Korean Proverb

There is a proverb in Korea that is “바늘도둑이 소도둑 된다”

Original script: 바늘도둑이 소도둑 된다

Phonetic (Roman) script: Baneul-dodook ee so-dodook dwaenda.

Transliteration: Needle thief cow thief becomes.

Full translation: Someone who steals small things will eventually steal bigger things.


My informant is a 20-year-old friend from Korea, identified as Y. She says it means that someone who starts stealing small things will eventually steal bigger things. So, if someone starts off shoplifting a pen, they will grow up to commit bigger crimes like robbing a bank. Y says she heard about this proverb a few years ago and remembers it because when she looks at crimes committed in Korea, she hopes that bigger crimes like murder can be prevented and fixed, by basing it on smaller crimes committed.


I agree with this proverb and it reminded me of a criminal psychology class I took at USC a few years ago. In the class, we learned that someone who hurts animals will have a higher chance of committing murder and becoming a psychopath. I agree with Y’s thoughts about this piece because it is small crimes that we have to punish to prevent the criminal from committing bigger crimes in the future.