolic ending. If the Korean culture does not know where to set boundaries (endings) with work, it’s no wonder it’s such a lure. Death is the greatest symbolic ending there is.

  4. I know lots of lazy Koreans, the trick is that they pretend to be working or busy when at work they only keep warm their chairs while they play solitaire in their screens or watch porn cause they loooove porn.
    Their productivity is obviously low, they many times cannot even decide one thing in a project their hierarchical structure does not let them tell their bosses they´re spoiling things or that they´re just assholes.

    So they are not normal people, they make their children study too many hours english lessons that will never learn they even do surgery in their tongues in order to speak english properly as they say.

    So its from common knowledge that even though in the past their ancestors worked hard to build this country, the current citizens need more to work smart than work hard, the world is changing fast and this country looks ages in the past from the rest of us.

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