To Lend or Not to Lend

Dear Engineer,
My friend (a native Korean) just asked me to borrow 1.5 million won [1338 USD] to cover basic living expenses. She and I both know that I have some savings, so I can’t tell her that I don’t have the money to lend her. I’m concerned because she’s not exactly a responsible person and so there’s a high chance that she may not be able to pay me back and that will complicate our relationship. What should I do?

– Losing Funds or Friend, 29

Dear Loser,

Once, I lent more than 1.5 million won to a friend without any expectation or hope of compensation. This is not because I am rich or careless, but because I was able to filter out unreliable people through their past dealings with smaller amounts of money.

But things are not always black and white, so there are other external factors to take into consideration. Are you a man or a woman? Is your friend in a serious relationship? Or does she have commitment issues and nomadic tendencies? Is she of a marrying age?

I will explain why these are practical questions: If you have money to spare, and you are the same gender as the person in need, I would like you to consider lending the money in order to avoid awkward tension in your relationship. That is the easy answer. But if you are not the same sex, then you should think again. There is even a greater chance she may not be able to pay you back in full if she is the type to 1) suddenly change the course of her life or 2) to settle down shortly. If she moves away, that would obviously make payment difficult, but in regards to marriage, please keep in mind that it is very rare (especially in Korean society) that relationships between members of the opposite sex last after you say, “I do.”

Based on your question, your friend is a native Korean, so I assume she has family and several close friends in Korea aside from you who can lend her the money. In this case, all you need is a really good but kind excuse to deny the request. Be apologetic, don’t offend, and you will be fine.

S.J. Kang

About Engineer

S.J. Kang and J.W. Lee are native Korean engineers. They’re super smart and they can analyze problems like it’s their job...because it is. They also happen to be single. Send inquires to

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