To our South Korean Fans: 당신의 도움이 필요합니다!

I hope I got that phrase right! For those of you who don’t speak Korean, it should mean “I need your help!”South Korea edition

Specifically, I would love some help in understanding something that’s wonderful, but a bit mysterious: the astonishing reaction to the Legacy Project’s message in South Korea.

After the book on the Legacy Project, 30 Lessons for Living, was published, translations have come out in German, Chinese, and Japanese, among others. Everywhere, we’ve gotten great feedback about the elder wisdom portrayed in the book.

But nowhere has the interest been as overwhelming as in South Korea (where the title is 내가 알고 있는 걸 당신도 알게 된다면).

The book was published in South Korea (with the cool cover, above) one year ago. It has been on the South Korean bestseller list since then  (right now it’s #4) and has sold  over 160,000 copies. On a site that publishes book reviews (similar, I gather, to Goodreads), it is one of the most reviewed self-help books – and mostly with top scores.

So I would love to know: Why has 30 Lessons for Living been such a hit in South Korea?

With the help of a Korean-speaking colleague, I explored the media and blog attention to the book, which gave  ideas like these:

  • Readers in their 30’s and 40’s expressed how the book helped them to think about their current concerns, like parenting, marriage, and fear of getting old.
  • Historically, young South Koreans were supposed to respect elders, but this attitude is being replaced with views of the older generation as old-fashioned and outdated.
  • The book appealed to nostalgia for times when there were stronger links between the generations in South Korea.
  • The book included questions that the readers wanted to ask their own parents and grand parents.

These reasons all seem plausible, but still don’t seem to explain entirely why 30 Lessons for Living has resonated so strongly with South Korean readers.

Any ideas out there? If so, please share them as comments!



3 thoughts on “To our South Korean Fans: 당신의 도움이 필요합니다!

  1. because the society of Korea forces the current young generation to only get used to the environment that has nothing but reality, which is that dreaming of what young Koreans want is unstable for a living. That a stable job, stable income and so on are the best thing is considered as a right path. Even though they have their own dreams, they just give up and they are forced to fulfill wishes of others by people around them like family or sights of friends and relatives. so 30~40’s people cannot help but agree on the ideas of the book. I’ve read the book. as being 24 years old, it helped me to think about my future and what I need to find out what I really want to do. so many reasons for young people are fond of this book, I just point out one of reasons ! 😀 anyway, I always thank Professor Karl Pillemer with Kornell University !

  2. Hello, Prof. Pillemer

    Last night my long comment was erased somehow and writing again.

    I couldn’t put the book down. Thank you for sharing the stories and lessons.

    Koreans were so busy last 50 years after the Korean War developing this country. They are still busy keeping it up.
    Fathers go to work even though they don’t enjoy what they are doing to support the family. Mothers are also working due to the financial issues of raising children. (It may apply to Seoul only because of the housing cost.) But, they worry about not spending enough time with their children. Parents are tired after working long hours and rather go to bed than to talk to each other.

    I think Koreans love your book because it contains what they want to do but they cannot do. And, for the people living as the book suggests, they will be relieved of the fact that it is okay to be different from the others.

    I am the latter case. I am 34 and single looking for a mate with extreme care. (It is not easy to be 34 and single in this country. Everyone asks when are you getting married? Are you seeing anyone? My answer to them is you are allowed to ask if you set up a blind date for me. Then, they don’t ask again.) I work out and watch what I eat as I may have to live alone. ^^ I don’t worry most of time – let it be. I cannot control everything. I look for happiness and act on it like keeping positive relationship with friends, traveling, reading, visiting theaters for movies, musicals and shows.

    My case, “Lessons for a successful and fulfilling career” reminded me what steps I need to take. I don’t get any intrinsic reward from the current job. (Nothing to do at work drives me crazy. So, I read books and articles. Trying to make the most out of a bad job.)

    I am sure I will be reading the book again and suggest others to read when they struggle with issues in their daily lives.



  3. I stumbled upon your book and website while looking for resources that may potentially help my brother and my father’s relationship. They are both in Korea. Although I have not read your book, I completely agree with the two people who wrote comments above. I am no expert in Korean history but I feel like I have spent enough time here in the US to see the great, bad, and ugly of Koreans which in my mind, all ties into the history, society, and how Korea developed. The rapidly developing society after the Korean war has forced our parents generation and the previous generation to become workaholics against their will to support the family on low income. This has caused an explosion in the drive to succeed which stratifies people based on what they have achieved in the society. Family, friends, or personally life has developed intimately in this frantic survival to succeed and people now say that unless you are born with a “golden spoon” you are unlikely to succeed in Korea. I believe the new generation is striving for more. The younger generation are starting to believe that personal happiness (that comes in various forms), not just social acceptance based on your background, is becoming more important. But unfortunately, it will take time before this is more accepted in the society. My parents, in-laws, and friends are mostly in Korea, but this is why I am currently hesitant to go back and why I hesitate to raise my son in that society. Oh, I can go on forever, but I should get back to work. I will read your book once I get the chance and maybe leave you a longer comment if you are interested. I am also currently a staff member at Cornell and I think presenting this book to my father using this link will be helpful!
    Hope you are enjoying the summer weather. The breeze looks nice from inside.

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