• Follow us


South Korea's latest big export: Jobless college graduates

SEOUL (Reuters) - Cho Min-kyong boasts an engineering degree from one of South Korea’s top universities, a school design award and a near-perfect score in her English proficiency test.

Jobseekers look at recruitment advertisements during the 2018 Japan Job Fair in Seoul, South Korea, November 7, 2018. Picture taken on November 7, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

But she had all but given up hope of finding a job when all her 10 applications, including one to Hyundai Motor Co, were rejected in 2016.

Help came unexpectedly from neighboring Japan six months later: Cho got job offers from Nissan Motor Co and two other Japanese companies after a job fair hosted by the South Korean government to match the country’s skilled labor with overseas employers.

“It’s not that I wasn’t good enough. There are just too many job seekers like me, that’s why everyone just fails,” said the 27-year-old, who now works in Atsugi, an hour southwest of Tokyo, as a car seat engineer for Nissan.

“There are numerous more opportunities outside Korea.”

Facing an unprecedented job crunch at home, many young South Koreans are now signing up for government-sponsored programs designed to find overseas positions for a growing number of jobless college graduates in Asia’s fourth largest economy.

State-run programs such as K-move, rolled out to connect young Koreans to “quality jobs” in 70 countries, found overseas jobs for 5,783 graduates last year, more than triple the number in 2013, its first year.

 Almost one-third went to Japan, which is undergoing a historic labor shortage with unemployment at a 26-year low, while a quarter went to the United States, where the jobless rate dropped to the lowest in nearly half a century in April.

There are no strings attached. Unlike similar programs in places such as Singapore that come with an obligation to return and work for the government for up to six years, attendees of South Korea’s programs are neither required to return, nor work for the state in the future.

“Brain drain isn’t the government’s immediate worry. Rather, it’s more urgent to prevent them from sliding into poverty” even if it means pushing them abroad, said Kim Chul-ju, deputy dean at the Asian Development Bank Institute.

In 2018, South Korea generated the smallest number of jobs since the global financial crisis, only 97,000.

Nearly one in five young Koreans was out of work as of 2013, higher than the average 16 percent among the member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

In March, one in every four Koreans in the 15-29 age group was not employed either by choice or due to the lack of jobs, according to government data.


While India and other countries face similar challenges in creating jobs for skilled labor, the dominance of family-run conglomerates known as chaebol makes South Korea uniquely vulnerable.

The top 10 conglomerates including world-class brands such as Samsung and Hyundai, make up half of South Korea’s total market capitalization.

But only 13 percent of the country’s workforce is employed by firms with more than 250 employees, the second lowest after Greece in the OECD, and far below the 47 percent in Japan. “The big companies have mastered a business model to survive without boosting hiring,” as labor costs rise and firing legacy workers remains difficult, said Kim So-young, an economics professor at Seoul National University.

Yet while increasing numbers of college graduates are moving overseas for work, South Korea is bringing in more foreigners to solve another labor problem – an acute shortage of blue collar workers.

South Korea has the most highly educated youth in the OECD, with three-quarters of high school students going to college, compared with the average of 44.5 percent.

“South Korea is paying the price for its overprotection of top-tier jobs and education fervor that produced a flood of people wanting only that small number of top jobs,” said Ban Ga-woon, a labor market researcher at state-run Korea Research Institute for Vocational Education & Training.

Even amid a glut of over-educated and under-employed graduates, most refuse to “get their hands dirty”, says Lim Chae-wook, who manages a factory making cable trays that employs 90 people in Ansan, southwest of Seoul. “Locals simply don’t want this job cause they think its degrading, so we’re forced to hire a lot of foreign workers,” Lim said, pointing to nearly two dozens workers from the Philippines, Vietnam and China working in safety masks behind welding machines.

In the southwestern city of Gwangju, Kim Yong-gu, the chief executive of Kia Motor supplier Hyundai Hitech, says foreign workers are more expensive but he has no choice as he can’t find enough locals to fill vacancies.

“We pay for accommodation, meals and other utility costs in order not to lose them to another factory,” said Kim. Out of a staff of 70, 13 are Indonesian nationals, who sleep and eat at a building next to his factory.


For those who escaped Korea’s tough job market, not all has been rosy.

