Tuesday, August 14, 2012

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The "Korean Promise"

Promises are meant to be broken.
This is a cliche that almost every one of us know. In our everyday lives, we tend to create promises - be it a small one, like to buy a candy for your sibling, or a big one, like to promise a good life to your partner. It's up to you if you are to fulfill these promises, or just break them, as everyone expects.


Don'cha dare break yours.
Being with Koreans for almost two months, and communicating with them for quite sometime, I have observed a lot of their actions and their beliefs. Spending time with them made me realize one thing that makes me guilty for some time - they tend to take promises very seriously.

To join them in eating dinner, to give them a "break time" when it's a lot of stress, to buy them "Philippine noodles" or mami, I have promised them. Some came true, but some seem impossible that I was not able to fulfill them, and these broken promises might've scarred my friendship with some students.

As I said earlier, Koreans tend to take promises very seriously. Promises, or "약속" (yaksok), are given to each other with great trust that both parties will follow what they promised. They even have several forms of promises, where the consequence is directly proportional to the form of your promise, and here are some that I have experienced with them.

Mild: The Verbal Promise
Common in every country, people are also fond of making verbal promises. Some promises I made include telling my students that I would give them noodles for snacks, which I fulfilled. I considered this mild because the promise, when you already gave it, can be denied when you have forgotten or broken your promise. You can always say that "No, I didn't even tell you that." when you noticed that you yourself have broken your promise. I'm not saying that you can always break a verbal promise with any people, but still, your credibility is at risk when you break these.

Note: Do this type of promise with your right hand raised, for a higher degree of promise. (I promise!)

Note again: For a stronger degree of promise, say the word "Really" or "진짜!" (jinjja!).

Mild-moderate: The Pinky Promise
You might not want to break it, right?
The Pinky Promise is quite known worldwide, but is quite famous in Korea. The pinky promise is done by interlocking your pinky fingers (the smallest ones, besides the thumb) as you tell each other your promises. This type of promises is of some degree - doing this promise does not allow you to cross your fingers, because the one you are making a promise with sees your hand.

Note: For a stronger degree of promise, you can seal the promise further by stamping your fingers together while you have the pinky promise.

I have once made a pinky promise, stating that me and my students will eat dinner together in their mall exposure. However, due to miscommunication, and because the students I'm supervising are really hungry at that time, we are not able to fulfill the promise. The students I made a promise with hated me for the day, but we're OK the day after. Sweet.

Moderate: The "Scanner" Promise
The scanner promise is quite a strong promise to make. I said it's quite strong because you have an evidence. This promise is made by writing your promises on a sheet of paper. Then, you spread your thumb and your index finger, like you're making a "check mark" using your fingers, and then, use these fingers like barcode readers, and scan the whole paper, so it will be saved in your memory.

The scanner promise is quite good, for the promise is written, and the one who breaks the promise will be punished severely, to the point that he/she will fulfill the promise. You have the evidence, so why not follow what you promised, right? Haha.

Severe: The "Man's" Promise
This promise, I think is the most severe form of promise I ever had, and I don't even know if it's real or invented by my student who really wants me to follow my promise.

This promise is made by telling your promises to each other, and then, after you give yours, you put the tip of your thumb on the tip your your tongue, and the tip of your pinky finger, to the space between your two eyebrows. That's a Man's Promise.

Well, this might seem a little easy for you, but for this student, this is severe enough (well, for me too). He said that doing this promise with him, the one who breaks the promise gets his mother taken from him and is given to the one who did not. And again, this seems childish, but who want his mother to be taken away?

In this life, we tend to make several promises. The promise to read your friend's blog article, the promise to buy your friend food that he likes, the promise to do good in your exams - all these promises can and will be followed, if you really are determined to do them - no exceptions, especially if you really made them without coercion. 

No matter how small these promises are, they are not meant to be broken but meant to be fulfilled, as they are promises, in the first place. No need for evidences, no need for the pinky promise, no need for your mother to be taken away. The point where you gave your word already means a lot to the person you're making a promise to - be it a Korean or a person from your race.

Before I bid farewell to my students (because they're going back to Korea), we promised each other that we  will see each other again as professionals, and very successful ones. And that, is a promise I am very much willing to do.

5 comments:

  1. My friends and I always do the pinky promise. It wasn't until recently she showed my how to "seal it" with the thumb stamp. It's so cute I love doing it. But you're right, all my korean friends always follow through with their promises whether it be minor or major. That's why I know i can always rely on them.

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  2. This is something we should learn from the Koreans. I love your template. It's very pleasant to the eyes. :)

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  3. I'm 24, a dude, and I still believe in the sanctity and importance of staying true to the pinky promise! :) Nothing to be embarrassed of, in my opinion.

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    1. Cool! Promises are really meant to be fulfilled. As the golden rule says "Do not do unto others what you don't want to be done unto you."

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