Proverb – Seoul, Korea


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“Cow Losing, Barn Fixed”

“After Losing a Cow, One Repairs the Barn.”

Jon learned this proverb from his mom during his high school days. He thinks that she learned it in Seoul, Korea, where she was born. He said that she told it to him when he was in high school because she wanted to give him an important lesson. That lesson was to not make any big mistakes in life for they will only lead to even bigger mistakes. He said she told him this so that he would think critically about important life decisions. She did not want him to make decisions too quickly because they could lead to huge mistakes. Jon’s mother told him that she learned this from her parents as well when she was around his age. They wanted to teach the same lesson about life before their children grew up too fast.

Jon said this proverb is primarily used whenever an individual makes a mistake in life. It helps tell the person that he or she can make a few mistakes but don’t let them add up or it will end up causing even bigger mistakes. He said that this proverb can be used in all types of fields including telling it to children and businesses. For him, his mom told him when he was in high school whenever he got a bad grade on a test. She told him that he can make that mistake a few times but don’t let it add up because it will only further decrease his grade in the class. He said this proverb helped him because it showed him the importance of decision making.

When I asked Jon what this proverb meant to him, he said it taught him to never give up and always keep trying. Whenever he makes a mistake, he knows that he must work hard in order to overcome it. If not, he’ll only continue to fall down deeper into the hole and continue to make poor decisions. He uses this proverb in not only the classroom but in all of the decisions he makes. Decision making is an essential element to anyone’s success. This proverb represents those decisions and the results that occur afterwards.

I agree with Jon in the sense that life is about overcoming mistakes and not letting them accumulate. However, I also think there is an even deeper meaning to this proverb. Although it talks about preventing further mistakes, I think it also shows that an individual should never regret a mistake that has already been made. One should move on, forget about the mistake, and start focusing on ways to overcome it. It is senseless to get worked up about a mistake because it already happened. The important lesson is to forget about the small mistakes you do make, and start thinking about ways to prevent further mistakes from happening.

This proverb also comes up in China, Japan, Korea Culture and Customs, a book written by Ju Brown and John Brown. It can be found on page 65 as well as many other Korean proverbs.

Annotation: Brown, Ju, and John Brown. China, Japan, Korea Culture and Customs. North Charleston: Booksurge, 2006. 65.