In my mind there is no doubt . No doubt at all. Koreans are the hardest working people in the world .
This is not a conclusion I’ve come to recently . It is a feeling that has been building up over decades.
I first came to think of Koreans as a separate group in the seventies when it seemed that every other fruit and vegetable stand in New York City was Korean . You could tell their stands from the others because of the way the produce was displayed. Each fruit , each vegetable was lovingly burnished , glossy, arranged with geometric precision and displayed to best advantage and the stands were spotless. Later on , as the owners prospered , the shops became larger and many of them sprouted “salad” bars .The term was a misnomer because they featured not only salads but hot dishes , many of them fried . And , of course , the food were so artfully arranged that one ended up eating more than one had intended .
Running these vegetable stands was labor intensive . A lot of work went into buying the produce and arranging it . I remember a New York Times article about these stands and their owners .One Korean woman described how her husband would get up in the middle of the night to drive to Hunts Point Market ( the clearing house for produce in N.Y.C ) and arrive there at 3.:30 AM to get the best produce . He would haul it back in his van and immediately set up the displays . A hurried breakfast,and then the rest of the day would be spent running the store. If it was less busy in the afternoon , he would catnap for a half hour or hour but otherwise he would be busy the rest of the day until the store closed . By the time the produce had been put away it would be almost midnight. Three hours sleep and it would be time to drive to Hunts Point and start the cycle all over again . ” He’s exhausted most of the time ” she said , ” Look how pale he is . I don’t think we can do this much longer.”
This sort of dedication to hard work is not just true of Korean American vegetable stand owners . It’s true , I’ve come to know , of Koreans the world over . My brother -in – law makes frequent trips to Korea on business and works closely with Koreans . He too says that when it comes to hard work , no one comes close to Koreans . They are always willing to work past quitting time , even late into the night if it means getting the job done .They also have an unparalleled drive to succeed.
I deduce as much from the Korean TV dramas that I watch on Netflix or Hulu Plus . One of the things I note is how Koreans take their leave of each other. Instead of saying ” So long “or ” See you ” , they say ” Work Hard ” . Or they bump fists lightly and exhort each other ” Fightin’! ”
You can tell a lot about a people from their proverbs . Some Korean proverbs that reflect the Korean people’s commitment to hard work are as follows:
At the end of hardship comes happiness.
Failure is the mother of success.
If there is a lot of work , there are a lot of worries.
There is happiness if you get up early.
One can build a mountain by collecting specks of dirt.
With a background like that , is it any wonder that Korea is on the road to prosperity. Samsung and LG are among the leaders in TVs and electronic goods ; Kia and Hyundai are challenging Toyota and Honda. And the skyscrapers in downtown Seoul are a match for any in the world.
No matter where the Koreans go they prosper. While we were in New Zealand last year , we took a bus tour and the Kiwi driver / guide made the comment that the richest people in Auckland were the Korean immigrants .He said that the largest farms in the area were owned by Korean women who had emigrated there leaving the family behind while they set up their businesses.
Because of a lack of language skills and education , the Koreans who emigrated to America were slower to taste success.However, their children have acquired those same skills and drive and they are formidable competitors. One student remarked to me that she did not want to Johns Hopkins because it was a “Korean ” school ; its large number of ultra-competitive Koreans was not something she wanted to butt heads against !
At the root of the Koreans success is their hard work and discipline . Their success is hard-earned and they deserve every bit of it . As long as they retain their commitment to hard work they will continue to prosper and be an example for the rest of us .