Nonsense, horsefeathers, and idle musings from a decade in South Korea (2002-2012).

19 November, 2012

We Demand That You Settle for Mediocrity

By Aaron
19 November, 2012

A sign in front of E-Mart supermarket in Seoul announces the store's compliance with the city's mandatory Sunday closure rule.

Parents around the world expend considerable time and energy encouraging their children to always do their best and improve at whatever pursuit child the chooses. As a result, I'm sure each of us, even as adults, can still hear our mother or father telling us to study harder, to put in an extra ten minutes of practice at the piano, to not simply let the dog lick the dishes "clean" and call it good. 

"Always give it your all," parents say. "Don't half-ass your way through life."

Over the past year, I have written frequently (some might say to the point of unhealthy obsession) about attempts by local and national governments in South Korea to force large supermarkets like E-Mart, Lotte Mart, and HomePlus to shut down for one day each month in an attempt to drive business toward smaller retailers and traditional markets. For the most part, my distaste for this sort of policy has stemmed from its use of coercion to halt peaceful transactions between buyers and sellers, in addition to the fact that such a policy will likely hurt more than help the Korean economy.

A few months back, a Seoul court ruled that the city government had no authority to force these stores to close. Yet, as South Korean newspapers began reporting over the weekend, the national government has now taken up the fight and is preparing a bill - named, in typically Orwellian language, "The Distribution Industry Development Act" - that, if passed in the National Assembly, could force big box retailers to lock their doors on up to three days each month.

The Korean government is thus seeking to forbid certain companies - or, more accurately, the individuals within those companies - from doing what our parents, teachers, and coaches all encouraged us to do throughout our youth: specifically, to give one's best effort. By forcing a business to close, political officials are effectively saying to the staff of that company, "Do not work harder to bring customers what they want, do not constantly look for ways to do so in a more efficient manner, do not, in short, apply your best effort to the task you've chosen. We demand that you settle for mediocrity."

An insidious message, to say the least, and one that reminds me of this.

h/t: ROK Drop