Proverb – Korean
kong shim un dae kong nah go
Bean planted place bean appears
pat shim un dae pat nan da
Red bean planted place red bean appears
Where you plant a bean, a bean grows
Where you plant a red bean, a red bean grows
The interview with Myung Soon Lee, my mother, was conducted in Korean, and she felt as though this proverb was a vital lesson that everyone should be conscious of. According to her, this proverb has been passed down from generation to generation, and most Korean parents should have heard of this sometime in their lives. When asked to interpret this saying, she simply said, Ni ga ha nun dae ro gut nun da which means You get what you put in. The difference between a simple bean (kong) and a red bean (pat) is that a simple bean is fresh, while a red bean is typically soggy and easily mashed. Thus, a simple bean has a positive connotation and a red bean has a negative one.
My mother learned this proverb when she was in high school from both her teacher and her mother, who had also learned it from her own mother. Her schoolteacher would tell her students this in the beginning of the year to encourage the students to put forth their best effort in every task they were given. Also, her mother would tell her this every time she was studying for a test as a means of motivation. In turn, my mother told me this as I was studying for the SATs and also as I was applying for college. She told me that if I worked hard, I would see the benefits, which would be a good score on the SATs, or an acceptance to the college of my dreams. I felt as though this saying was as much a warning as it was an encouragement. The initial part of the saying, Where you plant a bean, a bean grows, was positive and hopeful, while the latter part of the saying, Where you plant a red bean, a red bean grows, was ominous and intimidating. Nevertheless, I believe it was necessary to have this juxtaposition of opposing senses, hopeful and ominous, in order to effectively get the message across, especially because students are usually the intended audience of this proverb.
This seems like such a simple concept, but it is necessary to be reminded of such things we deem as trivial. It is easy to overlook these important life lessons and blindly strive for ones aspirations. I am thankful that my mother instilled in me this piece of wisdom. It allows me to be more conscious of my efforts whenever I am performing a task. This proverb also provides me with a window to traditional Korean culture. The fact that this saying has been passed down for so many generations is a testament to the hard-working and diligent nature of Koreans. Having never visited Korea in my entire life, I am able to better understand a large aspect of my heritage because of this proverb.