Tuesday, July 23, 2013

빨리 빨리 - Quickly, Quickly!

I think every foreigner comments on the Korean 빨리 빨리 culture. It seems, from the foreigner's perspective, that there's little long-term planning but a lot of rushing, rushing once a decision has been made. A fairly recent example that quickly-quickly comes to mind is the rush the government put on foreigner's needing fingerprinting to validate their benign moral existence in Korea. The government passed the ruling and wanted to implement it fully within about 6 months. Impossible given the huge number of foreigners residing within Korea! My educated guess is at least 2% of the near 50 million population. In the end, the full institution of the law was postponed an additional year beyond the 6-month trial implementation period (to be fully expected, of course!) I wonder where this 빨리 빨리 attitude came from. The Chosun Dynasty is famous for its slowness of pace, the lack of change and the stagnation of society. Is this 빨리 빨리-ness a reaction to the dull pace of an agrarian society that measured itself only by the changing seasons? I'm hoping one day in my studies to bump into some quote or passage that reveals where this rush-rush originated from because it seems antithetic to the pastoral leisure of an agriculture society, which Korea was until arguably the 1970s.

It's interesting to note other repetitious expressions that come from other societies in relation to the speed which something must be done. In Swahili, "pole, pole", slowly, slowly is the traditional term but is now becoming more "haraka, haraka", meaning quickly, quickly. Was the repetition 빨리 빨리 a spin off a dead colloquialism of the past which appears to still exist in Swahili? French uses "vite, vite" for quickly, quickly but I am unaware of a repetition for slowly, slowly [let me add that I never studied French either but happened across this expression]. In the calming Greek rural society the young are scolded to eat "siga, siga" or slowly, slowly to benefit their digestion. Do the Greeks also have a contemporary repetition for the speed that the younger generation finds preferable? Hmm, language and culture cannot be separated -- language explains culture, and culture language. 

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