Several people who found overseas jobs with government help say they ended up taking menial work, such as dishwashing in Taiwan and meat processing in rural Australia, or were misinformed about pay and conditions.

Lee Sun-hyung, a 30-year old athletics major, used K-move to go to Sydney to work as a swim coach in 2017 but earned less than $A600 ($419) a month, one-third what her government handlers told her in Seoul.

“It wasn’t what I had hoped for. I could not even afford to pay rent,” said Lee, who ended up cleaning windows at a fashion store part-time before she returned home broke less than a year later.

Officials say they are making a “black list” of employers and improving the vetting process to prevent recurrence of such cases. The labor ministry also established a “support and reporting center” to better respond to problems.

Many on the programs lose touch once they go overseas. Almost 90 percent of the graduates who went abroad with the government’s help between 2013-2016 didn’t respond to the labor ministry’s requests about their whereabouts or changed their contact details, a 2017 survey showed.

Still, the grim job market at home is driving more Koreans to the program every year. The government has also increased relevant budget to support rising demand - from 57.4 billion won ($48.9 million) in 2015 to 76.8 billion won in 2018, data released by lawmaker Kim Jung-hoon shows.

“The government isn’t scaling up this project to the extent we would worry about brain drain,” said Huh Chang, head of the development finance bureau at South Korea’s finance ministry, which co-manages state-run vocational training programs with the labor ministry. Rather, the focus was on meeting growing demand for overseas experience given so many graduates are outside the workforce, Huh added.

Slideshow (5 Images)

A hopeful scenario would be for the economy to one day make use of the resources these graduates bring home as experienced returnees, Huh said.

For 28-year-old K-move alumni Lee Jae-young, that feels like a distant prospect.

“The one year abroad added a line in my resume, but that was about it,” said Lee, who returned to Korea in February after working as a cook at the JW Marriott hotel in Texas. “I’m back home and still looking for a job.”

Additional reporting by Yuna Park and Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Soyoung Kim and Lincoln Feast.

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.Read More

Leave A Comment

More News

The Rising Nepal | Business

Most goldsmiths working in Nepal are Indians 2019-05-19 20:00:00By Laxman Kafle Kathmandu, May 20: Nepal’s gold-jewellery business heavily depends on the Indian workers. Almost 75 per cent of goldsmiths in Ne

NRB directives for ensuring Nepali language option in 2019-05-19 20:00:00Kathmandu, May 20: Holders of banking and financial institutes Automatic Teller Machines (ATM) cards are facing problems as such machines, though not

Nepalgunj Airport faces flight pressure 2019-05-19 20:00:00By Our Correspondent Nepalgunj, May 20: With the beginning of the pilgrimage to Kailash Mansarovar, the famous Shiva shrine in Tibet, China, and the c

75 climbers reach top of Everest 2019-05-19 20:00:00Kathmandu, May 20: Spring mountain climbing season is on the verge of entering its second week and so far some 75 climbers have reached the top of Mou

Thriving livestock business creates job opportunities 2019-05-19 20:00:00Bhairahawa, May 20: About 40,000 people are employed in the livestock farms in Rupandehi district. More than 3,400 registered and unregistered cow far

State-1 ministries called to submit projects 2019-05-19 20:00:00By Our Correspondent Biratnagar, May 20: The State 1 government has called for projects under the different ministries by providing them budget ceilin

Greedy retailers, short supply push veg price unbearably 2019-05-18 20:00:00By A Staff Reporter Kathmandu, May 19: Owing to the lack of vegetable market monitoring, consumers have been compelled to purchase vegetables paying m

NEPSE posts over 2 per cent gain 2019-05-18 20:00:00By A Staff Reporter Kathmandu, May 19: This week the benchmark capital market index NEPSE increased by 2.07 per cent. The NEPSE index which opened at

Gems refinery in pipeline 2019-05-17 20:00:00By A Staff Reporter Kathmandu, May 18: Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on Friday said that the budget of the next fiscal year 2019/20 would include progr

Special agro-schemes for youth in new budget 2019-05-17 20:00:00By Laxman Kafle Kathmandu, May 18: The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development is going to introduce ‘Youth Agriculture Special Progra

