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Reading Korea Through Books
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[Reading Korea Through Books] SayNo's advice inspires with candid, realistic messageBy Park Ga-young
Published : June 29, 2023 - 07:46
SayNo, a won billionaire whose real name is unknown to the public, has seen his book, "The Lessons of SayNo," (translated) top the Yes24 and Kyobo Book Center charts for a whopping 15 weeks since its release on March 2.
There are several interesting facts to note about this book: Although it was published earlier this year, much of its contents are nearly two decades old. The author is not receiving any payment or royalties for the book. The book is 734-pages long but costs only 7,200 won ($5.5) for a hard copy, which barely covers printing, binding and distribution. The PDF version of the book has been available for free since the early 2000s, when people -- his fans -- voluntarily shared his work. He agreed to have the collection of his writings published as a book on the condition it does not make profit for the publisher.
By adopting a pen name and choosing to remain anonymous, SayNo aimed to have the freedom to write openly without the burden of upholding a public image. Consequently, the book's language is blunt, raw and even includes swear words.
Despite the book's roughness and its challenging length, SayNo's words are receiving renewed attention from a wider audience amid South Koreans’ strong desire to be successful.
One example of this drive to make money can be observed in the various attempts to sell extracts from "The Lessons of SayNo" at a higher price. Providing stolen tips and advice from the book for paying members, one person bragged about earning nearly 300 million won a month, SayNo wrote in the preface of the book.
While several similar incidents prompted SayNo to release the book to a wider audience, these cases are also a stark reflection of the strong desire among some South Koreans to attain wealth.
South Koreans, who, through hard work and saving, have long pursued the national goal of escaping poverty, now witness the perpetuation of inherited wealth, further widening the gap between the socioeconomic classes.
Those born into what is known as the "dirt spoon" group find themselves demoralized by the increasing distance that separates them from the privileged "golden spoon" class. Furthermore, the pervasive culture of social media comparisons and the narratives of overnight fortunes attained through cryptocurrencies, stocks, real estate and various other avenues amplify a sense of desperation and anxiety.
This unsettling sentiment and culture of comparison was further compounded by the emergence of the term "instant pauper" during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In this current climate, it brings some sense of relief that it's "The Lessons of SayNo" which has gained long lasting popularity, not a book about how to get rich overnight.
SayNo, who rose to riches from a state of extreme poverty, says there is no shortcut to wealth and those who claim to possess secret methods and offer them for a fee are merely attempting to profit from deceit.
Born in 1955, SayNo lost his parents when he was a teenager. It took him an extra year to graduate high school. He attempted suicide three times after finishing his military service. The business areas in which he is involved include private English language schools, translation, trading, fashion, real estate and a subsidiary of a multinational company, to name a few.
According to Chosun Ilbo and the publisher Day 1 Company, SayNo owns at least 100 billion won ($76.5 million) in assets.
Going through so many different jobs, SayNo has accumulated a vast wealth of experience and offers practical advice stemming from his time in those industries. They include "How to meet with public officials," "Conflicts with public officials are conflicts of legal interpretation," "What to consider when doing a business," "How to discern deceivers," "Why financial knowledge cannot make one rich," "To what extent one should abide by law" and "When lending money."
What makes this book truly sincere and persuasive are SayNo's tips about attitudes and viewpoints that break stereotypes.
For instance, he preaches “Engaging in tasks you don't want to do is what increases your value," "Don't prefer a five-day work week," "There is always a better way to excel at any task," "Save money while you're young." "Rich people are not unhappy thieves," "Rich people shouldn't live frugally," "Avoid receiving favors" and "Embrace solitude.”
The tone and the content resonate as if it were written by someone who genuinely cares about the reader, providing them with candid yet realistic advice.
The strange bicycle on the book's cover with a disproportionately large front wheel seems to sum up the essence of the book:
“Pedaling is done by your feet, but steering to determine the direction is done by your hands, eyes, will and mind."
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