Embracing Failure - Korea

South Korea’s National Day today is the inspiration for another look at cultural attitudes to failure. Korea has traditionally shunned it, but is looking to turn to more of an embrace as described in thie Korea Times article, Embracing failure vital to foster fintech growth”:

  • · “Experts said one of the biggest reasons Korean players lag behind in the global market is that the government’s approach to new initiatives and regulatory environment not conducive to newcomers, and help is given to prevent small companies from failing, rather than letting them learn from and survive failure. More specifically, the Korea’s current regulatory framework, known as ‘positive system,’ bans everything except for what is allowed, but calls have grown for the system to be changed toward ‘negative system’ so that everything is allowed with the exception of what is banned. The latter framework grants more liberty to players. They explained that under the current system, it is difficult to create innovative and disruptive new services as the regulations and licensing requirements tend to protect existing financial services companies and focus on helping new players avoid failures…For innovation to take place, an environment that enables failures and enables players to learn from such failures is necessary, but Korea has not provided such an environment.”

Another measure being taken is the “Don’t Worry Village” and the “Fail Expo” described Isabella Steger and Sookyoung Lee’s article South Korea’s success-obsessed culture is finally reckoning with its dark side”:

  • · “Don’t Worry Village, a retreat of sorts for young adults figuring out their next steps. The house is the brainchild of 33-year-old Hong Dong-woo, who, after making money from a scooter startup, wanted to open a place where young Koreans could turn for a break from societal pressure…Hong calls it a place where Koreans can go for ‘a chance at trying again.’ Park, who previously studied at a vocational college and now dreams of going back to school and becoming a music producer, says many young Koreans are made to feel that ‘failing once means that your whole life is a failure.’ The idea of embracing failure is gaining traction in a country that’s starting to take stock of the effects on a population conditioned to live under immense pressure to succeed, starting from childhood. The pressure can come in many forms, including economic, academic, familial, and cosmetic. While the hunger for success propelled Korea to develop in the post-war decades into the economic powerhouse it is today, it’s a formula that many Koreans, particularly the young, feel no longer delivers. That has given rise to popular narratives in recent years depicting the country as a kind of hellscape. The government has taken note of those concerns. Last year, it held the first ever Fail Expo in Seoul—inspired by both the International Day of Failure, which was created in Finland in 2010, and the Museum of Failure in Sweden, which opened in 2017—with the aim of changing public attitudes toward failure and success. President Moon Jae-in, who is an advocate of taking life at a slower pace, visited last year’s expo (link in Korean) and acknowledged the hardships facing small business owners and young jobseekers. ‘Let’s all get through this hard time together,’ he wrote on a message board. The second Seoul expo opened in September with the theme #FailBetter. In another context, the slogan could be read as aspirational. But in Korea, where conditions for young people remain challenging, it might be interpreted as an impatient command.”