US hikes tariffs on Chinese goods, Beijing 2019-05-10 20:00:00AP Beijing, May 11: President Donald Trump’s latest tariff hike on Chinese goods took effect Friday and Beijing said it would retaliate, escalat

TEWAN team visits Sikkim, Darjeeling for enhancing tourism 2019-05-10 20:00:00Pokhara, May 11: A team of Tourism Entrepreneurs Women Association Nepal (TEWAN) held discussion with representatives of tourism bodies based in Sikki

Reuters: Business News

American Airlines asks court to block disruptive 'slowdown' New! 2019-05-20 19:01:59American Airlines Group Inc has filed a lawsuit against two unions representing its mechanics, asking the court to halt what it called an illegal slow

Legg Mason names Trian's Peltz, Garden to board New! 2019-05-20 18:14:51Legg Mason Inc said on Monday it had appointed Trian Fund Management LP's Nelson Peltz and Ed Garden as directors, raising the size of its board to 1

Walmart, Target, Bed Bath must face lawsuit over New! 2019-05-20 18:06:43A federal judge said Walmart Inc, Target Corp and Bed Bath & Beyond Inc must face a lawsuit claiming they sold linens that were falsely labeled "

U.S. eases some restrictions on China's Huawei to New! 2019-05-20 18:00:44The U.S. government on Monday eased some restrictions imposed last week on China's Huawei, a sign of how the prohibitions on the telecommunications c

T-Mobile's deal for Sprint gets big boost from New! 2019-05-20 17:57:51T-Mobile US Inc's $26 billion acquisition of rival Sprint Corp appeared to win the support of a majority of the Federal Communications Commission on

Wall St. slides as Huawei fallout hits tech New! 2019-05-20 17:24:29U.S. stocks slid on Monday as the White House's restrictions on Chinese telecoms equipment maker Huawei Technologies Co Ltd weighed on the technology

Worries of longer, costlier U.S.-China trade war hits New! 2019-05-20 17:11:49Worries that the United States and China were digging in for a longer, costlier trade war weighed on financial markets on Monday as Beijing accused Wa

Global stocks slide as worries about Huawei fallout New! 2019-05-20 16:38:54Global equity markets fell on Monday as a U.S. crackdown on China's Huawei Technologies led chipmaker stocks in Europe and on Wall Street to slide on

Exclusive: Google suspends some business with Huawei after New! 2019-05-20 16:37:22Alphabet Inc's Google has suspended business with Huawei that requires the transfer of hardware, software and technical services except those publicl

Face ID firm Lumentum follows Google with Huawei New! 2019-05-20 16:37:22Apple Face ID parts supplier Lumentum Holdings Inc followed Google on Monday in clamping down on the business it does with Huawei Technologies, after

DOJ leans against approving T-Mobile's takeover of Sprint: New! 2019-05-20 15:58:35The U.S. Department of Justice is leaning against approving T-Mobile US Inc's proposed takeover of Sprint Corp as the remedies proposed by the compan

Deutsche Bank denies report it prevented Trump transactions New! 2019-05-20 15:46:14Deutsche Bank denied a report that said some of its executives rejected the advice of the bank's own anti-money laundering specialists and prevented

Christian Science Monitor |

This Nebraska Republican says it’s time to think 2019-05-11 12:10:24President Trump is meeting with Democrats on infrastructure. Rural America says that, from roads to internet access, it needs to be part of any plan.

A doubly green deal? Clean energy jobs also 2019-05-11 12:10:24New analysis from the Brookings Institution suggests that transitioning to clean energy sources could open up a range of high-paying career paths.

NYC, largest fur market in country, considers ban 2019-05-11 12:10:24If passed, New York would become the third major American city to ban the sale of fur. Industry advocates argue the ban will trigger the loss of more

Taxpayers need help. So does the IRS. 2019-05-11 12:10:24The IRS budget has been cut 17% since 2010, even as the tax code has grown more complicated. Enforcement and customer service are strained.

Border crisis delays truckers hours, sometimes days 2019-05-11 12:10:24President Donald Trump has beefed up border security, but with inspectors assigned elsewhere, trucks crossing into the U.S. with goods from Mexico for

In debt or struggling to save? Artificial intelligence 2019-05-11 12:10:24With friendly names like “Charlie,” the latest financial apps use algorithms to analyze spending habits and give advice. But they’re

Why capitalism in America now needs its defenders 2019-05-11 12:10:24Capitalism or socialism? At a Monitor Breakfast Wednesday, Larry Kudlow defended capitalism as the best path to prosperity for all.

