OWL Magazine Korea

Yu Su-yeon’s “Blunt Talk: Standing Alone, Defying Death”

If the 2000s were characterized by a vibrant atmosphere nationwide due to the 2002 World Cup and economic growth, from the 2010s onwards, it became a progressively challenging era with a narrowing job market. However, up until the 2010s, there was a societal atmosphere of competition based on “specs,” creating a sense of doing something.

As we entered the 2020s, this societal atmosphere underwent a complete reversal. With the economic growth rate declining and the experience of COVID-19, the overall societal mood has become bleak. South Korea’s birth rate has plummeted to the zero-point range, recording the lowest in the world, and the economic growth rate is also gloomy. The average age of the country has now risen to the mid-40s. It’s a time when it’s hard to feel the same vitality as before throughout society.

“Blunt Talk,” published in 2012, by Yu Su-yeon, is a book that emerged in this social atmosphere of the 2010s. Although it may be somewhat difficult to imagine the atmosphere now as we live in the 2020s, the 2010s were a time when, despite the difficult situation, some people gave up, but many others made efforts. It was an era where people like Yu Su-yeon, who “lived fiercely,” could be found everywhere.

At the time the book was published, Yu Su-yeon was a figure who taught TOEIC classes and hailed from a background as a “star lecturer.” While teaching TOEIC classes, she also delivered sharp messages to young people.

After graduating from Gangnam University with a degree in Business Administration and striving to learn English, she thought she could simply attend a one-year course at a vocational college. She studied at Loren Martin College in Australia and became proficient in English. She then went on to study abroad in the UK, earned a master’s degree, and upon returning home, rose to fame as a TOEIC lecturer. She is currently serving as the CEO of “Youstar English,” a TOEIC-specialized academy.

Yu Su-yeon rose to fame as a star lecturer in the competitive society of the 2010s. Personally, since most of my English studies were done alone, I rarely attended lectures. So, I’ve never attended Yu Su-yeon’s classes. However, I could occasionally come across TOEIC-related books written by Yu Su-yeon in bookstores. Of course, at the time, I didn’t feel the need to study TOEIC any further, so I didn’t purchase them…

During the social atmosphere of competition for specs in the 2010s, the TOEIC was considered a basic spec, so many test-takers naturally encountered Yu Su-yeon’s classes. I don’t know if people preparing for employment nowadays still prioritize the TOEIC as they did in the past, but that was the social atmosphere back then.

The book seems to be written with the purpose of conveying Yu Su-yeon’s thoughts to young people based on her experiences and interactions with test-takers during TOEIC lectures. Reading the book, one can feel that to succeed, one must “live fiercely.”

Among the contents is Yu Su-yeon’s experience of taking over her parents’ store while studying abroad when the business was struggling. It conveys the message that regardless of what you do, having “initiative” and striving to do your best is important.

The message of the book is not to pursue perfection but to pursue success. If you pursue perfection, you will end up doing nothing. Instead of seeking perfection, it emphasizes the importance of taking action when you are reasonably prepared and the timing is right.

This is something I personally resonate with. If I were to pursue perfection, I wouldn’t be able to publish any of the articles I’ve written. However, because I was reasonably prepared, I was able to quickly publish them, which eventually led to being selected as a power blogger.

The book also introduces the concept of “crab mentality.” Just as crabs in a bucket prevent each other from escaping, some people are accustomed to pulling others down rather than trying to elevate themselves when they see someone doing better. Instead of surrounding yourself with such people, the book suggests focusing on oneself to lead a successful life.

Lastly, the book quotes the following saying from Elvin Toffler: “If you become a fool even when you win or when you lose, be a fool who wins.” Even in situations where you only break even whether you win or lose, developing a habit of winning will ultimately be advantageous in life.

Consistently throughout the book, the message is to not hesitate, believe in oneself, make careful plans, challenge oneself, and take action immediately. Instead of constantly complaining about the current situation, try something and it will be helpful in life.

“Blunt Talk” by Yu Su-yeon: