Tag Archives: diligent

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