Saturday, September 4, 2010

Perseverance's place in Korean culture

This diminutive [69-year-old] woman, now known nationwide [in South Korea] as “Grandma Cha Sa-soon,” has achieved a record that causes people here to first shake their heads with astonishment and then smile: She failed her driver’s test hundreds of times but never gave up. Finally, she got her license — on her 960th try.

For three years starting in April 2005, she took the test once a day five days a week. After that, her pace slowed, to about twice a week. But she never quit.

Hers is a fame based not only on sheer doggedness, a quality held in high esteem by Koreans, but also on the universal human sympathy for a monumental — and in her case, cheerful — loser. ...

Of course, Ms. Park and another driving teacher noted, perhaps Ms. Cha should content herself with simply getting the license and not endangering others on the road by actually driving. But they were not too worried about the risk, they said, because it was the written test, not the driving skill and road tests, that she failed so many times. ...

Her tenacity has struck a chord with South Koreans, who are often exhorted to recall the hardship years after the 1950-53 Korean War and celebrate perseverance as a national trait.

The country’s most popular boxing champion was Hong Su-hwan, who was floored four times before knocking out Hector Carrasquilla to win the World Boxing Association’s super bantamweight championship in 1977. His feat gave rise to a popular phrase about resolve: “Sajeonogi,” or “Knocked down four times, rising up five.”
--Choe Sang-Hun, NYT, making a very true observation about Korean culture

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