‘Too cozy.’ Boeing crashes raise doubts over FAA 2019-05-11 12:10:24The crash of Boeing 737 Max jetliners in Indonesia and Ethiopia have prompted reviews not just of the airplane but of regulators’ approval

Rural America faces housing cost hardship 2019-05-11 12:10:24Over the past decade, nearly a fourth of U.S. rural counties have seen a sharp increase in households spending half or more of their income on housing

Childless workers often lose out on tax credits. 2019-05-11 12:10:24A tax-refund initiative in Atlanta showcases a type of welfare program that can reduce poverty without discouraging work.

Legal pot: Why minorities say they’re being left 2019-05-11 12:10:24Black lawmakers from New York to Georgia threaten to block marijuana legalization unless there are concessions for drug-war scarred neighborhoods.

Trapped in tariffs, firms tied to lobster industry 2019-05-11 12:10:24From tariffs on lobsters to duties on the steel in lobster traps, here’s how one U.S. industry is affected by trade tension with China and Europ

UN News Centre - Economic

Paradise islands of Pacific increasingly vulnerable to climate 2019-05-10 12:56:44A seeming paradise, life on the Pacific islands is threatened by climate change and extreme weather, frustrated by remoteness and a lack of educationa

Wednesday’s Daily Brief: updates from the Near East 2019-05-08 17:44:12On Wednesday, we cover: chronic hunger in the Middle East; the toll of war on Gazans; the one-year-long detention of an academic in Iran; Syrian healt

Deadly violence at Israel-Gaza border escalates dangerously: UN 2019-05-05 13:58:20The United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, is following with “deep concern” the latest developments across the Gaza-Is

North Korean families facing deep ‘hunger crisis’ after 2019-05-03 11:55:59More than 10 million North Koreans are suffering “severe food shortages” after the worst harvest in a decade, according to a United Nation

FROM THE FIELD: New sensors protect vulnerable Malawians 2019-05-02 11:09:27The deadly threat of lightning strikes, as well as their damaging impact on a country’s development, has been

UN rights experts call on Philippines Government to 2019-05-01 10:17:00False claims levelled at the UN expert on the rights of indigenous peoples by her own Government in the Philippines, “are without grounding in f

Work to make the world a better place: 2019-04-28 08:45:08Imagine a world in which practically everyone works in jobs that are helping to transform the global economy, and bring about a world where

‘The green economy is the future,’ UN chief 2019-04-27 09:52:26Winning the race against climate change to keep our planet livable and on a healthy trajectory requires action rooted in sustainable solutions aligned

Chernobyl nuclear disaster-affected areas spring to life, 33 2019-04-26 16:38:11More than three decades after the devastating explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, parts of Belarus’ adjoining regions have sprung ba

Friday’s Daily Brief: UN chief in China, counter-terrorism, 2019-04-26 14:25:25This Friday, we cover: the UN Secretary-General's message in China for sustainable development; the toll of a second cyclone in Mozambique; what UN o

At China’s Belt and Road Forum, Guterres calls 2019-04-26 08:29:14China’s international trade and economic development plan – known as the Belt and Road Initiative – could contribute to a more equit

Aid preparations gear up as Mozambique braces for 2019-04-25 11:19:05Emergency measures are being stepped up by the UN and partners in northern Mozambique, amid fears that another devastating tropical storm could batter

Business News - UPI.com

State Dept. says yes to $387M sale of New! 2019-05-20 13:39:31 The State Department has approved a possible foreign military sale to Canada of 425 MK 54 lightweight torpedo conversion kits, with support, for an e

USS Lincoln, USS Kearsarge conduct joint operations in New! 2019-05-20 13:16:39 The aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge conducted joint operations with their strike groups in the Persian

South Korea to buy SM-2 missiles from U.S. New! 2019-05-20 12:52:57 The State Department has approved South Korea's proposed $313.9 million purchase of 94 SM-2 Block IIIB Standard Missiles to supplement its existing

Boeing nets $163.9M to modernize Super Hornets for New! 2019-05-20 12:11:44 Boeing was awarded a $163.9 million one-year contract to continue modernizing the U.S. Navy's F/A-18E/F fighter jet fleet under the service life mod

Japan approved for $317M purchase of AMRAAM missiles New! 2019-05-20 10:58:57 The U.S. State Department approved the possible sale of 160 AIM-120C-7 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles to Japan for $317 million.

