“Let’s Study for 1 Hour Today”
By Yang Sung-jin
In one Simpsons episode, Homer is confronted by a stack of homework that Bart has failed to complete. When Homer is assured he doesn’t have to help his kid to do it, his reaction evokes a mix of pride and awkwardness for many Koreans: “I say this boy needs more homework. … Pile it on! I want him to be Korean by the time he’s done.”
Homer’s playful reference to Korea reflects the widespread perception that Korean students study harder and for much longer hours than others – so much so that it has become the subject of jokes. Former US President Barack Obama also offered his take on Korean education system in a much-quoted speech: “Our (American) children spend over a month less in school than children in South Korea every year. That’s no way to prepare them for a 21st-century economy.”
Both Homer and Obama share the view that Korean students work hard. But now Korean adults are joining the education bandwagon to stay competitive in their workplaces or to find a fresh turning point in their career.
“Let’s Study for 1 Hour Today” is a self-help title targeting the ever-expanding group of readers interested in self-education. Written in Korean, the book outlines a variety of study tips that adult readers could use, ranging from the famous Pomodoro time-management technique to GTD (getting things done) method for handling tasks more efficiently and the author’s favorite YouTube channels that are helpful in terms of foreign language acquisition.
At the center of the proposition of the book is that adult learners should lower their expectations about what they can do in their spare time. Instead of signing up for big education programs, aiming to study for just one hour a day might offer a pretty solid starting point.
For many adult learners, however, even one hour comes off as too burdensome, which is understandable. A realistic option is to start with a 10-minute study session followed by a 5-minute rest, and slowly increase the amount of study time, with the goal set at one hour.
The author introduces various study tips but cautions readers that what matters most is not the knowledge about such tips but whether one can actually take action every day. As with other self-help books, it is up to readers whether such detailed study tips could be actually used.
Self-help books focused on study tips have long been around in Korea, with many bestsellers in Japan translated into Korean. But it is only recently that a growing number of Korean adults, especially in their 30s, 40s and 50s, are becoming serious about rediscovering the value of lifelong education and investing in their money and time to sign up for writing, coding, book clubs and other various paid education programs.
With the 52-hour workhour limit imposed on most workplaces this year, more workers are opting for private education programs to make the most of their increased free time. Not long ago, Korean adults with full-time jobs were often required to work extra hours, which made it almost impossible to spare time for education programs.
In response to the demand from self-styled “saladents” (a coinage of salaryman and student), local publishers are expected to produce more books offering specific study strategy and tips customized for adult learners.
Given that more Korean adults are willingly joining the study boom, Homer should perhaps be more wary of piling on the homework and the Korean approach to study. He might just be asked to help out, after all.