17 June, 2021

Do It Palli-Palli, Keep Doing It Palli-Palli

Speed is the ethos, the ethic and driving force of Korea, despite the off-and-on errors it engenders

Do It Palli-Palli, Keep Doing It Palli-Palli

South Korea calls itself the ‘Land of the Morning Calm’, with brochures showing glossy pictures of soaring mountains covered in mist. If that makes you imagine an ancient land of serene peace and quiet, you are in for a big surprise. From the moment you land at Seoul’s Incheon airport, you will experience a modern megalopolis with massive public infrastructure, coming together to ensure speed and efficiency.

The emphasis on speed for achieving efficiency may indeed be the defining aspect of Korean advancement in recent years. From high-bandwidth internet connections to superfast taxicab drivers, the speed ethic is ubiquitous. In fact, Koreans have a word for this kind of speed. Two words actually, because they usually repeat it: palli-palli, which roughly translates to jaldi-jaldi in Hindi.

I have never seen Koreans waiting for anything when they are on the go. Restaurants have a call button at each table so that patrons can summon the wait staff at a moment’s notice. Shopping malls are everywhere, including underground walkways,...

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