Navy awards Sikorsky $1.2B for 12 King Stallion New! 2019-05-20 09:39:40 Sikorsky was awarded a $1.2 billion contract to deliver 12 CH-53K King Stallion helicopters for the U.S. Marines.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan expects F-35 jets 'sooner or 2019-05-19 11:16:19 Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sunday he expects F-35 jets will be delivered "sooner or later" to his nation despite a deal with Russi

U.S. guided-missile destroyers McFaul, Gonzalez enter Persian Gulf 2019-05-17 11:13:10 Two guided-missile destroyers, the USS McFaul and Gonzalez, have entered the Persian Gulf as the United States beefs up its military presence in the

Bell Boeing awarded $42.2M ffor engineering, technical support 2019-05-17 09:30:52 Bell Boeing was awarded a $42.2 million contract for engineering and technical support for the V-22 Osprey flight control system and on-aircraft avio

Lockheed Martin awarded $12.7M for post-delivery support of 2019-05-17 08:45:09 Lockheed Martin was awarded a $12.7 million contract for the USS St. Louis, a littoral combat ship, for post-delivery support.

GenDyn tapped for 120mm tank ammunition for Iraq 2019-05-16 13:46:39 General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems has been awarded a $92.4 million contract to produce 120mm ammunition cartridges for Iraq's M1A1 Abr

Lockheed nabs $11.9M for modification kits, special tooling 2019-05-16 13:02:31 Lockheed Martin has been awarded an $11.9 million contract for modification kits and special tooling for modification and retrofits of the F-35s of t

Home Page

Multilateral trade: India to hold 2-day WTO ministerial 2019-05-12 23:27:00Over a dozen trade ministers will meet in Delhi today to discuss issues confronting multilateral trading

ITC, HDFC, L&T, Jet Airways and Vodafone Idea 2019-05-12 23:16:47Here's a look at the top stocks that may remain in focus today -

Meatfree food: Capitalism, red in tooth and claw, 2019-05-12 23:09:45Veganism is an idea whose time has come, partly due to individual lifestyle and health concerns but mostly because of the environmental damage caused

IPL 2019 final highlights: MI beat CSK by 2019-05-12 23:06:20Chennai Super Kings needed nine runs off the last over but the experienced Lankan paceman Malinga kept his nerve to concede seven.

US-China trade war: Why it is a double 2019-05-12 22:57:09As predicted by IMF, the threat to the global economy seems real now. President Trump's focus will also shift to target other countries for such tari

Are Americans retreating into isolation? Here's what this 2019-05-12 22:25:45For those who believe that American global engagement has been a good thing for the country and the world, the survey provides reason for optimism and

Top trading ideas by Angel Broking: Buy BEML, 2019-05-12 22:25:24Stock calls and outlook on Nifty by Sameet Chavan, Chief Analyst- Technical & Derivatives, Angel Broking.

MARKETS LIVE: Inflation data, US-China trade deal, Q4 2019-05-12 22:10:14Catch all the live updates here

Nifty outlook and top trading ideas by Devang 2019-05-12 21:58:0111,000 and 12,000 are strong support and resistance levels, respectively based on option open interest (OI) data for current month series.

Elections 2019: Why popularity is not a guarantee 2019-05-12 21:57:33Party with fewer votes can get more seats and win elections

Top trading ideas by Prabhudas Lilladher: Buy HDFC, 2019-05-12 21:05:52Nifty outlook and top trading ideas by Vaishali Parekh, research analyst - technical research at Prabhudas Lilladher.

The heat is on: Climate change's impact on 2019-05-12 17:24:10The faster melting of ice in the Himalayan region has always been a kind of benchmark to substantiate global warming effects

Disclaimer and Notice:WorldProNews.com is not responsible of these news or any information published on this website.