Global view: Korean job market ‘apocalyptic’


Uncertain economic prospects and the steady stream of less-than optimistic research on job prospects in the UK may give many of us cause for concern about our futures. But compared to the employment situation in South Korea, the UK is positively booming.

According to the Korea Herald, the 10,000 or so multinational companies operating in Korea have long been among the most popular employers due to their constant expansion plans, which ensure a steady demand for new workers, and their implementation of fair international employment standards.

But the uncertain economy now means that these major employers have radically cut back their hiring plans. According to Job Korea, an online recruiting service firm, there will be nearly 29 per cent fewer job openings at these companies in the second half of this year.

Job Korea’s survey of 96 multinational firms found that nearly 42 percent of employers will recruit fewer workers than last year, while a third will maintain the same level as last year and 21 percent will hire more than last year.

Particularly hard hit has been the job market for university graduates. Competition ratios for college graduates has been soaring to about 50 or 100 applicants per opening. The market for more senior positions sought by holders of masters or doctorate degrees or certified accountants, is also very tight.

The extent of Korea’s problems is clear from a recruitment drive recently launched by motor manufacturers Hyundai and Kia for 400 new openings. In response, the companies received an astonishing 25,600 applicants, including 3,167 master and doctoral degree holders. The two companies said that they had to increase the number of job openings by 300 to tailor to the upsurge in the applications.

SK Corporation, the energy and petrochemical unit of SK group, had a similar experience. Advertising for 50 positions, a total of 3,027 people filed applications, out of whom 388 held a masters degree. More than 300 also applied for 15 job openings at the Korea Stock Exchange.

A researcher at Samsung Economic Research Institute said that many Korean university graduates had gone on for advanced studies at universities in the country and overseas in past years, as the job market turned its most severe in the wake of 1997 financial crisis. Those graduates are now pouring into the market, precipitating the job market for advanced degree holders.