Feb 17, 2007  •  In Finance, Korean, Personal

Koreans and The Man

In my last post, I talked about the Korean kye. Many people may wonder why I would not just deposit the money into a high-yielding savings account or stocks/bonds.

The thing is, a kye is more about camaraderie, trust, and the sense of jung (one of the most difficult words to translate – loosely, it means warm sentiments, emotions, and attachments – a very important quality in the Korean culture). Even if you don’t profit at the end, you still join to help out your friends who may need quick cash to start a business, buy a car, etc.

And it’s another way for Koreans to stick it to The Man. Passively.

Koreans generally don’t trust financial institutions or government-endorsed solutions. With their tragic history, they have reason not to. And just when they started to change their minds and started to invest, the Asian financial crisis hit.

My generation is changing the trend. But my parents’ generation still believe that cash is the best way to go. They hate taking out loans, and will go great lengths to avoid them. They still hide money under the mattress, above the kitchen cabinets, etc. Sure, the value will most likely decrease with inflation (and they are aware of this), but they would rather that than have The Man know about the money.

And through kye‘s, Koreans can save/lend/borrow money with no papertrail. They can give a lending hand to new immigrants with no or little credit history (in fact, there are several papers out there which discuss how kye‘s were one of the driving factors in helping the first Korean immigrants start their lives in the states). Plus, the monthly meetings are great places to socialize, network, and have good food and drinks.

For more information on the kye, visit:


P.S. – I don’t know why I used that picture of Kim Jong Il. Maybe because he’s a very extreme example of The Man? Oh, and it’s funny.  😀

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