How Much Does 빨리빨리 Cost?

A metaphor, for what it would be unwise to simply relay, and now a new tag for my blog — “allegories from life”:

Torjan rose from the desk and went to the door of his workchamber, about to make his way to one of the lecture halls. The room was enormous, and he had finally figured out how to open the magical windgate to bring a cooling breeze into the room that had grown steadily warmer with each passing month.

But when he reached the chamber door, and stepped out, he made a strange discovery. That was: the lock refused to turn. He grasped the handle of the door, dragging it tight, and turned the key — still with some difficulty, but the lock turned over, finally.

Odd, yes: the Tower of Nawmishmik had been constructed only a year before, and was the crown jewel of all the structures within the Hypagora. It might not be odd for locks to fail after a decade, or a few years, but after only a year? Less, indeed — and he had been on wanderbout for a sizeable chunk of that time, as well, during which the door had gone unused.

He looked upon the walls, and glimpsed a deep spiderwebbing of  cracks covered over with some thin layer of paint — the sort of thing one saw in the Towers of the Poor, down in the cruel, vicious slums of Jaewggak, beyond this very same Hypagora’s Gate, yes, but… in the Tower of Nawmishmik? They had brought craftsmen and builders from the capital, they had drained a not-inconsiderable proportion of the coffers to have it built into a stupendous, enormous tribute to the Two Endeavours of replicating the Outer Empire’s Hegemonian Plundermagery, and the mastery of The Great Lingua Arcana . Though he had holed up in a cell ina mad southern kingdom during the last stages of its construction,  the Tower had taken well over a year to be erected, which, since the advent of industrial magick, was somewhat slow indeed.

At the doorframe he stared, wondering if it was only in his mind, or whether the doorframe was, indeed, tilting almost imperceptibly to the left.

A moment later, he turned to a passing Tower Administrant who looked at him queerly. “Hold, there, hold there! I think something’s gone wrong with the lock on my workchamber door.”

The Administrant smiled awkwardly, and took his key to try the lock herself.

“Ah, yes,” she said, “This.”

“This?” he asked.

“Yes, it’s a familiar problem. All the doors in the Tower of Nawmishmik have problems. Some do not close; others refuse to stay close. Many in this particular hallway cannot be locked by key alone.”

“But, but… why do all the doors have such problems? Was there some vendetta between the door-maker and one among our ranks?”

“Oh, no,” the Administrant smiled. “They simply finished building in a hurry, before the building had settled down into itself. One must wait patiently… but a Conclave of Asclepian Mages from across the face of the continents was to gather in our halls, and so, they rushed the final stage. And now that the Tower has begun to settle,” she said with an awkward smile, “the doors do not work, and they must repair them all.”

“Ah? But… they will repair it, the workmen?”

“It may take some time,” she said, not indicating whether it might take weeks, or decades.

“And when shall they commence the repairs?” He hoped that perhaps it would be before the monsoons.

“Oh, perhaps after the rains,” the Administrant said with a shrug. “There is, of course, the cost to be considered…”

Indeed, thought Torjan, if a bit late to do any good.

But, “Aha,” was all he said. He found himself wondering again, as he had at many other such places, whether a Hypagora might not be the place where one could find not the wisest of any metropolis, but rather the least wise, concentrated away from the masses, upon whom they would, thus isolated, inflict the very least amount of harm.

Boggles the mind. Really, it does. One wonders whether those (usually dismal) measures of productivity in Korea that we see from time to time take into account the wastefulness of all the do-overs necessitated by doing things at double-speed, at the absolutely last minute. Hmm.

Insights welcome.

5 thoughts on “How Much Does 빨리빨리 Cost?

  1. Two things:

    1. My new apartment has a bedroom door which does not ‘catch’, meaning that presumably a strong wind could pop the door open at any time. The building is three years old, I believe

    2. I heard in my Electronic Commerce course the other day that Korea is the only country among those surveyed where the most important thing (!) to those shopping via the internet is speed of delivery. Boggles the mind indeed.

  2. Joe,

    1. Yup, it’s the nonfunctionality of places that were just built that I don’t get.

    2. Speed outweighs all other considerations? That’s… wow. And even more stunning considering how fast even the slower online shops are.

    (Though I must have picked up a bit of this: whenever I order brewing stuff, I’m all, “Can you send this tomorrow, so I can receive it Saturday? I want to brew this weekend!”

    (But, then again, part of this is because of how long some shops are out of stock.)

  3. It’s almost like dealing with little kids who do not want to wait for anything, isn’t it?

    Let me tell you, the things are worse the higher it gets. (Generals, Ministers, Presidents …)

    One interesting statistic. During the 1990s, the productivity growth for services in Korea was negative. I’d love to see the numbers for 2000s.

    According to recent OECD statistics, Koreans work the longest number of hours among OECD countries. The second was … Greece.

  4. Junsok,

    It’s almost like dealing with little kids who do not want to wait for anything, isn’t it?

    Well, you said it, not me, but now that you have… kinda. Though it’s understandable when little kids do it.

    Let me tell you, the things are worse the higher it gets. (Generals, Ministers, Presidents …)

    Torjan is not at all surprised.

    Productivity growth was negative in the 90s? But the standard of living must still have been rising, given the difference between what I hear it was like in the late 80s, and what I saw at the start of the 21st century. So what was going on?

    I knew about the work-hours stat — it’s come up in several of my classes. Students these days seem to be really interested in writing about economic issues even in classes completely unrelated to the subject, like Journalistic Writing. And, happily, I’m seeing more and more of them expressing a greater diversity of views: for every three who claim that “Koreans work such long hours! They are such hard workers!” there are one or two who say, “Wait, but look at productivity! Long hours + Low productivity ≠ Hard work! (But it does equal High frustration and Low quality of life!)” I try to stand aside as long as there’s a diversity of views being presented.

    Anyway, as I said, I knew about Korea being first in hours worked, but it never registered that Greece was in second-place. That really is… suggestive.

    And this has been taken as a warning sign by which CEOs and government officials…?


  5. Productivity growth for *services* was negative. Productivity for manufacturing was positive. The figures are suggestive that we have the same problem Japan does. Namely, a very efficient manufacturing sector coupled with inefficient service sector; and the service sector will act more and more as a bottleneck.

    There seems to be a lot of really complex things happening here under the covers. For one thing, in the late 1990s, many adminstrative workers were let go from the manufacturing sector, and they moved in to the (low end) service sector (e.g. chicken restaurants) which pushed down the productivity figures for services and pushed up the figures for manufacturing. It also doesn’t help that in the traditionally higher end services sector (e.g. finance) Koreans do not have very high productivity either, so the service industries which should push up the productivity growth figures do not carry their weight.

    “Services industry” should really be broken down into higher-end and lower-end service industries to really get a feel of what’s going on.

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