I was in Kyobo Bookstore and saw this greeting card nuzzled in amongst the Christmas cards. On the front is a 3d gold envelope bursting with mini 50,000 won banknotes. The greeting says 부자되세요 (puja tae-se-yo) in Korean with a (slightly grammatically incorrect) English translation of ‘I hope you to be the rich’.
The card made me smile, because although I’ve heard this greeting in Korean a lot, it just seems so odd when said in English – I hope you become rich. I can’t think of a similar common expression in English that only refers to finances. So I decided to find out when and where this greeting originates from…
So, as I said, puja tae-se-yo is a very common greeting these days. When we moved into this apartment the security guard said it to us.
I asked Mr. Kim how he would feel if he received this card and he said that he would be ‘absolutely delighted’. He didn’t see anything funny about it at all. It’s the frank and unapologetic reference to money emphasised by the wads of cash on the front of the card that made me giggle when I first saw it. And I wonder what someone back home would say if I sent them this as a Christmas card. So why did this greeting become so popular?
ORIGIN OF THE GREETING ‘BE RICH’
According to this reference from the dictionary of popular culture, the expression ‘be rich’ was made popular by a 2002 advert by a credit card company.
After the ‘IMF crisis’ of 1997 in Korea, when the country almost went bankrupt, people started to worry about their financial stability. So the focus turned to saving money.
Books on investment techniques became very popular and often reached the best seller lists. And there were even specific amounts of money that were set as saving goals to achieve – such as 1 billion won. (10억 원).
The credit card companies picked up on this interest in finance and used the expression ‘be rich’ in their advertising. The catchphrase caught on and is now used in everyday life as a greeting to wish others well. So I suppose although the greeting refers directly to money, we can read into it that if you are rich then you will also be secure and so happy and so healthy and blessed?
This card is made my Somssi Card company which according to their website was born as a company to embody ‘distinctly Korean sensibilities’. They do a range of ‘hanbok cards’ where the cards are in shape of traditional clothes, and other cards on traditional Korean themes. They also do a range of fun pop up cards and stationery. These ones are cute …
hanbok cards (pics from Somssicard website)